do you fight with your spouse?

I’ve always known there were some couples who claimed not to fight, but I dismissed them either as weird or dishonest. There was no way a married couple could co-exist without flying into a rage on occasion, I thought.

However! Just in the last few months, two different friends told me that they don’t fight with their husbands. When I pushed them on it, they were like, “Well, why would we? What’s there to fight about?” and then I was like, “What’s there NOT to fight about!”

There’s so much that can go wrong! A different perspective on how money should be spent (or not), a less-than enthusiastic endorsement of a goal, a disparity between energy levels or libidos or shared interests or parenting agendas or personality traits or moral compass — need I go on? That some people don’t get blistering mad every few days over some slight or miscommunication or — oh horrors — intentional disregard was incomprehensible. 

It made me wonder. Did the non-fighters just not care as much as we do? (I doubted it.) Were they more similar? (Perhaps.) Were they nicer than we are? (Probably.)

But then my one friend explained that she just feels terrible when she gets upset and yells, and I was like, Wait — seriously? 

OOOOOOOOH.

Because, see, I feel good when I yell. Shouting releases all my pent-up frustration and rage and negative energy. Putting the problem OUT THERE IN ALL CAPS makes me feel better.

But if yelling didn’t make me feel good, then maybe I wouldn’t do it?

Anyway. I’m intrigued. Do you fight with your spouse?  

I got mad at my husband for not finishing his serving of cake, a cake I’d so lovingly made, so then he angrily stuffed the whole thing in his mouth and promptly burst into laughter.

My younger son, thinking fast, documented the moment.

This same time, years previous: the quotidian (4.13.20), feeding my family, the quotidian (4.13.15), deviled eggs, I went to church with a hole in my skirt, Easter chickens.

25 Comments

  • Lynn Diener

    It’s so frequent and obvious that we make folks uncomfortable around us. But it’s usually a blustery passing storm and over quick. Sometimes not, but that’s another thing. But… I’m an Enneagram 6 married to an 8- and for him it’s just talking. Verbal tussles are how you find out what the other person thinks and if they’ve actually got a solid point to consider. I’m fiercely loyal to what I hold dear so I will come at you (verbally) if you’re “attacking” something I feel I need to defend (like which end of a banana should get opened). But I do feel like it’s not the best communication strategy. I used to be jealous of non-fighters until I realized I’m like a dog that wants to play tug-o-war. I’d whither with someone who just went along with everything. So… it is what it is. In June it’ll be 23yrs of it. I tell my kids that we aren’t what most people want in a marriage and there are other ways to do life together. But I think we already broke them and good luck future partners.

  • cinnamonandsassafras

    Hi fives to younger son for that quickdraw on the shutter.

    We do not fight, practically ever. When we were first married, we did a LOT, and then….oh, somebody figured out he had a TBI and needed some brain meds, and there we go.

    We both are very conflict-avoidant in general, and we don’t feel good when we holler. I’m an enneagram 1w2 and he’s a 5w4, for what that’s worth. We’ve been through our share of life-or-death shit; each of us has seen the other literally on death’s door. After that, honestly nothing feels worth getting that worked up over. We usually just agree that who ever cares the most about something wins, and usually it’s clear who cares the most. For one thing, he desperately wanted to be a dad, and I was kind of fine either way—so we have our kids. In a lower-stakes thing, I had a very specific idea of how I wanted our porch to be, and I don’t think he loved my design, but other than offering a few notes and asking a couple questions, he stayed out of it because I clearly cared so much (he likes how it turned out, and I like the kids. So we’re even.).

    We also both just agree that I’m right most of the time. 😀

  • Cheryl

    Oh yes ma’am, we fight. Almost 42 years of marriage and it occurs more frequently now that we are retired. Sprinkle some covid isolation in there as well, and ooh la la, spats galore.
    I send him on errands just to get him out of here..lol.
    We disagree on politics (I abhor trump, always have and always will), BLM, money, etc.
    When I met him in 1976, we thought a lot alike, but not now. As he has gotten older, he has become more closeminded, argumentative and unaccepting and I find it frustrating. I don’t ever want to be like that.

    To all those who say they don’t ever fight or argue with their spouse, I just nod my head and say “uh huh”. Clearing the air is a good thing.

  • BeckyM

    I stopped fighting in my marriage because nothing ever changed and I eventually gave up and just swallowed all of my frustrations. And now I’m in the process of a divorce after 10 years of “not fighting” (17 years total). So, if I’m ever in a marriage again, I hope we care enough to fight from time to time.

