Wright Foundation | July 13, 2016

How To Stop
Arguing with Your Spouse :


Are you tired of all the fighting? Do you feel angry at your partner a lot of the time? Do you feel nagged at and annoyed?

Does this sound like you?


You may be surprised to learn that the most amazing, healthy couples fight—and many happy couples fight a lot! So the question isn’t how to stop arguing with your spouse—it’s: “How can we learn to fight better?”

How To Stop Arguing with Your Spouse: Steve & Tammy’s Story

Steve and Tammy* (*names changed) recently came in to see us for couples counseling.

“I feel like I’m always angry at Steve!” Tammy said, obviously frustrated. Tammy felt that Steve wasn’t helping around the house. While they both worked full-time, she was always the one responsible for cleaning and chores after a long day at the office. It was clear Tammy wasn’t one to get confrontational, but she said she knew Steve was aware she was irritated.

Tammy liked to treat herself for all her hard work by shopping and going out with friends. Steve was increasingly concerned about finances and becoming more and more controlling with the credit card, even though in her mind they were doing fine financially. She felt like he was always harping on her about money or acting passive-aggressive and annoyed when she went out.

Throughout our meeting, Steve sat quietly, arms folded and withdrawn. After a while, he spoke up.

“I’m not really that angry,” he said. “I’m just tired of being criticized and nagged at all the time. I work hard too, you know.” When Steve got home from work, he wanted to relax. He expressed that when he did try to help out, Tammy would redo his cleaning because it wasn’t up to her standards. Eventually, Steve says he adapted a “why bother?” attitude.

Meanwhile, Steve felt Tammy spent lots of time going out with friends, but she didn’t really enjoy the outdoors, while Steve felt a strong connection with nature. Yet, Steve reported that while these things bothered him, the only thing he really felt frustrated about was money and that Tammy was always pissy about the house.

So how did Steve and Tammy get to this point? What were the underlying issues? Would they ever stop fighting?

What are the real reasons couples fight?

Enough with the Fairytale Romance Illusion!

We’ve been sold a fairytale romance illusion that love is supposed to be soft and romantic. There we are, hair flowing in the breeze, running toward each other with our arms outstretched. We picture the final scene from Breakfast at Tiffany’s when they realize how much they love each other and embrace in the rain, desperately, beautifully kissing and falling into each other’s arms.

Instead, for most of us, love probably looks a bit less glamorous. We find ourselves dueling over dollars, engaged in family feuds, and acting passive-aggressive all too often. We throw out the “you always” and “you never” statements, only to hear, “You’re just like your mother!

When we coach couples at Wright, we so often hear concerned couples say things like, “It seems like we fight all the time,” or, “I feel like we just don’t get along anymore. We’re always angry at each other,” or worse, “I just don’t care anymore.”

When our real-life relationships are in such stark contrast with the Hollywood ideal of love, it’s easy to assume something must be wrong and our relationship must be irreparably broken. We wonder if we’re broken. We think someone else might make us happier, or maybe someone else might be easier for us to deal with.

But the truth is…

Love Is Messy!

Love isn’t glossed over and perfect. It’s NOT like we see in the movies. Love involves fights and frustrations. Love involves moments when your wife doesn’t ever fill up the gas tank in the car. Love is the moments when you find a washer full of wet, smelly laundry because your husband overloaded the washer and forgot to change it out.

When we come into a relationship, we have certain expectations and ideals of what it should look like. When we date, we’re often in a state of joy and in “la-la land.” Everything our significant other does is cute and sweet. Maybe they annoy us sometimes, but we’re attracted to each other, we’re regularly having sex, and we’re going on dates and doing fun, exciting things together.

After years go by, we end up with a mortgage, careers, kids, and regular “life stuff.” It can feel like the thrill is gone. Now we’re just going through the motions—constantly frustrated, annoyed, and arguing. We might be wondering what we’re even fighting about anymore.

15 Common Couples’ Fights & What They Really Mean

After years of working with so many couples, I’ve seen quite a few Tammy-and-Steves. While every couple is unique and facing different approaches, different yearnings and different backgrounds, many of their fights are similar. In our book, The Heart of the Fight, we reveal 15 common couples’ fights.

There’s “Dueling Over Dollars,” “Family Feuds,” “You Embarrassed Me,” and several other fights that probably sound all too familiar to most couples.

Most fights aren’t silly or invalid, so looking beyond the surface of the fight is key. There are great concerns, underlying feelings, and a whole history of baggage lying beneath.

Conflict isn’t the problem. Conflict is the way we address and resolve the underlying problem! The answer is in fighting fair. To help you fight fair, we’ve developed these rules of engagement to ensure your fights draw you closer together, rather than resulting in cheap shots, hurt feelings, unresolved screaming matches, and too many nights on the couch.

Instead of asking how to stop arguing with your spouse, you have to ask yourself WHY you’re truly fighting and if you’re fighting FOR or against the relationship. Are you fighting FOR ways to make things work? Are you fighting FOR the understanding of your partner? Once you reframe your fights and get down to the real issues at the heart of the matter, you’ll find you’re battling towards bliss, rather than driving a wedge between you.

Steve & Tammy: The Aftermath

The WHY Behind All the Fighting: It wasn’t so much that Tammy and Steve were miserable in their relationship. It’s that they were both sitting on their resentments and neither one was addressing the root issues.

Tammy was spending money and going out to fulfill her emotional needs and she didn’t feel supported or acknowledged and appreciated. Steve was feeling criticized and inadequate. They both felt their yearnings weren’t being seen, acknowledged, or met.

So what were the roots of the real issues? Tammy was feeling unsupported and as though her household contributions weren’t appreciated. Steve was operating with a limiting belief from childhood that money was scarce, so he felt he needed to be diligent about budgeting and watching finances. When Tammy went out, Steve felt like his fears were being ignored and invalidated. Both partners were shutting down and building up silent resentment rather than confronting their concerns and getting them out in the open.

Once we opened up the dialogue and helped Steve and Tammy realize their conflict could be productive and positive, they were able to air their feelings and express their yearnings.

Was it perfect and romantic? No, of course not, but they ended up finding more intimacy and strength in their relationship—and they became closer than ever. Real intimacy comes from expressing yourself and being seen in truth for who you really are and what you need. Conflict can bring us closer and make us stronger as couples. Really!

To learn more about healthy relationships and living your best, most amazing life please join us for our next More Life Training.

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Wright Living is a division of the Wright Foundation for the Realization of Human Potential, a leadership institute located in Chicago, Illinois. Wright Living performative learning programs are integrated into the curriculum at Wright Graduate University.