Thoughts on marital quarreling

Thoughts on marital quarreling

Renee EllisonSep 17, '23

How does one solve marital quarreling?

Often, quarreling covers up a deeper issue.  The quarrel itself is only an expression on the surface of the tension underneath.  Underlying issues may include ones like these:

  • You always ignore me.
  • You haven't been with me enough.
  • You bulldoze past me and don't really hear me.

The issue at hand is often outright NOTHING.

I asked several friends for their suggestions on this matter.  Sandi wrote: We would take “time-outs” and then come back to discuss more after a time of reflection. We also learned to write out what we were thinking about a situation. We had to read the other’s thoughts with no comment until both had been read. This often put things into perspective. These were things we had to use very little because neither of us is very volatile. 

Lauren wrote:  Walk away and decide on a time to reconvene at a later time( but not too long).  Anytime there is quarreling there are heightened emotions.

After you come together at the appointed time…

Then each one gets the floor for X amount of minutes to express their point of view WITHOUT the other one interrupting and then the other one gets the same X amount of minutes to express their point of view. After that, insights usually  change. The amount of time that you decide to wait before coming back together to discuss it is critical, because emotions cannot be high. When emotions are not involved, you be surprised at how different the situation looks and feels..

NEVER use the phrase ‘you make me feel’ ……. Because that makes the partner feel attacked, accused, and defensive…. Always use the phrase’ I feel like’.


All the following was by/from Mary:

If there is a consistent problem with quarreling, then I would assume that one or the other or both are not feeling truly heard, respected, safe in the relationship, accepted, loved and cherished, though those feelings may actually be largely based in childhood or earlier life.  Just a lot of talking things through with patience, love, understanding, acceptance, and reassurance goes a long, long way. 

I'd say that these underlying issues need to be dealt with first or alongside any specific present complaints.  For one thing, there are probably patterns imprinted from childhood that usually involve simple fears of abandonment and rejection.  Each party needs to reflect on where their feelings are really coming from or what past incident is feeling relived to them.  Those feeling are very very often if not always stemming from some earlier incident in life that kicked up these fears of unworthiness, abandonment or rejection.  Often later in life these fears become activated by other incidents, especially with spouses.  Each spouse can learn to be conscious of these things, and then learn to comfort themselves, at least somewhat initially, and after that to approach their spouse.

Usually everyone just needs lots of consistent reassurance, simple reassurance, repeated reassurance, brief but sincere reassurance, over and over simple reassurance -- reminders that one another is not the same person as a difficult parent had been, and is not purposefully triggering past insecurities or wounds. Be honest and humble and willing to look like a weakling, a wimp, or a baby in the other's eyes.  It'll work out better that way. No one needs to be so "in control" that they aren't allowed to feel like a criticized or confused or misunderstood 5-year-old.  It's normal. It's universal. It's common.  It's totally okay. Anyone might feel those feelings.

Just assume that deep down we are all good, and just various incidents have seemed to try to convince us otherwise, and thus we often feel like quivering masses of insecurity (QMOI) trying to save face and shore up a deep sense of unworthiness.  Thus we might at times be reactive instead of consciously responding to things.  We might interpret things through our own insecurities that have nothing to do with the present circumstance.  It has just put us on edge because the old feelings have not yet been dealt with and healed effectively.  The more conscious you can be, the more gentle with yourself you can be, and the more comforting of your own inner child you can be, the better things will go with your spouse.

To start with, address the very basics:

  •  "I don't feel loved. I'm feeling afraid and insecure. I'm feeling fear of abandonment and rejection even if it doesn't make any sense. I need reassurance. Will you help me find comfort and reassurance?"
  • "When you do xyz, I feel afraid that it means pqr and in my fear of rejection, I do abc. Can we talk about this? I'd really like greater peace between us."

That sort of thing.  Communication, communication, communication, self-honesty, honesty about even silly-seeming triggers; lots of introspective self-care; lots of effective prayer in trusting God's help, seeing one another as a unique expression of God, trusting that God will guide both of you to be able to admit vulnerable feelings, be kind to one another in your mutual vulnerability to one another.  Remember to take good care of one another's hearts and your own heart, to listen gently, and to take time apart from one another until feelings cool down and you are able to talk and be kind.

The quarreling, I would say, is just a symptom, and needn't be addressed head-on as the main problem.  I would expect that there are these underlying kinds of feelings going on that need the main care, and then the quarreling is apt to disappear on its own.


And here are three general tips from me (Renee):

  • Learn to not take every issue to the mat.
  • Let lots of little things go.
  • Let some issues hang--at least for now.
Figure out how to stay out of each other's hair and not micromanage each other.  If one is in the kitchen fixing SOME sort of food, let that  BE.  If one or the other starts a project, let them finish it the way they want to.  There are two ways to do absolutely everything; one method is not necessarily superior to the other.  Step out of each other's way mentally and physically as much as possible, so that neither of you feels like you are in jail or under a constant surveillance camera.
Work on expressing yourselves with liberty, calmly and fully, not at the moment of tension.  Perhaps for now, don't focus on resolution, focus on finding freedom and peace in expressing yourselves without censor and without stress...and without anger.  Start with calmer, not so hot issues--issues that don't matter much but that you each do both have a different idea about.

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