  • Candi

    Unfortunately, we argue a good bit and full on verbal blow ups occasionally. I’ve experienced severe PMS since having kids plus just having the stress of multiple littles running/crawling around and he has diabetes related mood swings. Our communication is worse since he doesn’t retain what I say and I don’t understand him if I can’t see his lips when he talks (weird thing.) We love each other and are each others best friend but many times we just don’t get along and both need our own space. Add in the state of the world and we’re simply bound to fight over the weekend when were together constantly.
    We aren’t proud of our arguing, especially with our kids around, but I personally feel like I’m developing more patience which helps with parenting in turn. I appreciate your candid moments on your blog through the years because it’s helped me realize I’m normalish and things happen.

  • The Thrifty EducatorElizabeth

    I think it’s probably just some people are comfortable with conflict and others are not. My parents did not fight, but my dad would sometimes snap at my mom and it felt like my whole world would crumble. The enneagram is a wonderful tool because it explains which numbers are in the aggressive stance. I was amazed that some numbers love to argue (that explains why Dave Ramsey irks me so much! He is an 8) Arguing/anger is draining for me as an enneagram 1 unless it is a righteous anger kind of thing then the golden aura of righteousness surrounds me and I unleash my fury (it is scary to behold apparently) But then after I calm down, I feel bad because good people do not get angry (in my mind) so then my critic chides me over it and I push the anger back into the tiny box I store it in inside my chest. Sad, but true….

  • Katherine

    My spouse & I fight. It was worst the first few years we had kids. Being newlyweds who were figuring out how to create a shared life (our first was born 14 months after we got married, and we’d lived in different cities until a few weeks before our wedding), the constant changes of little kids, and the lack of energy due to having little kids were big contributing factors. The covid era has led to increased fighting, not because of covid itself (thankfully we’re mostly on the same page about that, but because of the combination of new decisions to make and less energy to devote to them. We’ve gotten better at fighting over the years, as in better at reaching resolution, though.

    I’ve definitely gotten mad at my spouse for not fully appreciating what I baked. I’m glad it’s not just me.

    My parents almost never fight, and it’s not just that they never fight in front of their kids. They’re both much more even keel than my spouse & I are, and my mother in particular tends to not have strong opinions about most things.

  • Gretchen Maust

    We bicker. A lot. Good natured warning to him last evening: I will be very cranky tomorrow (colonoscopy starvation prep w/ anxiety). So this morning I came into the kitchen to find his late night ice cream bowl soaking in the sink (like an ice cream bowl needs to soak ), literally15 inches away from the dishwasher. Now he knows this is a major pet peeve for me. I clean up the kitchen after dinner and I hardly ever snack in the evening. So, WHY?!? Ugh – it’s those pesky little things where he begs me, “Please be a bitch! I love it when I can irritate the crap out of you and I can be a martyr for my cause.” But big fights? – Hardly ever because yelling gives me a headache and makes me feel small. And it would make my mom, who died from colon cancer at age 48, do back flips in her grave. Yelling of any kind was verboten in my childhood home.

  • Patricia

    Fighting with spouse is fine. Don’t do it in the presence of others. It is humiliating to the spouse and annoying and/or distressing to other people. (I don’t know what it does to children)

  • Ellen

    Neither of us are fighters we have discussions which rarely get heated.

    We do have codes though that let the other know stuff. So “you’re poking the bear” means you’ve got a chance to stop a massive fight but if you keep going I’ll blow up at you.

    And “Agree now or agree later” which basically means I’m not giving in, so you can agree with me and get goodwill and love and appreciation or you can agree 3 hours from now when I’ve beaten you into submission.

    We both grew up in shouty houses and it’s just not something we want to repeat.

  • Pam

    This whole discussion is fascinating– call e voyeuristic, but I like knowing what’s going on in other people’s marriages. Saylor and I argue, but only ever at a whisper– if we’re really mad, the conversation gets incredibly slow and barely audible. I confessed this to someone recently, and she thought it was hysterical, but I guess I assumed everyone fought that way?

  • Thrift at Home

    I LOVE hearing about peoples’ fighting styles (please are you going to bring up sex next?!). We do fight and yell but D *hates* to do it in front of the kids so it’s usually late at night when I am already bitchy because I’m sleepy, so I avoid fights if possible. I do not mind at all arguing in front of the kids because I think that’s how they learn that a solid marriage and people who love each other can get mad and fight and the world doesn’t end. Also, as an enneagram 1, it is very important to me to fight fair and my husband does NOT. IT ENRAGES ME. We disagree about a lot, actually, and about different things than my parents disagreed about so sometimes I am just at a loss for what to do. My dad never gave a flying fart about interior decor but I married an architect who has A LOT of opinions and preferences about those things and life would be so much simpler if one of us didn’t care. I’m actually a little bit mad at him right now, hahahahah, we had a tense discussion last night (after the kids were out of earshot and when I was cross eyed with sleepiness, natch) and I’m not over it yet.

