If it seems like you and your spouse are constantly arguing even as newlyweds, you are not alone. And you can be helped. Here are Patterson’s solutions for five common newlywed fights:
1. Fight: Different Living Styles
You are the Oscar to his Felix. This was cute while you were dating. But now that you are married and living together, it’s anything but cute. You’re driving each other mad.
Solution: “Your partner has to live in this house,” says Patterson. “He or she needs to be comfortable and so do you.” To make that happen, Patterson suggests that both of you carefully choose your battles. If one of you sees something needs to get done – the laundry needs folding, the garbage must go out, the groceries must be put away – just do it. You both have to give and take for the household to run smoothly.
Many couples have probably heard that making a list of chores and dividing them is a way to avoid arguing about different living styles. But Patterson is actually against making a list of chores because she says it ends up being a score card, which can cause resentment between couples.
2. Fight: Money
As Patterson points out, everyone has emotional baggage tied to their beliefs and practices with money. This often comes between husband and wife, especially early in a marriage.
Solution: Instead, Patterson suggests couples calmly and rationally discuss their money habits as soon as possible (before it becomes a confrontation). Here are some questions you can ask one another:
- How much money would you each like to spend and save in a given week?
- What are you priorities when it comes to purchases? For instance, does food come before entertainment for you?
- How do you feel about debt?
- What’s your philosophy on investments?
- How would you each like for the two of you to handle your finances? Will one of you occupy herself with paying the bills while the other forks over his paycheck once a month? How will you carry out these financial responsibilities?
3. Fight: Having Children
Frankly, you should have discussed children before marriage. There’s no way to negotiate, says Patterson, if one of you wants children and the other doesn’t. No matter what you negotiate, it changes once children arrive anyway, she adds. Using herself as an example, Patterson explains that she thought she wanted a career even after babies arrived. Then, she had her first child, and she realized the child has a say in the matter, too, because his or her personality or health, etc., might dictate decisions you make, including whether to go back to work outside of the home.
Solution: “Let life happen,” says Patterson. “You’ll constantly evolve.” You have to be flexible if the two of you are considering having children because they will change everything, she adds. Putting off having children and spending some time alone as a couple, if possible, is not a bad idea. “Getting married is very tough and stressful,” says Patterson. “Marriage is not for the faint-hearted.” And neither is parenting. Still, each couple has to make decisions about having children and when to have them for themselves.
4. Fight: The In-Laws
Even the kindest of families have trouble learning each other’s ways. You and your spouse might get caught in the crossfire. You might have different traditions or different ways of doing things. You might see your parents too little or too often. It takes a while to figure out what kind of relationship you should all have.
Solution: The most important part of dealing with in-laws is making sure that your allegiance and relationship with your parents and family or your spouse’s relationship with his family does not get in the way of your marriage. “You have to be on the same page with your spouse,” says Patterson. “You have to act like a gatekeeper to your own relationships.” In other words, don’t send your spouse to fight your battles with your family. If something your family is doing is interfering with the marriage, you must talk to your family and your spouse must talk to his or her family. And you must stand up for one another if necessary.
5. Fight: Miscommunication
Marriage has a way of making it difficult for couples to communicate. It’s easy to cross signals or hold back your true feelings about something to avoid arguing.
Solution: Honesty is the best policy in marriage as in life. “Don’t make assumptions,” says Patterson. “Be clear and remember sarcasm does not work because it gets hurtful and confuses the issues.” Tell it like it is and your spouse will respect you and – if he or she truly loves you – will respond.