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Any ideas for what to do?

(6 Posts)
bickering Wed 30-Jan-13 20:52:04

Name changed for this post but I am a regular contributor elsewhere on MN.

While DH and I argue a lot, we are actually are fairly well matched. We have a lot of similar attitudes, shared values and tend to agree on big stuff like money. We are very open with each other and there is no infidelity etc However we are both quite strong willed, each think we are right and like to have the last word. In order to come to any sort of agreement we end up bickering/arguing about details even though we maybe have the same view in principle. It gets quite voluble and I find it very upsetting. It seems to kick off every-other weekend when we and our 2 DCs are all together at home. I now worry that we are demonstrating a dysfunctional relationship to the DC (eldest is 4) who are becoming more aware of things. I also hate the time and energy wasted on bickering but somehow we are stuck in this cycle. Our relationship has always been this way to some degree, but pre-DC our lives were freer and we spent less time in each other's pockets. There was also no child related work/worries to create stress in our lives!

During arguments DH seems unable to restrain himself and walk away (I ask him to stop, I move away etc but this often seems to make things worse - he thinks I am not wanting to hear his view, when actually I want him to calm down and back off to express it calmly/clearly when things are less heated) and he says some terribly hurtful things in the heat of the moment. Within moments or hours he will calm down, apologise and then expect me to carry on as though all is normal.

From what he tells me, I suspect this is how his parents behaved and is sort of normal for him. However I really hate it and having the extra strain on our relationship after the kids has made me much less tolerant of, what I see as, poor behaviour from him - and me.

In the last couple of years I have twice got to the point of thinking we would split but I never told him this directly (just set out that I was at the end of my tether about XYZ and the way we communicate). He has made amends and tried to be better, but we just slip back into our old patterns. In the end, I suppose that he can't change himself to a great degree - just as I can't break the pattern of my bad habits. However for all our sakes we will have to try.

I have raised the idea of Relate or similar counselling but he is not keen (I think worried about facing things in case it confirms that we can't work together) but really I think we need a third party to help us learn to communicate better and more amicably.

When reflecting on this, this morning, I got to the point where I had decided I would book the counselling for us both (he would probably go if I booked it) and see how it goes. If it is no better by the time our youngest is in school, it is probably best if we can learn to live more amicably apart - but maybe that is a naive thing to think since we will still be in a relationship of sorts forever except that there would be even less quality time than now and bigger things to argue about??

Thanks for reading this far. Any advice?

MrsTerryPratchett Wed 30-Jan-13 21:20:50

Have you spoken to him when everything is calm about how unacceptable you find this? Have you told him it must stop?

Not being able to leave it (and therefore you) alone and saying hurtful things would be a deal-breaker for me. Especially if this happens a lot, which it sounds like it does.

MajesticWhine Wed 30-Jan-13 21:23:46

Oh dear, this sounds all quite familiar to me, and a bit like my relationship.

However, trying to be objective, I would say that bickering about minor details tends to mean there is something bigger going on that is more difficult to argue about, a more fundamental anger or dissatisfaction with each other. Maybe fuelled by the extra effort required to look after young DC, imbalance of duties perhaps or both tired and stretched, just guessing.

As for counselling, I think you are right to book it anyway. But believing, as you said, that he can't change much and neither can you will inevitably make it more difficult to do anything about it, even with counselling. It isn't necessarily easy to change things for the better, but you need to be a bit more hopeful for change to get some positive benefits from counselling.

runningforme Wed 30-Jan-13 21:24:38

this sounds a lot like me and DH. WE are both very strong willed and opinionated and arguments can escalate from the smallest thing - even when in actual fact we agree! It does get upsetting and tiresome at times, but otherwise we have a strong marriage - like you do. We agree on our goals as a family, agree on money etc and do love each other. Definitely not worth a split IMO. However, like you, I worry what we are modelling to our children. We live in a small two-bed flat, so privacy is not something we have the luxury of sad

I've been trying to not be so defensive and to not always need to have the last word or 'prove my point', but it is hard. It is learned behaviour - exactly why I don't want my kids to pick it up - actually, they already bicker all the time (not sure how much is normal sibling behaviour vs what we've demonstrated).

In short, I don't know. And I look forward to any suggestion that come up too.....

bickering Wed 30-Jan-13 22:06:55

Thanks for replying.
We do speak about it in calm moments and we know what goes wrong - just not how to break the cycle. sad
This is a long term pattern but the stress and work created by dc has meant i have shorter fuse than i used to.
I really struggle to understand how things can be good and bad at the same time!
We need to learn ways of breaking habits and resolving our differences. I think we both want to - we certainly want a happy life!

Moanranger Wed 30-Jan-13 22:38:45

Sometimes this is cultural ( e.g. Italian, Jewish) Not typical English behaviour but unremarkable in other cultures. Interestingly, I have read several articles recently that have said marriages like yours, where there is a lot of outward conflict are actually the strongest, as personal disagreements are openly stated & worked through. It is far worse apparently to button things up. So you can take some comfort from that.
The real issue is that the conflict distresses you and it seems to me that you need to address that with your partner. So I would approach counselling that way; not to suggest that your relationship is under threat, but to see if you can maintain the give and take - which is actually a good thing - but maybe lower the temperature a bit.

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