Too Much Fighting? How do you stop the daily bickering with your spouse?

Dear Jess,
I have a problem that I cannot seem to solve. Lately, my husband and I have been getting into a lot of fights with each other over absolutely nothing. The fights start small but blow up into an all out, days long, brawl. I know fighting can be healthy, but the kind of fighting we are doing can’t be good. Yet, it just keeps happening. For instance, the other day my husband and I were driving somewhere and suddenly he yelled, “Get over! You’re not supposed to be in this F’ing lane! What are you doing?!?” To which I snapped back, “Can you just let me drive?!” And he said, “No, I obviously can’t because your not doing it correctly.” And I said, “Who died and made you president of the DMV? If I’m driving badly it’s your fault for stressing me out!”
The fight snowballed from there and we didn’t speak for three days. I just don’t know why we get so mad at each other and how to stop it. Any advice?
Thanks,
Fighting in Frederick

Hi FIF,
Sorry to hear this. Fighting is only good when it’s productively resolving a serious issue, and whether or not you are a bad driver doesn’t sound like one to me. If you really want to stop these petty arguments, you are going to have to be the bigger person and not indulge when your hubby kicks them off. Like most people, it sounds like you are both arguing with each other just to save face, and not to defend any particular position. If you notice that a large part of your bickering consists of making the other person wrong or feel bad, then you aren’t arguing – you are just criticizing and condemning. The first step for you is to not jump on an opportunity to chastise your husband because he last chastised you. Then, what will be even more difficult is to not engage the next time he wags his finger at you for something trivial. For example if he yells, “Get over! You’re not supposed to be in this F’ing lane. What are you doing?!” Instead of yelling back, remain calm and give him the opportunity to hear his own words loudly echo in the air. Don’t respond verbally. Just sigh, turn on your blinker, and get over. Let his words and be the last ones he hears so he can realize how obnoxious, angry, or hurtful they sound. If you yell back he won’t get that because he will hear your words instead which only provoke him to keep arguing. I know you are likely snapping back and him because you don’t want him to think he can scream at you and get away with it, but the truth is, that is why you end up in a screaming match. It will be more effective if you use silence instead of any words. Then, keep your conversation with him to a minimum for the next hour or so. Answer if he talks to you, but let your attitude be clear – you aren’t happy with him.

You don’t need to vocally meet your husband half way to teach him a lesson. You’ll get through to him much quicker if you don’t engage when his temper flies high. Just realize that when he comes at you with tongues a blazing, it isn’t because of something you are doing – it’s because he’s in a bad mood. And when most people are in a mood, they try their best to suck other people into it, too. Let him be in the mood all by himself. Let him feel isolated and alone for his remarks. This is how he will recognize the error of his way and help you to end the frequent feuding.

If you have a question to submit to Jess’ blog, email her at coach@jessmccann.com
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