Arguing with my wife is my least favorite thing. I even feel uneasy when I see others argue.
Recently, I was walking down a hotel corridor and came up to an older married couple walking the opposite direction. The husband was in the lead and occupied by something he was reading.
After his stride slowed for several steps, his wife snapped angrily, “I’d like to get to our room sometime today!” With no response, he simply picked up the pace a little.
Have We Become Comfortably Numb?
That was a perfect example of a woman who was prepared to make small issues into nasty arguments. There they were in a 5-star resort with all the food, recreation, and entertainment included in one price, and she easily slipped into smack-talk mode over what I would call a minor concern.
She could have just as easily said with a sense of humor, “Hey slow poke—eyes on the road,” and they both could have had a chuckle at the moment. But instead, she chose to be unpleasant.
And the man, probably having long ago resigned himself to the marital arrangement he was in, didn’t think anything of it. The part of him that used to react had long ago numbed.
Life’s Too Short for Arguing with My Wife
I, on the other hand, used the situation as a keen reminder to NOT accept such behavior from myself or my loved ones. There simply has to be a better way to spend the years of marriage together than tolerating ongoing, disrespectful, and petty arguments. And this goes both ways—both men and women are guilty of it.
But, for the moment, we should try to answer a few questions. Why does my wife seem so ready to lash out? Has she always acted that way or is it something she grew into? Does my reaction contribute to the problem? What can I do about it?
Why does my wife seem so ready to lash out?
Being quick to argue with a spouse is definitely a sign of unhappiness, dissatisfaction, and resentment. If your wife is guilty of this behavior, there are likely years of unresolved problems weighing her down. They won’t go away overnight. It’s gonna take a while.
Her mother might have treated her father the same way. Right or wrong, it’s what your wife grew up seeing as her model for a marriage.
Conversely, her mother may have been docile and now your wife is compensating for what she didn’t see in her parent’s marriage.
And maybe your own dumb-ass behavior hasn’t helped things over the years. Can you truly say you’ve always been the ideal husband along the way?
Has she always acted that way?
When your wife started being so argumentative is an important fact to nail down. If she’s always been that way, well Dude, you got what you asked for. You don’t have much of a right to complain at this point. Suck it up and move on.
But if you’re sure she used to be more patient with you, then there could be some serious resentment at work. Her willingness to argue over even the smallest dispute is a symptom of a larger dissatisfaction in your marriage.
I’m not saying it’s fair of her to cast judgement, but are there elements of your life together that she might feel have come up short? Careers, children, income level, quality of home, the area you live in—these are the kinds of things she might feel a growing resentment over.
As the years have gone by in your marriage, has your wife seen her friends and relatives reach milestones that have alluded the two of you? She may rationally understand that “keeping up with the neighbors” is pointless, but constantly being reminded that her marriage feels stagnant can be frustrating.
Does my reaction contribute to the problem?
If I get swept up arguing with my wife, I have to ask myself what I’m doing to invite the problem. Younger men tend to snap back with an equal level of anger. Older men seem to just look the other way and pay no attention.
I suggest that neither of those responses is healthy or productive.
Being overly reactive simply amplifies the moment into a full-blown argument. And it’s nearly always over something really stupid. Was it really worth bickering for 15 minutes over whether you should have taken 3rd Street instead of 5th Street on the way to the dentist’s office?
Offering no defense at all, like I see with older men, might feel like “taking the high road,” but it doesn’t solve anything. Your wife will still keep up with her attacks, and might even get more abusive in an attempt to finally get you to react.
The roots of her dissatisfaction are not being addressed and you, whether you react or not, are still being disrespected every time she goes on the attack without worthy cause.
Turning the other cheek may not exacerbate the problem, but it doesn’t do anything to alleviate it either.
But if fighting back just makes things worse, and doing nothing only kicks the problem down the road to deal with later, what choices are you left with?
I’ve got a double-pronged solution for all of us to try. This isn’t going to be easy, because it’s a difficult problem to begin with. But even if it doesn’t ultimately improve your marriage, it will improve your self-image and sense of manhood.
—Step 1: Just say no.
Explain to your wife that you’ve been doing a lot of thinking and have decided that you don’t like the way you’ve been responding to petty arguments. In other words, you’re not chastising her for her behavior. You’re saying you are changing your behavior.
Tell her that from this point on, if you feel she has verbally disrespected you and trying to cause an argument, your new response will be to simply leave the area.
At a restaurant? Make sure she has a method to pay the check and leave.
Out with friends? Make sure she has a way home and leave (make sure you have an extra house key available).
Running errands together? Call an Uber for a ride or start walking.
On a vacation? Grab a credit card and travel home that day.
At home? Go to another room. If she follows you, go to a friend’s or a motel for the night. Simply leave.
If she accuses you of being a coward who can’t even take a little arguing, keep your mouth shut and leave anyway.
She is an adult and has the right to be argumentative and petty. And you, my friend, have the right to not spend time around argumentative and petty people. Choose to spend your life around positive-minded and inspiring people, including your wife.
Alert! There’s a ginormous “but” coming your way.
BUT, none of this will make any difference if you don’t do the second part of the plan.
—Step 2: Be a worthier man
During the time you are away from you wife, you want her to feel a true emptiness. Life without you just isn’t fulfilling. Heck, it’s downright dull. If she’s not feeling that way, you need to step up your game and prove your worth to her as a husband.
If she’s actually feeling a sense of relief every time you leave, you’ve got some serious damage to repair. You need a plan.
Engage in Actions Rather than Arguments
I refer to an action plan in some of my other writings (like in this link!) and I will do so again here. There’s nothing more attractive to a woman than a man who has a plan, who sets goals, and then executes the actions required to accomplish great things.
So, in addition to telling your wife you will be changing the way you react to petty arguments, you’re also going to talk about renewed goals for your marriage.
With regards to your career, tell her about the new training program you’re looking into. Maybe there are classes at the community college that will help you advance at your job. What about the possibilities of side-hustles or passive income the two of you could work on together?
As far as finances are concerned, read up on budgeting and getting out of debt (Dave Ramsey is the gold standard). Come up with projections for the future that show benchmarks to be met. Post them on the refrigerator and celebrate together each time you get to add another check mark.
Talk about long-term hopes for the future that might include moving to a better location, a larger home, a bucket-list vacation, or a better life for the kids. Connect those “pie in the sky” aspirations to the actual steps you are taking daily.
Rise Above the Fray and Invite Her Along
All of these actions combine to remind your wife what a wonderful partner you are. She may not have everything she hoped for yet, but she’s got a worthy husband who supports her and strives for improvement.
You haven’t just “given up” to the system and accepted permanent membership in the victims’ club.
You are a man of action. Still vital. Still willing to fight to get ahead. And not willing to let others (including your wife) disrespect you.
If, in the face of such overwhelming proof, she still doesn’t find you worthy, she never will Dude. But you’ll know the kind of man you are, and loss is hers.
I learned quickly that arguing with my wife is a waste of time. Fortunately, it’s not a permanent condition.
If you liked this article, you should know it is an excerpt from my book “Why Does My Wife…” (available at this link) in which I address 25 of the most common questions we face in a marriage. Check it out and pick up the complete eBook or paperback!