How to Stop Fighting with Your Husband

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The Parenting Fight

The Battle: My husband reprimands our oldest daughter: "If you don't pick up those crayons, you'll never watch TV again." I immediately point out, in front of said child, that he has handled it wrong. (I'm the one who reads the parenting literature and I know you can't threaten a consequence you won't, in a million years, deliver on.) As usual, he snaps back that I "never" back him up and "always" criticize him for his mistakes in front of the kids.

The Subtext: "Moms do tend to have more basic knowledge about the latest disciplinary tactics than dads do, but the gap is smaller than parents think," says clinical psychologist Marsha Pruett, PhD, coauthor of Partnership Parenting. (I don't necessarily buy this but go along for the sake of harmony.) Growing up in different families simply means you have different models for parenting. Period. You start off on a different page. As a result, Dr. Pruett says, every couple has to "figure out how to get on the same one."

The Fix: The primary problem of our fight has to be addressed: I must stop taking him on in front of the kids. "Make an appointment to continue the discussion later and then set a timer for 10 minutes," says Dr. Eaker Weil. "The discussion should last no longer than that." Not only will our kids be spared our quarrel, but getting away from the heat of the moment can transform a clash into a conversation.

The Upshot: When we watch our middle child snub a girl on a playdate, I quickly say to my husband, "Let's talk later about how to handle this." I'm slightly irritated that in this instance, and in all that follow, I am the one who schedules the meeting. On the other hand, as Laurie Puhn, author of Fight Less, Love More, points out, "One person is always the communication leader in any given situation. That's just the way it is." My husband, for his part, takes the meetings seriously. He sometimes even brings his laptop so we can do research in case we can't agree or come up against a problem we don't know how to handle. What strategies, in the end, actually work to quash our fights? I discover that, no matter which fight it is, the simple in-the-moment advice is best: soft start-up, "I feel" statements, and holding my tongue. And the most unexpected change?

So. Much. More. Sex. Ultimately, one result is clear: We fight less. We don't disagree less -- he'll never think about money the way I do, and I'll never think about sex the way he does. (And I'm sorry, but "blades down" is safer; it just is.) But we're not yelling, freaking, huffing, and seething about those issues nearly as much as we used to. Our disputes have (mostly) evolved into discussions. And that makes our marriage feel less like "War" and more like "Peace."

Vicki Glembocki feels really bad for her husband -- not just because he's outnumbered 4 to 1 in their South Jersey household (their daughters are 7, 5, and 1), but also because of her habit of writing about the intimate details of their marriage.


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