My partner of seven years and I bought a shared condo and moved in after two years of dating exclusively and being in love.
I’m 37, he’s 39, we have no children, and we both work from home. We’ve had few serious issues in our relationship but lately, there’s a strain between us and I’m not sure how to handle it.
It’s not like we never disagree - we have normal differences in taste and ways of dealing with small conflicts.
I tend to keep coming back to the topic, he shuts down for a while. Then we carry on as if it never happened. It’s worked so far.
But recently there’s been more tension when we don’t agree, even on small matters. I feel like he’s more intense about being “right” about something.
He’s raising his voice more often, as if the minor decision we’re arguing is the one that’ll tear us apart.
This is so unusual for him, that I’m worried that he’s struggling with serious anger issues which he’s kept contained until now.
Also, if we ever want to have children, we have to discuss it, start planning and getting me pregnant pretty soon. Is this the worst time to consider that?
Disagreements don’t signal the end of a perfect relationship, but they do reveal underlying tensions that you haven’t discussed or tried to resolve.
Look to current stressors to help explain your partner’s changed behaviour: COVID-19 has been affecting the comfort level of countless people for seven months, causing gnawing uncertainty about when and if things will feel “normal” again.
Now look to what’s immediate in your shared life: Perhaps he, too, has started to wonder about when and if to start a family. Maybe he’s already picked up some subconscious hints from you.
But you can’t both keep avoiding a full-on discussion.
Instead, start with taking a walk together. Some things get aired better when you’re outside. More space, less interruptions.
Tell him you love him, and that you regret when strong disagreements cause distance and then get buried. Ask if he’s worried about anything. Describe your discomfort when he erupts with harsher anger than he’s ever shown you before.
Depending on how he reacts to this conversation, the next step is to raise the idea of getting marital counselling together, especially before you both consider trying to have a baby in the near future.
If his response is very angry, the counselling option is obviously necessary... even if you have to go alone and make your own decisions about the future.
FEEDBACK Regarding the woman whose in-laws have frozen out her immediate family, including young grandchildren hurt by their grandparents, aunts and uncles (Sept. 17):
Reader – “Echoes of my own experience were numerous and loud, right down to exclusion from a large family event. My heart aches for this woman and her husband, and especially for the innocent children.
“Your advice was spot-on. The role of the parents in such a dynamic is pivotal. The pain of such rejection is deep and visceral and skilled counselling is a must for this couple and their children.
“It’s a testament to their character and long-term, generous efforts that they stayed connected to their in-laws for as long as they did.
“You wrote: “The bitterness will stain all members except those who recognize they must walk away.” How tragic. How true.”
Been There, Flourishing Finally
Reader’s Commentary Regarding the elderly woman who’s “heartbroken” that she’s discovered that her late husband had been unfaithful during their long marriage (Sept. 19):
“As women, we need to know that many men won't be "faithful" because of their inborn nature as men... my conclusion is that men are naturally driven to more sexual activity than we are, and that even the most loving and responsible husbands will have other experiences.
“Wise men will take care to hide it well. Women should realize that and either accommodate it or cheerfully reject men as husbands if they want a totally faithful partner and instead, seek perhaps a dear friend instead, of either sex.
“Yes... blame biology... one of life's challenges.”
Ellie - Today’s women contemplating marriage wouldn’t and shouldn’t accept that it’s biology’s fault and inevitable.
And many men would also disagree on a different, factual note, which is that some women also cheat on their partners.
Tip of the day:
Stress and anger can destroy a relationship unless there’s serious effort at discussion and compromise, and/or counselling including anger management if needed.