I sometimes hear from wives who have spent a night away from their husband because he stormed out after a fight. Sometimes the wives know where their husband went and other times, he is not ready to disclose this information. Regardless of the specific details, many wives are shaken by this. No matter what the fight was about, it’s clear that having your spouse be so angry that he’s going to storm out and sleep somewhere else is not ideal. In fact, many wives worry that this type of fighting and outcome is going to eventually lead to a separation or divorce.
Someone might say, “I am very upset today. My husband and I have been having conflict for months. I guess at the heart of things is money, but honestly, I feel that there is more to it than this. My husband looks at me with disdain lately as though he can’t deal with me at all. And his anger is a serious turn off for me. So it’s like we don’t even identify with one another anymore. It used to be that it took quite a lot for us to even raise our voices or to get annoyed. But this just isn’t true anymore. Sometimes when my husband looks at me, I don’t see the love any more. I told my coworker about this and she says that I am overreacting. She says that you can not expect for your marriage to never experience conflict and that all couples fight. But my husband and I have never fought like this before. And it’s becoming more and more frequent. I worry that things are just going to keep getting worse and I’m starting to suspect that my husband doesn’t love me in the way that he used to. And that is a very big reason that people get separated or divorced. Am I way out of line here? I’m freaked out that my husband would want to sleep somewhere else other than with me.”
I definitely do not think that you are out of line. But I am biased. It was fights like the one that you are describing that lead up to my husband believing that we were no longer in love or compatible and we eventually separated and almost divorced. So yes, fights and a loss of intimacy or empathy can definitely be the first steps on the path to your marriage being in trouble. I don’t think that you can ever worry too much about your marriage – as long as that worry is causing you to be proactive and to attempt to make positive changes. If that is the worst that happens when you overreact, well, that’s a positive and a happy ending anyway.
Sure, everyone fights. But the way that you fight can be extremely telling. I once had a therapist who told me that she could tell which couples in pre-martial counseling would end divorced just by observing the way that they fought. Couples who fought fair and who tried to come up with a compromise or a resolution by the end of the fight (even when they were very angry at the time) were much more likely to stay together than couples who had fights that ended with someone either always storming out or with the couple personally insulting one another and tearing each other down. This counselor said that it was fine to be furious at the problem but you did not want to get into the habit of directing your fury at your spouse personally. She said couples whose fights became personal or that escalated to someone walking out all of the time were more likely to get divorced because they didn’t show the skills to move toward a solution.
That’s not to say that this is going to happen to you or your marriage. But I bring it up to illustrate the point that I don’t think that you are necessarily overreacting. When things calm down, you might sit your husband down and tell him that you are very concerned with the way that things are going between you. Stress that you were upset and very worried when he left and that it’s important that you improve your ability to communicate and compromise so that this trend doesn’t escalate. Tell him that you miss the easy rapport that you used to have (when you could work out things much more easily.) See how he responds. He may be relieved and he may be as worried as you are. Once the air is cleared, perhaps you will both make more of an effort. It’s very important to try to reestablish the connection and the intimacy because as you’ve already seen, once it is gone, the fights tend to escalate a lot more easily. When you are strongly connected with your spouse, it is much easier to move past issues that would cause a big fight with less close couples. It just makes many things in your marriage much easier and much more satisfying.