I once read that finances and division of housework were the biggest things couples argue over. These are lower on our list. Our top two arguments are: who is more tired and what the definition of a bath is. In case you’re having the same problem in your house, starting the water for the kids is not “bathing” them, it’s starting the water. And, I’m more tired than he is.
The first few years of marriage were tough. Everyone says they’re supposed to be the best years, but they were our most clumsy and unfamiliar. It wasn’t until a few years in that things started to smooth out. What I hadn’t realized was that those first years were all about establishing our role as a single, married unit — as well as preserving our roles as individuals. Then we had kids and are now constantly sorting out our parental roles. We are really four people: ourselves, a spouse, part of a parenting team, and a parent. That’s eight people between the two of us. That’s a lot of people to accommodate in one relationship without ever bumping into a disagreement.
In my experiences, despite picking and choosing battles, arguments happen. And it’s good they happen. They keep us all fighting the good fight for the sake of self-preservation. Barring any verbal or physical abuse — arguing is healthy in a relationship, at least it has been for us. From my own perspective, here’s how arguing can strengthen marriage:
1. Strengthened Our Communication
Whether you are both yelling, hissing, snarling, or simply bickering, you are still communicating. Every angry argument has always ended up in some form of civil discussion — even if it takes a few days for us to get there. When you’re communicating, you’re building and strengthening.
2. Kept Things Interesting
Together my husband and I are the most balanced people you might ever meet because we are opposite in every single way. The things we argue about tend to be because our comfort zones have been compromised. The solution often requires the other person to venture outside of their preferred way of thinking or being. I don’t always like to do this; he doesn’t always like to, but sometimes, we have to. More often than not, living that person’s way for a day or two can bring a lot of life to life.
3. Balanced the Household
We can’t always have one person getting their way all the time. If we did, my entire house would be furnished with animal heads and deer horn chandeliers. We would basically live in a Cabela’s. Sometimes my methods for discipline or handling emotional issues are exactly what our kids need. Other times, his way is what works the best. We cannot balance a household on one set of principles and sometimes we have to fight for the opportunity to test those out.
4. Given Me Alone Time
When you live in a house full of people you see and interact with 24/7, it’s not possible to never run into any kind of conflict. Sometimes, this just means everyone needs their own space and a lot of times arguing ends up with that.
5. Forced Us to Compromise
No matter how big or how small an argument is, in the end, to resolve anything, you have to sit down and work it out. If you can’t come to any form of agreement, you at least can agree to disagree for the sake of moving on.
6. Brought Us Together
Having different opinions allows us to respect the individual in the person we see as the breadwinner, homemaker, caregiver, bacon-bringer. It’s easy to take each other for granted, and when someone feels that way, arguing is a way to bring that reality back, so that we can learn to appreciate all the work everyone puts in as a team.
7. Encouraged Diversity
Respecting differences is huge in any relationship. Most times my husband and I see things completely different, and it’s that perspective that adds a little more to our relationship as well as our individual persons.
8. Taught Our Kids to Stand Up for Themselves
If something isn’t working for them, they need to speak up and fight for what they want. Because if they don’t do it now, who will in 10 years?
9. Maintained Individuality
If you don’t hold your ground, the toilet paper will always be the wrong way. And you’ll never be fully happy. My needs as an individual are vastly different from my husband’s. Because of the many roles and the give and take that’s essential for parenting, it’s very easy to lose yourself. Sometimes, arguing is a way to remind people you have needs, and it’s only fair they are met too.
10. Prevented Doormat Syndrome
Doormat Syndrome is when you have an opinion, but don’t voice it because you fear conflict. When someone has a difference of opinion and doesn’t speak up, resentment builds. This can carry over for weeks on end, until one day, when you both are planting flowers in the backyard, your spouse asks for the shovel, and you throw it across the yard and tell him, “I hate the blue in the bathroom. I hate it!” Learning to simply, and honestly, communicate your thoughts allows room for even more open communication the next time you run into something you’re not onboard with. Chances are, if you openly say what you want, you’ll find respect there too.
My husband and I argue less and less as we settle deeper into our marriage. There’s a lot of reasons for this. Mostly, it’s because we’ve hashed out a lot of the gunk from early in our marriage. We’re also tired, and most things simply are too petty to argue over. We still argue, and it’s healthy for us as well as our kids to see we have differences, and we can come to compromises with effective resolutions that work for all.
But, just for the record, I really am more tired than he is.