I got this idea to document and analyze the arguments my husband and I have occasionally. I’m aware of how deeper issues could be toxic to marriages, especially newer marriages like ours. It was more incentive for me to go into this alone. My husband actually didn’t know I was taking down data and analyzing our arguments. If he read this tomorrow in his inbox then it would be new to him as to anyone! We get into a match probably once or twice a month and that’s been pretty consistent. That’s another reason why I wanted to analyze it. All couples fight once in a while and I’ve got 6 months’ worth of recorded data to prove our marriage is pretty norms.
How Do You Define Marriage Conflict?
My definition of a marital dispute is the shut down of communication between both parties. For example, when one of us gets so frustrated we have to leave the room. It must be a stalemate lasting over an hour after a disagreement. That’s my definition because that’s how we usually brawl out things.
The natural progression of our usual arguments goes like this:
4. Walk Away
5. Cool Off
6. Rebuild Communication
There’s are no pots and pans flying in our case. We have sourpuss faces for a while, go for a walk, or until one of us gives in and tries for a welcoming resolution instead.
Why a Marriage Audit is Important
When we first got married, the fighting was worst in the first 6 months than it is now. We were both leveling out the rough edges of living together. Looking back now, most of the fights were my fault. I was usually the agitator and the cause of the escalation.
I’ve said it time and time again on this blog: He is a super mellow and happy-go-lucky vast majority of the time. He’s also super sweet whereas I’m either a complacent cat or some sort of cranky Godzilla.
Still, I regard my relationship with my husband as a pretty good one. Especially because we got married on the younger side (especially for millennials.) I was 23 and he was 27 when we tied the knot.
One promise I made to myself before I would get married was to see a marriage counselor. It just seemed like the logical thing to do before you tied the knot. I got that idea in college when a professor lectured us in passing that marriage counselor most commonly fail because the clients they see have already predetermined to separate. They were only at counseling to relieve the guilt of divorce rather than repair the marriage.
I wanted a preventative measure first but feeling cheap, I didn’t heed my own advice. In fact, we never sought to see a marriage counselor for even a basic tune-up until Luxe and Ms. FAF mentioned that marriage counseling is something covered by some employers.
I had hubby check his employer information packet and they do offer counseling! I am hoping we would never need to use it though.
Since we don’t have any big issues, I decided to track and play therapist (frugally!) myself by tracking arguments.
What Do You Guys Fight About?
We don’t fight about money. That’s one of the most common fights that couples get into but we don’t. We got lucky aligning our money habits with each other and it has saved us a lot of grief.
Oh man, a lot of the arguments were based on miscommunication and tones. I can recall one specific instance within the last 6 months and I call it “the trouble with marrying computer programmers” —
His Fault –
We got lucky again, our specific block actually hosts an annual block party! Just our block out of thousands here!
For the last 3 years we have lived on this block, we only ever went once! It was super fun the first time and I told Hubby I wanted to do this every year. The block closes off the road and everybody brings something special for the block party.
We missed the last 2 years because Hubby has horrible communication skills. He’s the one that retrieves the mail normally. Last year, he left the block party’s pamphlet notice on the computer desk and considered that as “telling me.”
Have you seen our desk? He leaves everything from mail to recycling to mortgage papers on the desk. I’m not going to see that little piece of paper even with perfect vision. I was angry at him last year for not telling me and he apologized.
I am even angrier now when he did the EXACT same thing this year. He left it on the coffee table this time and counted it as telling me. Then he remembered as he was coming home and saw the neighbors cleaning up the block party, he realized he was in trouble then.
He did it TWICE when last year I told him that he shouldn’t leave papers around. No one reads a small piece of paper laying around out of 10,000 other papers he piles down.
I’m fuming as I’m typing this. I’ve told him I love getting to know our neighbors and eating potluck food…goddammit Hubby.
And just to be fair, this one is on me…
My Fault –
We take Grace to the dog park on the weekends as a treat in addition to her normal walks. The off-leash dog park is usually very muddy and dirty. That occurred to me as Hubby was putting on his new shoes and I thought to myself, “he needs to put on his old worn out shoes so the new ones won’t be ruined.” Well, 2 seconds at the park, a Siberian Husky jumped on him and his new shoes were totaled.
