Bickering, The Twenty-Seventh Week of the Second Year in the New Abnormal


My son told me last weekend that he hoped he won’t have disagreements in his relationships like I have with my husband when he’s older.  It was interesting to hear, and as far as I understand he believes that with the amount of therapy, mindfulness practice, as well as the fact that I am a psychotherapist, I should be further along in my personal development, especially when it comes to my marriage.  There was a time I would have agreed.  I would have seen my defensiveness when my feelings are hurt, and that my feelings get hurt at all, as a fault in my character.  

I am not proud that I bicker easily, or that I am quick to react, but I am no longer ashamed that both are true.  Like Alex, I imagined that when I was in my sixties I would have life figured out.  I believed I’d be highly advanced in my communications, and I’d be able to easily respond with patience and self-reflection.  The truth is I am still learning.  I have more acceptance of the bickering, appreciating that our marriage has the strength to encompass unpleasant moments.  However, more time is needed to learn to have a sense of humor about myself, to find ease when I want recognition and appreciation, and to accept that my way is not the only way.  

In our twenty-six years of marriage Larry and I have been able to spend less time upset with one another. Repair is quicker and easier.  And we laugh a lot more together.  I am proud of that growth.  We married later in life, but we came together with much to learn about healthy relationships.  And we continue to learn.  Every conflict is a new opportunity.  

I appreciate Alex’s comment because it allows me to see how it looks from his perspective.  I can only imagine the impact our bickering caused him unable to escape it in his earlier years in our compact apartment.  Presently his opinion and my response to conflict allows me to find acceptance with the imperfections of being human.  Being a therapist does not mean I’m immune to familial disagreements.  It means that I am committed to learning and growing one quarrel at a time.  

Self-Care Tips:

  • Take the same short walk three different ways.  Walk looking ahead on one walk.  Walk looking up.  And walk looking down.  How different are these walks covering the same ground?  This can be a metaphor for our memories.  Though we may remember the same experience, when we are in a different place in our lives, we might view it in a new way.  
  • When you have a disagreement, rather than seeing what is wrong with the other person, ask yourself what you need to feel at ease.  This way you address a need rather than trying to be right or change someone else. 
  • Take an analog and digital break.  Read a book or magazine, hand write in a paper journal, paint with watercolors, play with a real deck of cards, play a board game, knit, play ball, or find a concrete activity off-screen.