    • katie

      I’m right with you here, about making sure that the kids get to hear some of this. Especially if we get a chance to talk about it with them at some point too.

      I was unable to hide my emotions from my kids as I went through a divorce. I’d feel guilt about it but felt helpless to do otherwise. Sometimes we’d all just huddle on the couch and emote together — I wasn’t the only one going through the divorce after all! If I ever get to a point where I have another partner I care enough about to fight with, you can bet the kids will hear about it. My goal is to always be fighting from a place of love — whether with spouse or sister or friend, yelling, whispering, or somewhere in between. Desperately try to avoid and extract myself from passive aggressive fighting.

  • HATTIE

    My husband and I are in agreement on big issues, but we have frequent flare-ups that are mainly the result of his being the quintessential absent-minded professor. So when he doesn’t close the door to the attic firmly and our cat gets dirty from investigating the eaves, I lose my temper and he takes umbrage when I say, “You NEED TO firmly close the door.” Instead he’d prefer my calmly saying “Would you be willing to remember to double check that the door is closed?” And don’t get me started on my annoyance about explaining a hundred times why coasters are useful for hot and cold beverages. Or dropping dirty clothes on the floor and leaving them. Surely, these sample anecdotes would drive anyone crazy, but I know it’s not deliberate, just forgetful, and partially the result of his upbringing. So we move on.

    But on the flip side, he has ceded to me all decisions regarding the house, as is fitting because Hattie
    means “ruler of the home.” So sometimes he’ll say, “Is this a new painting?” and I’ll respond, “I got it about six months ago.” Or when I bought a second blue comforter to replace the torn old one, I didn’t even mention it and of course he thinks it’s the original one!

    Getting along is much more challenging with so much togetherness this past year.

  • Clem

    My parents would fight and it always made me upset so I never wanted to fight with the Mister, but we do and the voices raise and then within a minute we calm down – more relaxed and usually take the next 2 hours to de-escalate and work it out. Now as an adult and comfortable raising my voice, I can see that my parents fighting is a good exercise in keeping communication going.

  • Melinda Armentrout

    Having been together for over 25 years, we’ve had a few rather LOUD discussions and even fewer LOUD disagreements. We’ve come to the decision that picking your battles is a good thing.
    We work close together most days since we farm, some days it’s too close. That’s when one of us “finds” an errand that has to be run away from the farm. We respect each other’s need for space (most of the time).
    I think it’s healthy for children to see parents disagree and have the occasional loud discussion. It shows them how to work through conflict and that it’s ok to not have the same opinion as your spouse on all things.

  • Marie Nicholson-Hutt

    My husband and I fight, and it’s pretty bad sometimes, but honestly I think it’s healthy. My parents never fight and it’s because one of them always just goes along. I don’t think that’s really fair. Anyways, we’re better off for fighting, I believe. Every fight ends up drawing us closer, and it’s good to know that we can still improve our relationship. Love that photo documentary above. (:

  • Bobbi

    We disagree and argue sometimes. We are mindful about our behavior because our oldest son is high functioning autistic and conflict and noises scare him.

    I think disagreeing is healthy, and kids seeing you work it out is healthy, too. But you also have to be mindful how your behavior is impacting others. I believe that parents set the tone for the environment of their home and have a responsibility to make it a safe haven for their kids. Sometimes that means them being able to express themselves in a safe place, whether that’s getting loud or being able to express anger in a safe way, or whatever. The yelling is just not for us.

  • melodiemillerdavis

    This is quite a thread. Thanks for starting it. I’m fairly easy going, sometimes too much so, but I have been feeling OK about putting my foot down or speaking up or telling him to go fly a kite in these later years. Retirement has brought more time together but also, I feel, less stress about work and demands. A friend of mine used to audibly worry about what would happen to her and her husband after their children left home because they wouldn’t have much in common. I think they’re doing ok too.

    There have been years when we argued more: a few times when I drove away mad, you know? And came back and apologized or made up. Our kids know we bicker but out and out fights (not physical, just verbal) were not common.

    My dad claimed that he and mom never fought. But we all knew there were times when she swallowed her fight, and didn’t speak up. I’m trying to not be that way. 🙂

  • Marie

    Thank you for this thread! I like a good argument, loud or not, from time to time and he doesn’t, loud or not. We’re trying to respect that difference, but usually that just means not arguing, which doesn’t seem quite in the middle to me. We’re going through a hard time, unrelated to covid, and the additional time together has helped, if anything. It is very unclear if we’ll make it through this, and I notice when I’m feeling pessimistic, I have less inclination to argue. I think arguing is at least partially to improve things in the future, and when I don’t see that future, why bother to invest energy in it? Anyway, open to suggestions on what a good compromise is in a mixed-arguing family.

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