It's not news that couples argue. But have you ever had the same argument with maddening regularity for more than a decade?
Jeff and Marcia can't remember a time when they didn't have at least one big fight every month—almost always about money. Their most recent shouting match began after Jeff looked through the mail and noticed the balance on their credit card. He blamed his wife for overspending, since she makes more purchases than he does. Marcia accused Jeff of wasting money on his computer and stereo hobbies. After 11 years of marriage, they still don't agree on how to manage their money.
No matter how long you've been married or what you argue about, there are ways to use your disagreements to build a healthier marriage. For starters, it helps to understand the source of your conflict. And, research shows, what couples argue about and the intensity of their disagreements change over the course of marriage.
Fighting the "Foes Without"
Alicia and Joe are newlyweds who argue repeatedly—and heatedly—about her family. Recently, just as they were leaving for a movie, Alicia's mother called. The conversation dragged on as Alicia and her mother discussed how they could get Alicia's father to go to the doctor for a checkup. Joe repeatedly pointed to his watch, mouthing the words, "It's time to go. We're going to be late!" Alicia looked away, thinking, "It would be rude to tell Mom I have to hang up when she's so worried about Dad."
She finally got off the phone, but they didn't go to the movie. Instead, they spent the night fighting.1