I whispered something like “Why didn’t you wear the old shoes stupid?” and he snapped back, “You didn’t think of it either!”
“Yes I did.”
“You DID? Well why didn’t you say anything then!?!”
[I didn’t have an answer for that.]
He looked super betrayed. He felt I set him up for failure (sadly, I did.)
2. Delaying Responsibilities
We run multiple Airbnbs and things need to be fixed occasionally. Hubby is the maintenance guy and he does a lot, he really does, and I super appreciate it. Occasionally I have sweet talk him into doing things or else he puts it off. Our front door lock was running low on battery and he lost the manuals that specified on how to replace the batteries somewhere.
He lost it weeks ago but didn’t go to find it. He sat on the sofa playing the Stranger Things mobile game.
I lost my house key long ago and kept telling him I will go to the locksmith to get another pair made – well I didn’t do that either. I sat at the computer playing Sims 3 instead.
Then one day, the lock eventually ran out of juice completely while he was at work. I freaked out because our Airbnb guests (both sets arrived) couldn’t get in and he had the only key! We didn’t know where the manual was either.
We both have a tendency to roll off small responsibilities and then weeks later, it spins into a bigger problem somehow. Always. It turns into a frustrating witch hunt of which one should have done what first.
DO YOUR CHORES KIDS. ON-TIME.
3. Emotional Outlet
Remember the time when he threw his freakin’ phone at me?! That was the perfect example of using your spouse as an emotional outlet.
Alright, my turn, I have more emotional outbursts than I have pairs of shoes…
I recall one specific instance when I came back from work and it was a really bad temp gig. I was frustrated with how I managed my career choices and I came back home with a raging fury. I was soaking wet too and freezing cold. I was ready to pick a fight with whoever ticked me off. Even the poor dog was afraid to make eye contact with me.
It was one of those days…
Hubby happens to stroll into the kitchen in his pajamas, happy as a pig in mud. I accused him of not being there for me, waiting at the door, being ready with a towel to dry me off knowing I was coming home. Crazy, demanding stuff like that at poor hubby.
He scampered upstairs quick as lightning for a towel before I got angrier. Seeing my own pending crime against an innocent husband, I used that time to pull myself together. I didn’t want to turn into my father so I consciously repositioned my psyche and forced a nice smile until I felt better inside again.
Do We Fight Too Much?
The quick answer is no. HOLY CRAP WE’RE BORING PEOPLE. I re-read the notepad I scribbled down and I’m like…that’s our fighting for 6 months? But it’s so stupid. It’s not something you see on TV with the cheating spouse and the “I’m not Shelly, I’m Shirley, your adopted half-twin sister” kind of drama.
There isn’t even a scent of a stabbing.
But actually, the long answer is inconclusive. He does work 12 hours a day. I’m half cooped up at home tired from Airbnb and running around with the dogs. We don’t get that much face to face interaction time with each other to fight about things. Not surprisingly, when we do argue, it most often happens during the weekend. Over our last 2 3-day weekends we had an argument over something silly. We do about a hour worth of silent treatment and then we make up.
We’re still each other’s best friend though 🙂 that’s pretty clear to both of us even though this particular post might not highlight that.
Readers, do you fight with your significant other? Are they as silly as this? Have you ever done a marriage audit? Do you believe all engagements should come with a trip to the marriage counselor?
Ms. Frugal Asian Finance says
Mr. FAF and I fight for sure. Usually, it’s not consistent. I think it also depends on external factors and what goes on in our lives.
We could go 4-6 months without fighting. But there were periods we fought every 2-3 days non-stop about any minute detail in life. Those details are just triggers. Usually , the problem is deeper than that.
When Mr. FAF fights back, it means the fight is serious. He normally just keeps quiet or tries to appease the situation. When he gets into the fighting mode though, the tension can last for days.
We had our last fight in Nov, and things have been mellow since. Now I’m starting to wonder what we will fight about next time hehe.
Oh mine does that too. He tries for peace but if he’s ticked off then it’s going to be at least a day before we make up.
Your last fight was in November?! That’s so long ago. We consistently go at it maybe 1-2x a month over nothing.
