Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Can't we just get along?

For your reading pleasure, I present another "Dear Jamy." Send in your questions now and I will answer one next Tuesday!

Dear Jamy,
I am a NYer but I love your blog. I hope you answer questions from Non-DC-ers.

My Boyfriend and I have been friends for over 10 years. We went to High School together and even the same College. We have drifted in and out of closeness over the years but we were always friends. Then in late October, I took the plunge. We always had a flirty relationship so I took him out to eat and asked him out. He said yes. Nine months later we are still together.

Now my question is this. How much fighting is normal? And how much is too much? When do you throw in the towel and say enough? We fight too much? We don't fight mean and we don't fight every day, but he thinks it like once a week I think its a few times a month.

We mostly fight about money. And about that we fight too much. We didn't really argue before. We did have our occasional political differences but nothing major.

I don't think either of us wants to call anything off because of the fighting, but it is definitely taking its toll on the relationship.


Dear Francine,

Of course I answer questions from "Non-DC-ers." I will answer a question from ANYWHERE. I don't discriminate.

The question, "how much fighting is too much fighting?" is a tricky one because people have different tolerances for it.

You say that you fight "a few times a month" and your boyfriend thinks you fight "once a week." The difference between once a week and a few times a month is maybe one or two fights. That is to say: not much. But for some people one fight is a lot. You are fighting about money, but I have to wonder why since you are "only" dating and not married, engaged or living together. If you were in a situation where you had shared expenses (are you?), then I could understand fighting about money. Otherwise, how you spend your money is none of his business—and how he spends his is none of yours.

What I can tell you is that most frequent fights are actually about something else. Even a fight about money, which is rather more likely to be on topic than a fight, say, about someone's failure to do the dishes, might actually be about something else. For example, a fight about money is often about respect. Perhaps you feel that he is not taking your needs seriously—or is prioritizing his needs over yours. He'd like to spend the money on a fancy dinner at a nice restaurant, but you would rather buy box seats for the Yankees game—what it's really about is that you are not able to reach a compromise and be happy with the outcome. One of you feels disrespected by the other's decisions.

Bickering in a relationship can be perfectly normal—many happy couples bicker. But it sounds like this more than bickering, it's happening 2-4 times a month, and you're not happy about it. I recommend doing some thinking on your own about the substance of these disagreements and try to get to the root cause. Then, if your boyfriend is amenable, find a time to talk to him, BEFORE or AFTER you fight again (not during), and try to resolve the issue calmly. You can also decide, together, how to handle it the next time you argue. Is one of you escalating? Can you decide to separate (go to another room) until the bad feelings dissipate? If you put your heads together you can find a way to end your more serious arguing and get back to the low-level bickering that is a way of life for most of us.

One last thing, when you approach him to discuss this, make sure not to put him on the defensive. Make it about you. Say, "When we fight, it makes me feel bad. I want to try and stop doing whatever it is I do that causes this." You may think these fights are mostly his fault, but if you say that, you will only have another fight on your hands.

Good luck and let us know how this turns out.


Grateful for: not fighting with anyone.

Drop me a line.

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