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5 Under-the-Radar Reasons You and Your Husband Fight

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Jill was fed up that her husband didn’t help more with the kids at bedtime. He sat on the couch watching TV as she wrestled the four-year-old out of his clothes for bathtime while holding a fussy infant. It felt to her like her husband was neglecting his family. But in reality, he was trying to stay out of her way and not add to her stress. They wouldn’t have needed to see me for counseling if they had been able to communicate that more effectively.

Communication problems in marriage lead to most fights, but it’s not as simple as “he just doesn’t listen.” What is actually causing the fights might surprise you. Here are 5 under-the-radar fight starters along with how to change your approach and make peace.

You trigger each other’s pasts.

If a past boyfriend cheated, you might fear your husband is also not being faithful. If a sibling bullied you, making you feel helpless, it might feel threatening to experience your spouse’s anger. If your parent overlooked your needs while making demands, you might have learned that your needs don’t matter. If you observe yourself overreacting in conflict, there’s a good chance you are projecting the past into your current situation.

How to change your approach:

Take a step back and say, “I need to take a moment to collect myself. Can we talk about this later, after I’ve worked through what else is going on in me?” As you take a time-out, ask yourself when you’ve felt this same feeling before. Remind yourself that those events are in the past.

You assume that you understand each other’s needs.

Communication problems in marriage often stem from a lack of clarity. I met with a young couple who had reached a point of separation simply because of misunderstandings and false judgments. He assumed she was talking badly to her family about him and she assumed he was jealous of her time with them. As they talked in front of me about the issues they had with each other, they were able to see that the stories they had invented about the other had created unnecessary offenses.

How to change your approach:

This couple has since learned to ask each other more clarifying questions to clear up misunderstandings. Try this: “This is what I’m believing is going on right now. Is that how you see it too?” They’ve been able to rebuild trust and forgive each other, and have restored their relationship.

You have different perspectives.

Years ago in a presentation, a popular marriage consultant positioned a husband and a wife on either side of a dollar bill. They were tasked with describing what they saw. While they were both looking at the same dollar bill, they each saw a completely different picture. The point of the exercise is to show that we see the same things differently based on our own perspectives. Many communication problems in marriage arise when we believe our own perspective is the only valid one.

How to change your approach:

A hallmark of healthy communication is the ability to consider and value the other person’s perspective even if we don’t understand it or agree with it.  Instead of digging your heels in when your husband disagrees with you, consider that his perspective may be a good one. In those moments, remember that there can be more than one right way to look at something.

You’re passive, passive-aggressive, or aggressive.

A person with a passive communication style agrees and denies his or her own needs in order to avoid conflict. Passive-aggressive communication is similar except it adds a manipulative tool like guilt, retaliation, the silent treatment, or procrastination to avoid compliance. Aggressive communication is using intimidation, outbursts of anger, or other abusive methods to control the other person. All of these communication styles create emotional distance with one another and issues rarely get resolved.

How to change your approach:

Assertive communication is better. It’s the ability to express your needs with directness, respect, and openness. They are often “I” statements like “I am uncomfortable being late, so I’d like us to be in the car by 5 p.m.” or “I know you’re busy, but I need you to put your laundry away so I can put the sheets on the bed.”

You prioritize winning the argument over your connection.

When winning becomes the priority, you automatically make the other person your enemy. The real issue presented is set aside and left unresolved. The conflict is now about domination or retreating. Pain and destruction are the only real winners in this situation.

How to change your approach:

When in conflict, keep connection the main priority. Resist the desire to defend yourself. Listen for what your husband is trying to tell you. Repeat back what you think he is saying. Ask clarifying questions. Apologize when necessary. And, if he is being hurtful in his presentation, use boundaries.

What are some other communication problems in marriage you’ve discovered?

ASK YOUR CHILD...

How do you feel when your friend tells you he/she is angry at you?

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