In other words, there is no solution to them and engaging in conflict over them is a complete AND total waste of time.
Given this fact, it’s important to distinguish between marital conflict that’s solvable and conflict that’s perpetual. If it’s solvable, it’s worth working through. If it’s perpetual, it’s simply a waste of time, energy, and focus.
There’s only one problem with this:
Most couples fight for the WRONG reasons.
Here are some examples:
- Fighting to win
- Fighting to be right
- Fighting to get attention
- Fighting to avoid discussing and solving REAL issues
- Fighting to annoy, upset, or deter the other person
- Fighting to blame the other person
- Fighting to feel comfortable (yes, some folks feel most comfy when life is filled with drama)
- Fighting to fill the void and emptiness of being in a marriage that isn’t (and probably was never) right in the first place
Yes, there are tons of WRONG reasons why couples fight. But the problem in women breadwinner marriages doesn’t come down to whether a husband and wife argue; it comes down to the way they go about viewing, understanding, and working through the conflict.
Psychologist Dan Wile said it beautifully in a book called “After the Honeymoon”: “When choosing a long-term partner… you will inevitably be choosing a particular set of unsolvable problems that you’ll be grappling with for the next ten, twenty or fifty years.”
Did you read the 50 years part?
Yes… In other words, EVERYBODY comes with baggage. It’s up to you to choose baggage you know you can live with (and love) for the next 50 years.
The trouble in women breadwinner relationships is this:
Not all women signed up to be breadwinners, not all women breadwinners want to be breadwinners,
and not all beta husbands of women breadwinners want to be stay-at-home husbands or dads.
When you’re in a role you didn’t actively choose or one you never thought you’d be in, conflict is bound to creep up.
So… what is the fighting REALLY about?
When looked at productively, the fighting is about growth: discovering it, resisting it, managing it and thriving through it.
In a book called Enchanted Love, Marianne Williamson says the following:
“Growth is a detox process, as our weakest, darkest places are sucked up to the surface in order to be released. Often, upon seeing the weaknesses in each other, we have the tendency to go “Yuck!” and walk away on some level. But often it is not a change in partners but rather a change in perception that delivers us to the love we seek. When we shift our view of the purpose of intimacy-from serving our own needs as we define them to serving a larger process of healing- then an entirely new opportunity presents itself. Our wounds have been brought forward, not to block the experience of love, but to serve it.”
In this way, when marital conflict takes up residence in a woman breadwinner marriage, it’s not there to say “This marriage won’t work.” Conflict is there to proclaim, “There’s a lot of healing here to do.”
And we resist healing. We resist healing in ourselves the parts that grew up feeling unloved, unappreciated, never good enough, always having to be better, striving for more, constantly waiting for the other shoe to drop. The inner child in us who’s afraid to be vulnerable would rather spend a lifetime in a marriage picking a fight than settling into bliss. When we come to the understanding that there are parts of us running the show of our marriages and that those parts aren’t always the most beneficial parts for the marriage, we can get real with the fact that the problems of the relationship aren’t all his fault or her fault… it’s an opportunity for both people to grow… TOGETHER.
So how do you take a fight and turn it into a healing process?
Here are four ways to begin:
- Distinguish between solvable problems and perpetual problems. Agree to disagree on the perpetual; tackle the solvable problems with whole mind in present action.
- Begin with softness, sweetness, and ONE memory from the honeymoon phase of your relationship that still makes you smile. Tell each other what you appreciate, love, and what you remember about each other. Begin with a fond memory and it creates a soft place to land, even if the rest of the conversation takes a heavy turn.
- Self sooth when you need to. The moment you feel your heart racing, your head pounding, your jaw tighten, and your fists clenched, know that you are doing what we call “flooding” and when you’re flooding, you’re not hearing one word your spouse has to say. Agree in advance to take a 20 minute time out when flooding happens to one or both of you. When flooding occurs, call a time out and retreat so you can self-soothe, regain your composure, and come back to the discussion with love. Remember: this is your discussion. You can take a break if you need one. Resist the temptation to fight to be the person who has the last word.
- Soothe each other. You’ve met your partner. You know what pisses him off, turns him on, and makes him feel valued. Once you’ve soothed yourself, soothe him and vice versa. It will show fondness, appreciation and care. That alone goes a long way in a conflict.
At the end of the day, every fight is about something deeper than the superficial issues presented. We don’t argue to hear ourselves talk (most of us). We don’t fight to win. We create discord because there’s something deep within us that wants to be heard and healed and we haven’t learned any other way to do it but argue. No matter what brings you to the conflict table, you can find a stronger, more loving way out of it by recognizing a marital conflict for what it is:
An opportunity to heal