The 4 Easiest Ways to Accidentally Ruin Your Relationship

#2. Not Knowing How to Argue


How It Ends

It used to be that you'd have lively debates about politics or religion. When things got heated, you'd find an excuse to end the conversation and take leave until you cooled off. But as time went on, it got worse, and now you find yourself fighting over the most meaningless bullshit imaginable. "I know the top was wobbling -- I have eyes! But it never fell down, so he's still in the fucking dream world. You're exactly like your dumb whore of a mother!"

At some point, you finally just have to decide which doomed path you're willing to walk. End the relationship and start over with someone new? Or stay in this one and feel your sanity seeping out of your skull, making that slow farting noise a balloon makes when you don't tie the end? Forever.

Sadly, I've seen the latter far more often. Even when it ends with a police car in the driveway and one drunken half of the party being hauled off in his underwear. For an example of this, watch any episode of Cops ever aired.

"I know my rights! I can do what I want in my own living room!"

How It Sneaks Up on You

Ever heard the phrase "spiral out of control"? This is almost always a case of two people who have issues to work out, but no idea of how to go about it. Instead of trying to resolve a conflict, they're trying to "win" a verbal contest. Instead of expressing their point of view, they're trying to bully the other into submission.

When things start to escalate, the words tend to get buried under tone, bad phrasings and the volume of your voice. As a couple, once you cross a certain line with any or all of those three factors, the words themselves lose their meaning, because you're both transformed from debaters to combatants. And the role of a combatant is to hurt the other while deflecting blows against himself. And of course the easiest way to deflect a verbal blow in a fight is to just tune out the words. To not hear them. Or to use a giant shield, because it's really hard to concentrate when the other person has a goddamn shield.

"For some reason, I have no desire to argue right now."

How to Avoid It

Without counseling and changing core aspects of yourself, the argument-riddled relationship has no good ending. There are thousands of sites out there with excellent tips on how to argue constructively, but it boils down to these basic rules:

  • Don't attack -- no name-calling or neck-punching.

  • Don't bring up shit from the past -- stay focused on the issue at hand.

  • Listen as much as you talk -- it's an exchange of perspectives, not an open mic night for your bitching.

  • Be calm -- if shit gets real, take a break and start with the first rule when you get back.

  • Remember: It's about resolving issues, not a contest that ends with a winner and a loser.
"Now, let's discuss that toilet seat problem. Discuss it ... to the death."

#1. Making Them Your Mommy

How It Ends

You get home from work three hours after your husband. When you walk in the door, you find what appears to be a small Armageddon in the living room. Dishes are still in the sink from three days ago, the laundry is piling up and ... what the fuck is that smell? Did someone hide a body in there?

As you pass your husband, who is sitting at the kitchen table, meticulously painting the intricate scales of his pewter wizard/dragon combo miniature, he welcomes you home and asks, "I'm starving. What's for dinner?" When you wake up from the ensuing rage blackout, blood and human hair matting your clothes, you discover that the eastern half of your town is gone. Just ... gone.

It's been going on for years, and it just gets worse over time. He acts like a 14-year-old, and you're his mother. You didn't want another child, you wanted a husband. You're so sick of doing chores while he does hobbies, and it's not goddamn fair. Why can't he just get up and do one lousy load of dishes? Just once? No asking. No bragging afterward, like he just donated a kidney to a dying man. Just get up and be a goddamn fucking adult!

"See what I'm doing here? That means I get to do the weird shit in bed tonight, right?"

Quietly, angrily, you start running dish water.

How It Sneaks Up on You

I personally think this one stems directly from the person's parents. When a guy depends on his wife to do all of the chores, I think it's kind of obvious that he had always depended on his mother to do that stuff for him. In which case, I think it's perfectly reasonable to allow his wife one free shot at her, for producing that level of helplessness in a fellow adult.

But it's not just men -- I've seen women do the same in return. The most common form I've seen it take is in finances. She'll simply dump her check in the bank and then let her husband worry about paying the actual bills because she's "not good at math." If she wants to buy something, she asks him for money, permission or both. She's assigned him the role of her father. And it's kind of creepy.

"Oh, get an extra $20. I need to upgrade my stupid '90s hat."

It eventually gets to the point where the person playing the dual role of spouse and parent feels like they're supporting the entire marriage while the other person just rides along, providing the occasional orgasm in return. And just like the other cases, they either let that linger, choosing to live in misery ... or they tally up their losses and move on.

How to Avoid It

I know so many couples like this, and interestingly enough, they all handle it the same way. They wait until they're away from their spouse, and then complain to their friends. What they don't understand is that by not confronting the guilty party, they're enabling the behavior. The only way around it is to address the problem with the source. And not by passive-aggressively painting dicks on all of their clothes.

Confronting is always key.

As crazy as this sounds, there's a good chance that the guy playing video games while the bathroom marinades in piss stains doesn't even know there's a problem. If he's been taken care of his entire life, he most likely thinks his actions are normal. He's been taught that his role in life is to go to work, and then find something fun to keep himself occupied and out of other peoples' hair. The same with the woman who can't be bothered to look at the bank statement. That's something the "man of the house" does.

If the problem is brought to their attention and they still refuse to do anything about it, that's a whole other issue that requires a counselor or lawyer. But most rational, sane, not-pieces-of-shit humans tend to at least make an attempt to fix a problem when it's brought to their attention.

For more Cheese, check out 5 Ways You Know It's Time to Get Married and 5 Bad Ideas for Dealing With Bullies You Learned in Movies.

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John Cheese

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