Marriage Mondays: Fighting With Our Partners



Happy Marriage Monday! Today’s open thread: When you disagree with your partner on something big or small, what’s the one thing that centers you and brings the arguing to a close, beyond the apology? What helps you and your beloved remain balanced?

For me, it’s getting outside of my own head and stop worrying about defending myself and whatever points I think I need to make (because later, those points are usually pointless). 

Instead, what I must practice in the moment of heated discussions is listening and empathy, instead of getting out what I need to say. I am not good at this practice. I am the worst at this. In fact, I suck at it. I fail at it every day. I am a wonderful listener when times are good, but when it’s time to hear about my failings as a partner or what’s going wrong, of course my fingers are going in my ears like I’m 3 years old. So I’m calling myself out here, and maybe I need to get it tattooed on my hand to be a better listener during arguments: STOP DEFENDING YOURSELF. JUST LISTEN.

It’s not like I don’t want to hear what my wife is saying during the best of times. She has the most lovely voice: It’s rough, gorgeous and friendly, like a flowering coconut palm tree bearing plenty of delicious fruit. She makes me laugh with jokes so funny my eyes water and my stomach hurts, which is promising for the long haul. And when she pulls me in for one of her warm, comforting hugs, oh, the world is just right again, and I feel that I can face anything or anyone. She is mine, and I am hers. She helps me balance life.  And I hope I do the same for her. 


Eleven years in and humor has definitely taken us through some difficult times, such as losing my father and my brother to early deaths, losing my mother to sheer emotional abandonment, having and raising twins, having a special-needs son, losing two devoted dogs (true members of the family), being diagnosed with a life-threatening genetic heart condition and then having heart surgery for it, losing Maria’s grandmother to a natural aged death that was still painful, and then, life’s normal quirks and twists. But we’ve made it through with love, some therapy, a few cocktails, our family and a strong circle of devoted friends and each other. I continue to circle back to gratitude and listening. That’s the only way I continue to be better for my wife and I think that’s how we’ll keep mastering arguments, which are a natural, healthy part of marriage. 

What about you? What helps you through you and your partner’s tough conversations? 

Photos: Entwined Studio




  • Elly Finzer says:

    My partner and I remind each other that we’re on the same team, that what we’re fighting is often ourselves, with all our complex histories and pains. Knowing the real monsters instead of blaming the other has helped us a great deal…

  • Lover_ly says:

    We love this post! We definitely agree that sometimes, listening is key instead of trying to defend your points.

  • Laurence Dumortier says:

    Thanks for the reminder to take a moment and listen. That is SO important, and yet so hard. It helps me to remember that the only thing I have control over and responsibility for are my own actions.

  • equallywed says:

    Excellent point, Elly! “What we’re fighting is often ourselves, with all our complex histories and pains.” Wow.

  • Angela Barton says:

    Kirsten, I could SO relate to this. When my husband and I argue, I can feel myself going into defense mode, and mentally listing all the points I need to make so that he can see why I’m right and he’s wrong. The only thing that stops an argument from escalating is when one of us is able to stop and listen and have empathy for who that person is, when they’re not a raging mess. My husband is generally better at this than I am, but I have gotten better with couples therapy. I can make myself stop and not react to his “angry face” and listen to what he says. I also try hard to remember that he’s not the enemy. That one really works for us, saying something like, “I’m on your side. We’ll get through this.” But trying to get all my points out about why he’s being such an asshole?” Doesn’t help anything. BTW – I loved your description of your wife’s voice. That was beautiful.

  • Jane Eaton Hamilton says:

    When I was married back in 2003, I’d been with my partner ten years already, and we would have relationship meetings every week. Here, within a defined structure, we would feel safe to say the hard things. Communication is the touchstone of all relationships, and certainly one of the most difficult things to stay on top of. Thanks for discussing it.

  • Too often, my partner and I seem to be arguing when we’re really circling around the same thing with slightly different ways of saying it. This is so frustrating! That patience and listening you speak of helps us to figure out when we actually agree with one another in the end. When we can finally get there, that is.

  • Great blog , continue the good work for all the women in the world !

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