Dear Dr. Ronn: Thanks for all your great advice. For nearly two years I have been in a relationship with a man I met at our church’s singles group. We started discussing marriage not long after we got together. Early on there were several trust issues that came up, but I decided to trust him anyway as long as he shows consistent trustworthiness. We started getting counseling together over a year ago, but we seem to be arguing more than ever now. I’m finding that this relationship is not as much fun now. I know we both love each other but if things don’t change, I won’t want to continue. What can we do to make this work? – J.G.*
Dear J.G.: I wish you’d shared exactly what you two keep arguing about—and how’s your guy’s recent track-record regarding those “trust issues?” Something tells me; those little details are a big part of the story right now.
In general, when couples keep arguing, it’s because there is some issue that’s important to one or both of you and you do NOT have agreement on what to do about that issue.
It can be extremely frustrating to see that you are not in sync on a significant issue, with someone who you call your mate. We attempt to relieve that frustration by working to convince the other person to see it and do it our way (especially when we truly see our way as the “righteous,” “mature,” “common-sense” or “respectful” way).
Repeatedly arguing with our mate’s position (or behaviors) and arguing for our own, is how we try to get the other side to change. Even when you are arguing for a perfectly valid point, another adult never has to change just because you want them too. It just doesn’t work, even when changing is the right thing for them to do.
With all that counseling and arguing, my bet is that by now, each of you has clearly made your point on all your issues. You just don’t agree with each or you have agreement in words, but not in action.
So, maybe it’s time to seriously ask yourself are you trying to “make it work” with someone you lost your trust in and respect for, a long time ago? That’ll make you angry with YOURSELF. (Note: We often argue with others when we are furious with ourselves.)
A sure way to waste your time is to stick around a relationship where you feel the need to convince somebody to buy into your expectations of him or her. If you are arguing for stuff that’s petty and really doesn’t matter to you, enough already. Stop tripping and accept what you’re getting.
However, if you keep arguing about something that IS “deal-breaker” important to you, what he’s saying and doing IS his response to it. That’s what he’s offering you, so take it or leave. If the issue is a deal-breaker for you, doesn’t it make sense to stop wasting time and move on with your life?
*Questions posted here are edited for clarity and privacy.