When couples argue, it’s all too common for past problems to come up. When tensions are high and emotions are raging, we can’t help but roll all of the problems into one, focusing our anger toward the person for ALL of their actions, instead of the issue at hand.
We’ve spoken before about keeping your spousal disagreements on topic – that you can’t solve every problem at once, and need to focus on points of disagreement one at a time. It is absolutely essential to get to the root of the problem if you ever intend to solve it.
This applies to more than just arguments with your spouse, though. In the same way that a certain event or action may trigger an argument – which can, in turn, become a much larger fight – certain patterns of behavior can cause one spouse to harbor resentment toward another. When this happens, it is much worse than the fight that tries to take on too many issues. Instead, a couple may find themselves fighting for no reason, simply because feelings of animosity have been building over time.
Just like I’ve suggested getting to root of your arguments with your spouse, you also must get to the root of your feelings toward them. Is there some habit of theirs that just drives you nuts? Is there some small thing that puts you on edge every time they do it? A small but regularly occurring action (like leaving the toilet seat up, to use the old cliché), can balloon into a serious issue – even if that issue is never even mentioned specifically.
In other words, little things can wear on our patience, and even if we are not aware of it, they can become the catalyst for tensions at home. What seems totally harmless, or at its worst, a mild frustration, plants a seed for speaking to one another harshly, blowing other issues out of proportion, or simply fixating on a minor problem and turning it into a major issue.
Just as you should steer the arguments you do have toward a single issue, you should also be aware of the minor things that may be causing tension in your marriage – and avoid some of the arguments altogether. These small things are usually pretty easy to take care of, as long you don’t let them build into a bigger issue.
If something is frustrating you, don’t wait until the middle of a fight to let your partner know. When you deal with the small stuff right away, it stays small!
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Dr. Dana Fillmore and Amy Barnhart, co-Founders, StrongMarriageNow.com