Q&A: Bickering in our marriage about everything


Lately, it seems my husband and I are always bickering. If it’s not one thing, it’s another: money, sex, work, children, housework – you name it. Neither of us want to argue – but we can’t seem to help ourselves. What’s going on?

Answer: There’s a popular phrase that says, “The issue isn’t the issue.” What it means in this context is that regardless of what you and your husband are arguing about, it is likely rooted in one of the five underlying issues:

  1. Power and control. This struggle often reveals itself in arguments over finances, plans or preferences. Disharmony and conflict are inevitable when both spouses are vying for control in some area or when one is trying to prevent the other from taking control.
  2. Lack of respect. This occurs when there’s a disregard for key differences in gender, personality, or individuality, or when the feelings, decisions, or rights of one spouse are ignored. Attempts to manipulate also fall in this category.
  3. Distance. When spouses are unavailable physically or emotionally, disharmony is likely. Sometimes one spouse will put up emotional walls in attempts to protect themselves from hurt, creating feelings of rejection and abandonment for their spouse.
  4. Distrust. Conflict thrives here. If a relationship doesn’t feel safe, distrust and suspicion can build and spouses may no longer feel comfortable expressing their feelings or needs.
  5. Unmet needs. An unmet need may revolve around time, money, attention, empathy, communication or love, and can occur intentionally or inadvertently. When needs are overlooked or minimised in a marriage, resentment and hurt can lead to conflict. 

What underlying issues are at the heart of your conflicts? If you and your husband can begin to identify and discuss these, you’ll stand a much better chance of resolving them when they arise in your marriage.

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