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Couple’s Conflict: It’s Not About the Laundry

Conflict is bad.  This seems to be a universal truth.  But let me fill you in on a little secret.  This is not true.  Conflict is not bad.  In fact, conflict provides us with an opportunity to get closer to one another – provided of course it’s done in the right way.  When a couple engages in a fight in a healthy way, and resolves the issue, they are closer at the other end.  Isn’t this ultimately what we’re striving for?  Connection.

The question then becomes, ‘How do we communicate with one another in a healthy, connecting way?’  Let’s dive right in with an example.  Let’s say that the wife has asked her husband to fold the laundry three times already.  The first time she asks is pleasant and loving.  The second time she asks her tone has lost its softness and is a bit more assertive.  The third time she asks, well, let’s just say, she’s not asking.  The veins in her forehead are about to pop.  Her nostrils are flaring.  And fire is coming out of her ears.  She effectively has turned into The Incredible Hulk.  Her husband is wondering what the big deal is.  After all, it’s just clothes.

Ah, but wait.  In our last blog, we came to understand that for your wife, laundry isn’t just about laundry.  She’s not nagging/yelling at you about the laundry.  What we know about women is that that basket of laundry that she has asked you to fold three times represents EVERYTHING that is wrong in your relationship.  In this instance, when she has asked you to fold the laundry three times without action, she receives the message that you don’t respect her and the things that are important to her.  It’s NOT about the laundry.  It’s about your relationship.  ALWAYS!  So for all the men reading this, I ask you.  Would you prefer to fold the laundry or have a relationship issue?  Because when you don’t fold the laundry, you end up with two issues.  I’d highly recommend just folding the laundry.  Wouldn’t you agree?

Okay, for the women out there.  When you are asking your husband/partner for help, explain the reason why it’s important to you.  When he doesn’t help to change the light bulb, take out the garbage, empty the dishwater, he is saying to you that he doesn’t respect you and what’s important to you.  Explain to him why it’s not just about the garbage, laundry, light bulb, etc.  I’d bet nine times out of ten your husband/partner would rather fold the laundry than have a relationship issue.  If he still doesn’t help, you’ve got a bigger issue and may benefit from seeking outside support.

Try this exercise three times this week and see what happens.  What worked?  What didn’t work?  Next week we’ll dive head first into the three major components of effective listening skills.  When you are giving your wife her twenty minutes of Attention, these are the essential steps you will need to practice.  Bring your notebook, and prepare to become a great listener.

Lots of love!

Jaime Saibil, Psychotherapist

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