Tips For Handling Disagreements with Your Spouse

Alternative Title: I Am Not a Ride-Or-Die Bitch.

handling disagreements with spouse

My husband, Josh, and I are both rather opinionated people. We are competitive. We don’t like to admit when we are wrong. Our voices tend to carry throughout a room. You would be impressed by our knowledge of compound swear words.

Our arguments are always spectacular.

Case in point: this morning on our way to lunch with my parents and brother. Josh typically drives to our destination when we drive as a family. Maybe it’s a man thing to expect to be the one who drives your family to outings. I’m not sure why because, in my humble opinion, most men drive like assholes (especially those that drive Ford F-150s, but don’t get me started on that rage). Below is an exchange of this morning’s drive, when we had been on the road for 30 seconds:

Light in front of us turns from yellow to red, vehicle in front of us stops a full car length behind the vehicle in front of them, leading to Josh almost rear ending them.

Me: “What the hell, Josh?”

Josh: “That’s not my fault, this girl stopped, like, 23 cars behind that one!”

Me: “Wowwwww (Kevin Hart black girl voice). 23?? It’s one car length which is the appropriate stopping distance anyway.”

Josh: “That’s more than 1 car length, she’s a moron.”

At this point, the light changes to green and Josh immediately honks at the vehicle in front of us.

Me: “What the hell is wrong with you?”

Josh: “She was digging around in her car looking for shit and wasn’t paying attention to the light.”

Me: “So? You didn’t even give her a chance to react!”

Josh: “I would have been sitting here for years if I’d waited on her!”

That argument continued on for another 10 miles. Josh criticized my driving skills and brought up an accident of mine from three years ago. I reminded Josh of the fact that he’s been involved in more at-fault accidents than me AND received more (on the record) speeding citations than me. He said he was a defensive driver. I said he gets defensive about his driving. Then I told him that even though I’m his wife I had no qualms about suing him for my medical expenses and pain and suffering should he ever cause an accident with me as an innocent guest passenger (insurance disclaimer: I’d likely be limited to the Texas state minimum insurance policy limits from our insurance carrier, but it’s the principle of the matter).

My threat to Josh stopped him mid-breath as he was about to marshal a counter argument. He stopped, looked at me incredulously, and we both burst out laughing.

This is typically the end point to most of our arguments. Sometimes we argue and the endings aren’t really all that happy. Despite the above referenced characteristics that make us prone to arguing, Josh and I are both relatively good communicators. We never let arguments fester and, even when we’ve been pissed off at the other, we’ve never resorted to hurtful language or said words that we wished we could take back.

A few weeks before our wedding ceremony, we decided to attend marriage counseling. We were both under an extreme amount of pressure, both working full time jobs, taking care of an infant with me still recovering physically from having a baby. On top of it all, we experienced the added stress of planning and paying for a wedding completely by ourselves. The stress broke through our relationship and we felt that we needed outside help. It took two sessions for our counselor to tell us that he didn’t really think he could do anything for us as everything he would have recommended we were already doing.

All that to say, we both understand that there’s a right and a wrong way to argue. I do not profess to be any sort of marriage expert. Josh and I have been married for less than a year and maybe I just haven’t experienced enough of his dick-ish driving to make me want to leave him yet. And I maybe one of these days he will walk into one of the million cabinet doors that I leave open and decide that he’s done with my shit, too. All I can speak from is my personal experience with a multitude of failed relationships, one relationship that appears to be working so far with an abnormal number of external stressors, and my one year stint as a marriage and family therapy graduate student.

How many couples do you see where they refer to each other as best friends? Yet you look at them and have no idea what they actually have in common or have never seen them have a legitimate friendly conversation. It was easier for Josh and I as we were friends for a few years before we got together. Dating long distance proved to be much easier when I could discuss beer, Harry Potter, politics, and Eminem with my person for hours at a time. My first relationship was also long distance and it was destined to fail because I had nothing in common when I was 18 years old with a pot smoking 26 year old hippie (I made baaaaaddd dating decisions for almost a decade).

Secondly, I never say anything in the heat of anger that I know I would never forgive Josh if he were to say something similar to me. This one’s more difficult in practice, I get it. When I’m hurt by someone in a relationship, my initial instinct is to strike back harder. I’m able to dig out the insecurities of the other person, the ones they’ve tried so long to bury, and form them into a blade that can be used to cut deeply. Repeatedly. I’m not proud of this. Because of my own personal issues, there have been instances when I’ve interpreted Josh’s actions to be intentionally hurtful when they weren’t meant to be. It’s taken extensive self reflection to be aware of this tendency in myself. It’s also taken extensive self reflection to temper the need to intentionally injure through my words. If I am so angry that I think I may speak malice, I know now to ask for the space to gather my thoughts and calm down before I continue. And Josh knows to grant me that space.

I’m either a relationship master that’s been able to boil down keeping a romantic partnership alive… or I’ve forgotten a lot of steps. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

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