Sarah | Smile & Conquer says
I related to almost all of the issues you highlighted in my own relationship. I am the organizer in our house and we’ve talked about him stepping up and taking control on more issues but when he let’s it slide it droves me crazy. Then I tend to stew in silence until one day I’ll snap over something little.
That sounds terrible but overall I also think we have a good relationship, but there are always things to work on. Luckily for us it’s smaller issues that are easy enough to cope with.
Thanks Sarah, I figured we were both normal. Makes me thankful it’s over missing keys than missing trust.
I have been married for over 18 years and we generally do not fight. The only real arguments are over movies. She is always getting the actors wrong in movies. It drives me crazy. We live a pretty boring life, which is how we like it. Keep things simple I guess.
Hahaha that’s funny!!
Budget On a Stick says
“Complacent cat or some sort of cranky Godzilla” is my favorite description of someone ever!
We usually only fight one someone is tired or sick…and for the most part is it over meaningless crap. IE last night the Ms. said a very vague comment out of the blue right before turning off her light. I’m both sick and half asleep which made me cranky that I had to drag out of her what she was talking about (….super stupid on my part). The other way we will fight is if we aren’t able to spend much time together (backwards I know). Effectively, we miss each other and are frustrated we haven’t gone on a date in a while or even sit downstairs watching supernatural.
When we got married the church required us to go to a newly wed 3 day class thing. The funny part was I had already read the book the course was based on. I think it helped set a baseline of understanding.
That’s so cool!! Really smart of a course to offer. I wish we had something like that! Fascinating.
Dr. McFrugal says
Ever since we got married 2.5 years ago, my wife and I have never really fought. We may disagree sometimes, but it rarely escalates to an argument and never a fight.
I would say that both of us to have great communication skills. Both of us are also very sensitive people in that we have a good sense of how other people are feeling. I think that’s really important. We also never lower ourselves to call each other names like “stupid” or “idiot”, etc. Name-calling never leads to anything productive. We try to acknowledge and appreciate each other for who we are frequently.
I think marriage counseling for engaged couple is a terrific idea. We didn’t do counseling per se, but we did the Catholic pre-cana engagement encounter version of marriage counseling. I thought it was very helpful. It addresses issues that couples commonly fight about: value of money, how to spend money, how to save money, potential problems with family or in-laws, the idea of having kids, religion, politics, past relationship history, cheating, how much time and attention somebody needs, etc.
Oh yeah, that was basically like a top 10 list I read about most common fights. I name call J a lot, it’s now a pet name, but sometimes I take it too far and he says I’m mean. Even I know I need to work on that…
We’ve never done a marriage audit but I love the idea!
Reflection is always healthy 🙂
Have you read The Five Love Languages? After reading that, I think it reduced the frequency and intensity of the few fights we do have.
No, I never even heard of it! I wonder if the library has a copy.
Thanks for being so honest and sharing your arguments! I did premarital counselling as well and it went very well, she basically said my husband does an awesome job at communicating haha.
Just a few days ago I think we pre-empted a fight, my husband wasn’t feeling well and he wasn’t as involved with the baby in the morning, so I was singing to baby, changing him, making some chicken soup etc. etc. (basically running around with head cut off) while my husband was on the computer. Usually he helps and is very involved. I said to him “how was your alone time?” and he became a bit quiet. Then I asked “You seem upset” (I learned to say this instead of “Why are you upset?” which is what I usually say) and he said he was because he felt like I was accusing him of not doing anything or helping out (which I guess I was in a backhanded way haha), and he explained he didn’t want to get baby sick so he didn’t want to be around too much. Well, it helped diffuse it Anyway, with children, things/disagreements get amplified, fast!
Have you heard of John Gottman? He is a relationship psychologist and could predict with a high accuracy rate (I think over 90% but forgot exact number) whether a couple would divorce just by looking at the interaction. He coined the term the 4 Horsemen of the Apocalypse- he has some suggestions on how to fix or correct it if these occur in a relationship.
Holy cow! That’s amazing. I haven’t heard of any marriage writer etc. Its not my field of interest but 90%?! Crazy! Your pre-emptive fight reminds me of our fights. You can sense it and either escalate or back off.
Nothing wrong with a few little arguments! My husband and I only started arguing once we had kids (different culture can clash once in a while when you raise kids together).
