How NOT to be one of those couples that fight all the time

Tips for a conflict-free marriage

Couple hugging and laughing together

I’ve noted before how tough the first year of marriage was for me and Jacob, because we just seemed to fight constantly. I don’t mean any knock-down drag out fights by the way. There was no physical abuse or verbal abuse. Nobody threw anything at one another or threatened to move out. But, there was an undercurrent of disagreement and discontent that permeated our married existence. That first year was TOUGH!

In hindsight, we really brought most of it and maybe all of it on ourselves. I can certainly say without hesitancy that I was a difficult woman to live with and the proverbial “decay in his bones.”

I know I’m not the only one who has had a time of discontent in marriage. In fact, since I work with couples, I can say that conflict in marriage is an all too common occurrence. The good new is that you really can protect your marriage from heavy conflict. So, if you’ve been getting closer to the “we fight all the time” mark, read on to discover why that happens and how NOT to let it happen to you.

Why couples fight:

While there can be many “reasons” for conflict in marriage, there is an overwhelming “umbrella” reason for the conflict – expectations.

  1. Expecting more of your spouse than is possible.

    Much conflict arises from the little annoyances that can come in a relationships. That may be your spouse’s forgetfulness when it comes to taking care of an important task, their inability to arrive anywhere on time, their habit of inviting people over without consulting you first, or their inability to keep your whites from turning pink when they do laundry. Anything that you feel you do better than your spouse can turn into a little annoyance that later leads to serious conflict.

    In fact, it isn’t unusual for couples to discover those things that used to be so endearing (“He’s so chill that he doesn’t stick to deadlines or allow himself to get worked up. Man, I need more of that in my life!”), can later turn into huge aggravations (“I swear, if that man ever gets anywhere on time I’m going to give him a medal.”). Truthfully, some of these little annoyances may be things that your spouse will just never be great at.

  2. Expecting less of your spouse than they actually give.

    When you first started dating your spouse, you likely had on “rose-colored glasses” and believed that you had found a real winner. You saw all of the positive qualities, and if there were negative characteristics that came to mind, you could dismiss them as unimportant imperfections. Unfortunately, after a couple has been married for a while, there’s a tendency to focus on the negative instead of the positive. In some cases, this leads to not even being able to see the positive in their spouse.

    For example, some couples get in arguments based on simple miscommunication. Couples who “argue about everything” likely fall into this category of expecting that your spouse can’t do anything well. They’ve come to the place where they start out annoyed with their spouse before a word is even said. When this is the case, a couple can have a difficult time even talking to one another without arguing.

So how can a couple reduce their conflict?

Luckily, there are some pretty effective ways to reduce the conflict in your marriage.

  1. Remember who you married.
    Put those rose-colored glasses on again and start looking at the positive. Take yourself on a 30 day journey in which you journal something positive from the day about your spouse. It can be anything you notice and enjoy. You can choose to share the list later or just keep it to yourself. The point, really, is to take 30 days to change your mindset and focus on the positive.

  2. Believe the best about your spouse.
    If you start out annoyed before you even have a conversation with your spouse, things just won’t go well. So instead, expect that your spouse is not out to get you. Expect that your spouse loves you and wants your marriage to be happy. If you have an issue come up, refuse to speak out of annoyance even if this means taking a small cool-off period. Remember that you’re on the same team and fight for the marriage instead of against one another.

  3. Become friends again.
    If you’ve read my blog for long then you know I harp on this one often. Friendship is the best protective factor that you can have in your marriage (even more important than a healthy sex life!). Find fun activities to do with one another and implement a regular date night if you don’t already have one. Start a bucket list of activities you want to try or places you want to go and work together to achieve those goals.

Above all, remember to act lovingly toward one another. Love requires a level of sacrifice. It means giving of some of your own desires to meet the other person’s needs or desires.

If you’re really struggling with conflict, find a good Christian therapist to walk this journey with you.

Blessings on you and your marriage, friend!
Jessica

 

Dr. Jessica McCleese is a wife, a licensed psychologist, and a sexual educator with specialized training in sex therapy who works with Christian couples looking to improve their marriages and their sex lives using biblically-based principles. Jessica serves on the advisory board for Millennials for Marriage, is an educator through the Christian Association of Sexual Educators, and a licensed psychologist at her private practice in Norfolk, VA. She has a unique ability to connect with others and lead them through practical steps they can take to see improvements in their marriage and currently serves people internationally through her work at BeFullyWell.com.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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22 thoughts on “How NOT to be one of those couples that fight all the time

  1. Marriage is respect, selflessness, and two people joining their lives. And hopefully those two people will support and encourage one another to grow in their relationship with God. Marriage can produce feelings of happiness and joy, but it is not a band-aid. It is not an ownership agreement, nor is it meant to be contractual abuse. If we go into marriage with the mindset of it being Christ-centered, a lot of the typical issues are presented differently because we need those upsets in order to strengthen and grow our relationships. I really liked this post. It contains a lot of helpful information for couples. 🙂

    • You’re so right, Rachael! We definitely have issues when we forget to stay Christ-centered. And yes, those little annoyances are a great example of “iron sharpens iron” as we each learn to grow and mature.

  2. Thank you for sharing this reminder. It is hard when life gets in the way to remember that our spouse is not the enemy and that we are all on the same team. I forget that far to often I am afraid. Blessings to you in your marriage!

  3. Lots of good points here. My husband and I have been married for almost 14 years. Before we were married we were best friends never thinking our friendship would be more than that, just friends. Here we are 14 years later and I can say we have probably fought a total of 10 times. Mostly because we try to communicate at all times. If we can’t we leave and come back when we have a better idea on how to communicate our point. Every marriage is different but that has definitely worked for us.

    • I love the idea of a cooling off period. Luckily, my hubby and I have learned to do this pretty well. Only in really high stress environments does that change and it’s just a quick little snap from one or the other of us. We’ve definitely grown. Marriage has a way of doing that to us. Blessings to you!

  4. Great Post Jessica! I can concur than the first year in marriage is very though. But with Godly guidance and a willingness to be the peaceful wife, it gets easier. God hates divorce and loves marriage. So when we pray sincerely for ourselves and our spouses, he quickly intervenes and smooths all the rough edges.

    • He definitely does! Prayer for my husband and our marriage has been a marriage-saver for sure. Thank God for that smoothing process that we both needed. 🙂

  5. Exactly always assume they have the best intentions and that they are for you not against you.
    Although my husband and I may disagree on some things but not the big things that doesnt mean we need to fight. Instead just discuss and hear eachother out.

  6. Great points. I am all about pursuing a fight free marriage. I always remind myself that we are on the SAME team. We are for one another, not against each other.

  7. I am lucky to be married to someone I rarely fight with. I hate fighting, but thankfully we are good at working it out and making up quickly!

  8. This is right on. I often counsel couples and it makes me sad. Marriage can be so good. But many had parents who didn’t know how to deal with conflict. I love the “become friends again.”

  9. You shared some really great points in this article, and it was very thorough….my parents were divorced, so I wish they could have put some of these things in practice, then maybe things would have turned out differently. Anyway, thanks again for writing this article.

    • Hey Alexandra – hopefully these tips will work in your own relationship. Sadly, we can’t make our parents believe or behave a certain way. But, we can be a good example to whoever is watching us. Bless you!