DEAR AMY: My husband and I have been married for 10 years. We have two wonderful small children and a very busy life. Our problem comes from the way we argue (or the lack of argument, really). He says that I bottle up all of the everyday slights and problems and then explode with complaints that are weeks old and no longer actionable. I admit that he is right, so I try to bring up issues as they occur and not let everything bottle up. I am very verbal when we do argue, because I have been preparing my thoughts in my head for some time. He, on the other hand, seems to always be silent when confronted with these thoughts. He seems to need some time to process before offering a response. My question is: would it be awkward to write him a letter with my thoughts, give it to him, allow him time to process, and then have a discussion? I want to have more productive arguments and this is the only thing I can think of!
Want to Argue Well
DEAR WANT TO ARGUE: You are insightful to realize that you and your husband have different communication styles, and that there is nothing “wrong” with the way he processes information and responds.
I think that some people are genuinely afraid to argue, because they equate arguing with “fighting,” and this makes them feel insecure about the relationship. So the first thing you both need to do is to acknowledge and assure each other that your relationship is solid and that it will survive everyday disagreements. It is also important that your children witness your ability to work through problems, and work things out.
I do think it’s a little awkward to write out a list of grievances in the form of a letter, but the person you should ask about this is your husband. He might prefer this to what he perceives as a personal confrontation of stored-up problems.
Another way to handle this might be to have regular “meetings,” where you two sit down on a schedule and review what is going well, and also both bring up tougher topics. If you have scheduled meetings, you might be able to discuss these challenges during times when you’re in a good mood, and not feeling heated.
A book for you to read together is “The Heart of the Fight: A Couple’s Guide to 15 Common Fights, What they Really Mean, and How They Can Bring You Together,” by Judith Wright and Bob Wright (2016, New Harbinger Publications).
DEAR AMY: I feel like sort of a baby even admitting this, but I’m seeking some wisdom and perspective about how to deal with my sister’s behavior on social media. Frequently, I will invite my sister to visit and spend time with me in our home town (she lives 90 minutes away). Sometimes she will visit, but most of the time, she declines. (I also visit her occasionally.) However, my sister does travel here to see her friends from high school. I will see on Facebook that she has been basically around the corner, and I wrestle with really childish feelings regarding her choices. What can I say, or how should I react to this?
DEAR SISTER: You have to understand and absorb that your sister has the right to travel wherever she wants, without clearing it with you, or also seeing you. The fact that her travels take her to her hometown to see friends complicates this, because you already live nearby.
Do you think your sister should see you every time she comes home? I assume not. If you had friends in her town, would you visit her each time you visited them? I assume not.
You could mention this to her, and she might choose not to post her whereabouts when she is home, but then she would be cornered into being sneaky. Understand that your reaction feels childish because our sibling relationships have a way of taking us back to childhood.
DEAR AMY: “Torn” survived an abusive marriage and described a new relationship with a much older man who wasn’t “in her league.” Like you, I was alarmed at her judgment to ask this man to move in with her and her toddler. Thank you for picking up on this, and for advocating for this child.
DEAR GRATEFUL: The child was the only person in this scenario without a voice. I thought this mother was showing very poor judgment.