Poor guy, he works 12 hours a day! You guy need to go away:)
It’s a burn out until the very end Caroline! Then we’ll never get out of bed before noon after ? 🙂
Dave @ Married with Money says
It doesn’t sound too bad, exception going to random phone missiles 🙂
Kristin and I don’t fight very often but when we do our way of fighting is similar to yours it seems.
We did fight earlier this week. She called me crying about being stuck in the snow at work and having a bit of a panic attack. I told her to calm down which, obviously, was the wrong thing. She hung up on me, we argued throughout the evening and both of us were grumpy for a day or so.
Eventually we calmed down, realized that maybe we can have a serious convo about a second car for Kristin that she feels safer in, and have been having some super awesome conversations about it. I’m actually really happy with how we moved forward with it.
It’s never fun to fight, but moving beyond it actually feels really rewarding.
Lol phone missiles!!! You win the freaking internet!!!
Usually after a fight resolves we feel both better and more aware than before. That’s a great point about disputes! It encourages change!
Mrs. Groovy says
I’m the Godzilla. I’ve never thrown anything at Mr. G but I’ve got a potty mouth when I’m angry.
Our temperaments are different. He’s naturally happy-go-lucky and I’m not. I’m more emotional and he’s more rational and since we don’t think alike, sometimes we might believe we’re communicating when we’re not.
I’m wondering do you have an actual template you use for an audit? There’s an idea for making money on a printable if not.
Brilliant idea Ms. G! I was thinking about making a template (cough, score board like you and Mr. G) but I didn’t think of printables.
Joe @ Retire by 40 says
That’s not too bad. It sounds like the normal adjustment period. All these things should improve as you figure things out.
We fought a lot more often when we first got married. Now we fight just a few times per year. Mostly inconsequential things.
Last time, Mrs. RB40 locked me out on the balcony by accident. I yelled at her to come open the door for me. She was cooking something, got flustered, and got mad at me. We rarely stay mad at each other long. Usually a few hours at the most.
I think the key is to walk away and calm down for a while. Fights seem to worsen if you continue jawing at each other.
Lol! I locked Jared out once too, but on purpose hahaha.
Olivia @ Birds of a FIRE says
This is funny. Jared should work on a marriage health app that automatically tracks this! $4.99 a month and he can retire from Google lol. Speaking of, that’s a lot of hours! I thought Google was a chill place (food + amenities) but not 12 hours!
FireBear and I have been together only 1.5 years, but we generally don’t fight. Maybe once every month, if you can call it that. The last “fight” we had was over him not wanting to vacuum because we lost the little stick hose that gets the corners. I proceeded to get annoyed try to vacuum anyway. He could see I was getting mad so he tried to take it over but I wouldn’t let him. He then said we should buy another one and I was like, no it works fine anyway. It was only $20.
Lol FireBear is the name?! That’s so adorable! It sounds like one of our fights, crazy similar actually. Google does have a lot of frills. That’s why he stays so late. It’s half to work and half for the free work out gear.
Ember @ An Intentional Lifestyle says
Yes, basically all marriage fights are this silly!
I can totally relate to the miscommunication and the delaying the chores. I think that’s one of the hardest things about being an adult. Realizing that if I miss the trash can when I toss something in it, no one else is going to come pick it up. That’s on me.
And miscommunication… I think that’s one that takes alot of time. We fought alot in the first year bc of the same problem– we didn’t and still don’t seem to speak the same language half the time.
After almost 8 years of marriage, I can say that it seems to get better but since we’re so different, we still have fights from those sources.
Love the idea of auditing your marriage regularly. Great idea!!
Thanks Ember! 8 years is a long time, we’re barely at 3!
Menard Solve says
One thing I couldn’t blog about was the failure of my first marriage. Maybe someday I would. Luckily, I’ve been happily married for 13 years since the big D.
TIP: Never go to bed without making amends after a big fight. There was never a day I didn’t kiss my wife at least twice a day (unless I’m away).
Aww it sounds like it worked out great Menard. Don’t worry, life is for learning. Great tips! I will not forget them!!!
Melanie, Mommy FInance says
lol fighting is totally normal. There would be months where there were no fights involved and then an argument happens. But at least it helps couples understand each other more when there’s a conversation about it.
Super true Melanie!