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How to Handle Bickering with Your Spouse

Jeff:
You could call this a fun topic or not a fun topic, depending on where this hits you. We wanted to chat about something that’s more pertinent in a lot of people’s lives because we’re having more friction and more time together, and that is just bickering with your spouse. We say bickering as the phrase of, not full-on, blown-out, drag-out fights, but just the every single day, just annoyance with each other, poor communication, miscommunication, and that tends to wear.

I will say not to take this overly serious. I don’t know if you’ve seen this research already, Jeremy, but there’s already scholarly research and data coming out of China, who’s three, four months ahead of us in the crisis, that their divorce rates have skyrocketed-

Jeremy:
No, I haven’t. Wow.

Jeff:
… which is fascinating to me. Basically, what the articles are just saying, these people are now all of a sudden together more than they’ve ever been together, and for lack of a better term, they don’t like each other, or, the disenchantment of what they thought marriages should be is just blowing up. It’s super tragic and sad.

I think a lot of people actually, the joke at the beginning was the opposite, right? You’re going to have more sex, and more time together, and all that stuff, and it’s, sadly, it’s the opposite. The reality is taking on the opposite, that this is challenging, okay.

So what would you say, Jeremy? I don’t really have any tips there because I have no idea. I’m trying to figure it out myself. But what would you say of, yeah, when you’re together a little bit more than usual, how do you walk through that, the small bickerings, and arguments, and conflicts?

Jeremy:
Well, one thing I think is just to have your … The expectation should be, as believers, we know that the reason that we get married isn’t to find ultimate happiness. It’s really to become holy. It’s holiness. It’s to really knock off the rough edges of each other as we become one. So what we’re experiencing right now isn’t some terrible event that is anti-marriage, and that when we get back to living our own individual lives, we’re back into the real design for marriage. What a lot of us are experiencing is the real design for marriage. It’s the cage match. It’s like, what happens when the two of us get stuck together and we can’t avoid each other-

Jeff:
Totally. But it’s disorienting because it’s not our expectation.

Jeremy:
That’s right, yeah. So I would just say the first thing is to embrace this, the difficulty, and to understand that it’s not something that’s being done to you. It’s something that, you guys decided to make a covenant to stay together, no matter what, and now that’s going to get tested through a lot of interaction, and a lot of being in proximity, and all of the frustrations that can come out of that.

Now, one of the things that that … So you’re not going to be able to avoid each other if you’re quarantined together, but what I would say, though, is that you also have to be careful not to wear each other out by constantly nitpicking each other. So if you find that that’s happening, it’s important to, in a calm moment, to sort of level up above the fighting and bickering and say, “Hey, can we talk about what’s been going on? Can we just sort of identify the patterns or the things that are really causing a lot of the friction?”

Try to keep that conversation as positive and as loving as possible, and the way you do that, you guys, is that you seek first to understand. You always, when you’re in those moments, you ask good questions and you really try to help your spouse articulate as clearly as they can what they’re feeling, what’s going on inside of them. Then you can be understood. Then you can articulate as clearly as you can how you’re feeling.

You’re really trying to figure out how to have those kinds of conversations, and how to try to figure out what are those patterns, and “Can we try a different pattern? What if, instead, when you were frustrated, can we do this instead of that?” That can really be helpful. “When you say it that way, when you roll your eyes and just make that subtle comment, it really digs on me, so can we try this instead of that? Instead of doing that, maybe let’s, when we check in on each other, I’ll ask you, is there anything I’m doing that’s bothering you?”

In that moment, things can be sort of unearthed to try to get rid of some of those patterns. If you’re finding that there’s a pattern that is wearing out your love for each other, your affection for each other, that is something you want to definitely address. So I think that this is a tough time for a lot of marriages and a lot of relationships, but I think it’s really important that we don’t completely avoid void the pain, that we’ve got to move into it, but to do it in stages in which that we don’t feel completely overwhelmed all the time.

But, yeah, that’s what I encourage you guys, but stay in there, constantly reassert, especially in hard conversations, your commitment to your spouse. “Hey, I love you.” That you’re constantly declaring, again, “I’m committed to you. I’m committed to us working this out.” That’s a really important way to start any hard conversation if things especially are getting really challenging.

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