Sometimes arguing is an attempt to address a legitimate issue, sometimes it signals a desire for more closeness, and sometimes it is a signal of an impending affair or divorce.
If your spouse is picking arguments, you will need to be able to discern and respond correctly.
At the beginning of marriage, arguments are common. At this time, couples push and pull at each other until they achieve some kind of balance between sacrifice and satisfaction. They adjust to each other.
The smaller their differences, the smaller the compromises will be. If their differences are large, then many more compromises will need to be made to make the marriage work.
How relationships get to the point of constant arguments and irritability
After we get used to each other there may still be occasional arguments. Occasional arguments are like getting an occasional skin rash. It is never good, but can be managed fairly easily.
As long as we are maintaining our relationships with regular and enjoyable dating, one on one time and good sex, there typically won’t be much to argue about. If we do argue, our healthy marriage can withstand the temporary damage and we won’t stay angry with each other for very long.
If we don’t maintain our marriage relationship, then we will not enjoy being with each other as much. Our activities will become more differentiated. Our talks will become less personal and more practical.
Often, in a marriage in which the emotional connection is not maintained, one of the partners will become dissatisfied before the other. The dissatisfied partner may try to initiate more interaction. If that fails, he or she may start to complain.
- you work too much
- you spend too much time on your cell phone
- I don’t like you going out with your friends all the time
- we don’t do things together anymore
- I’m not important to you
- I don’t think you love me
Arguing about these points will miss the point entirely.
People make such complaints when they want to spend more time with their partner and are feeling less important than something or someone else. This is an early warning sign that too many people ignore. These complaints represent dissatisfaction and growing resentment in the marriage. At this stage, the complaining partner still wants the relationship to be better. Instead of arguing about the specific complaints, what is needed and wanted is more quality time together.
How early complaints can lead to an affair and/or divorce
If the dissatisfied partner is unsuccessful in re-creating an enjoyable emotional connection, he or she will eventually stop trying. The complaints and arguments drop off and their partner will feel like everything is better, although the opposite is true. In actuality, the dissatisfied partner has given up on having a close relationship.
Most people will not stay a lifetime in a relationship they don’t enjoy. They will either supplement their marital relationship with a relationship with someone else, or they will seek separation and/or divorce. The affair or desire for separation often comes as a surprise to the spouse who thought everything was going smoothly.
Petty arguments typically begin when a spouse has become attached to an affair partner or when they start thinking about separation. These arguments seem trivial from an objective standpoint, but the dissatisfied spouse will put a lot of emotional energy into them. An example might be complaining about things that never bothered them before, such as a partner’s mannerisms, a dripping faucet, or other small things.
These arguments are a much stronger warning sign of an impending divorce or affair. Unlike the earlier complaining, the argumentative spouse will not be consolable. They won’t want more time together. In fact, they will use their irritations as reasons to get more space. They are not trying to fix the marriage–they are emotionally preparing to leave it.
What stage is your relationship in now?
The early complaining stage: If you are getting complaints from your spouse about what you do with your time, then you are at the early warning stage. You can work to restore good quality time together to keep your marriage going well. You won’t need to give up your activities as long as you make your spouse feel like a priority.
Calm before the storm stage: If your spouse has stopped complaining, even though your relationship has not really improved otherwise, then you are in the calm before the storm. You can still take action to spend more time together. This you will have to do more gradually so as not to get rejection from your spouse. A spouse who has already given up on a close relationship will be slow to trust changes.
The petty arguing and irritability stage: If your spouse seems to be a lot more irritable, with you in particular, and is complaining or arguing about petty things, you will need to stop arguing and start connecting before you push your spouse right out your door or into the arms of another.
Taking corrective action at the petty arguing and irritability stage
If you try to talk to such an argumentative spouse about your relationship, you may push them into asking for separation sooner than they had planned. Attempts to pursue such a spouse with romantic behaviors and increased attempts to be together will just create more conflict, as the argumentative spouse does not want to be together more. This is not the time for marriage counseling either.
Just giving space is also not a fix because the irritable spouse will enjoy being left alone, possibly to pursue someone else. I made a podcast on when and when not to give space for relationship building, if you would like to learn more about that method.
The solution to reconciling at this point is helping the dissatisfied spouse to relax by getting on the same page as the dissatisfied spouse and by being relaxed and friendly. This is a far better choice than either pursuit or space, which only emphasize the differences between you and your spouse. We can never connect on differences.
Don’t spend too much time with your spouse, but when you do, make sure you are using good connection skills. It will also be important to get back to being the attractive person you used to be. At one point you were attractive to your spouse. You no longer are. You will need to improve to be able to compete with any greener grass your spouse might find or think they can find.
You will need to go slow to avoid pursuing and getting rejection.
Damage control when attempts to reconcile have failed
People who hire me to help them reconcile typically have made mistakes with either pursuing or giving space. Some of them have become frustrated because their attempts to persuade their spouse were met with rejection. In many cases they have behaved in very needy and unattractive ways.
You will need to start where I help my clients to start. That is to relax and get on the same page as your spouse.
It is not possible to connect with someone we are stressing out.
Relaxing and being on the same page are only the first steps to reconciling. It will also be necessary to become attractive again to your rejecting spouse and to use good connection skills without any kind of pursuit.
The final step of using good boundaries can completely turn your relationship around.
Many people find this rebuilding process easier with a coach to guide and train them. You can sign up for my Re-Connections Coaching Package if you would like my help with this process.