All relationships have conflict. The difference between a great relationship and a horrible one is how you manage that conflict. Listen to this very personal Love U Podcast where I share the one thing my wife and I always fight about – and how we’re using this as an opportunity to get even stronger.
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Hi, I’m Evan Marc Katz, a Dating Coach for smart, strong, successful women and your personal trainer for love. Welcome to the Love U Podcast. Stick around to the end to discover how to come together stronger, even when you have fundamental disagreements. And when we’re done, I will let you know how to apply to Love U to create a passionate relationship that makes you feel safe, heard, and understood.
So let’s start off with something that you already know about me. I’m a Know-It-All. That’s my job. I’m a professional know-it-all. Imagine being married to a professional know-it-all.
Now, I don’t actually think I know it all. I’m constantly growing, learning, changing, feeding my brain with new information, trying to improve. That’s my makeup is to find flaws in myself and do better. Be a better husband, a better father, be a better businessman, be a better coach, everything. My wife is a much more easygoing content person. She’s not nearly as introspective or as hard on herself, and therefore she’s probably a happier person than I am. So that’s our personality types. So with that personality type, I’m kind of anal.
I’m like, get stuff done when it comes to the mail. If I get a piece of mail, I go to the mailbox. I open the mail. I pay the bill. It’s done. That’s just the way I do things as quickly as possible. My wife has a stack of mail, right. If the lights go out in this house, it’s because my wife forgot to pay the bills because she’s occupied. And that’s who she is. So there are two fundamentally different ways of doing things.
And neither of us is wrong. We just have different approaches. I certainly like to think I’m more right in terms of efficiency, but my wife has been functioning as a fully formed human being for 50 years. I got to give her the benefit of the doubt that she has her way of doing things. And so there’s this thing, this sort of recurring thing that comes up with us. I don’t want to share it with you today because I think it’s interesting, just interesting about how a happy couple deals with the conflict that doesn’t go anywhere. So for me, because of the way we run our household, I’m the breadwinner. She’s a stay at home mom. We have different angles on life. We have different duties and responsibilities that we both agreed to. And we’re both happy with our roles. And sometimes there are things in our household if she runs the house and I make the money, sometimes there are things that come up that need discussion. Maybe it is the kid’s summer schedule. Now that school’s out, what are we going to do with this summer? Maybe it’s our shopping schedule, like how are we buying food? We know how we’re planning our meals in advance. It’s our finances. What’s coming in? What’s going out? Do we need to budget? And sometimes it’s just home improvement. What do we need to do? What’s the next thing we’re going to do to improve our house? So again, my wife is a stay at home mom. Her passion is the kids and being the treasurer of the PTA at school. That’s a volunteer position. She spends a lot of time doing that. And because she takes on that role, a Stay-At-Home mom and the volunteer position at school. She has no time for anything. That’s the least of her take on things. I can’t argue with her experience. So she’s busy with the school budget that takes fifteen hours a week. She’s busy homeschooling the kids, making sure that the family eats three times a day. She’s busy filming the kid’s parts in the school play. My kids are like Willy Wonka. And so my wife is filming that because they can’t perform a quarantine and she’s doing her social distancing, and Zoom calls with. She’s got like four or five groups of mom friends that she hangs out with and does a lot of social calls with.
And so I want to have this meeting to talk about our stuff. This is not a new thing. This is like two years that I’ve been trying to nail down having a regular meeting with my wife to talk about stuff because, at the end of the day, she’s tired. She doesn’t want to discuss things. She wants to zone out and watch TV. All right.
So I’m kind of like, “Hey, there’s household stuff that I want to talk about. I want to talk about our finances. Want to talk about our budget. These are things that you’re better at than I am. You’re better with an Excel spreadsheet. So when can we talk?” And so I wait for a week. I wait for a month. And I nudge. And I cajole, “Hey, when are we having that meeting?” So we finally meet Monday. And for whatever her reasons are, she invites the kids into the meeting because we’re discussing their summer plans and she invites the kids to weigh in on what they want to do during the summer. And the kids disagree with us and the meeting goes awry. So I’ve been pushing for this meeting. We finally get this meeting and the meeting is a bust. Right? My wife and I are just on different plans about what we wanted to accomplish during this meeting.
Now we get into a fight, and we don’t fight very often, but that’s why I’m bringing it up. So we get into a fight. I stormed out of the room, me being who I am, I come back two minutes later to apologize, try to repair things. We send the kids outside to play while we try to figure out, how do we solve this problem. Right. It’s not you’re this or you’re that. It’s OK. Let’s dig in. What are we going to do here? But I start off on the wrong foot instead of seeking to understand my wife. I try to make her understand me. And my point of view, not an unreasonable one, is that my wife is just like everybody else. And she’s doing the things that she wants and she’s casting aside the things she doesn’t.
As a dating coach, principal men do what they want. If a guy isn’t texting you, he doesn’t want to text you. If he isn’t calling you, he doesn’t want to call you. If he doesn’t want to commit to you and keeps his profile up, people will do what they want. And that’s men and women.
So my wife is just doing what she wants. She’s not wrong for doing so or feeling the way she feels. She feels too busy as it is, and she resents being asked to take on anything else, stuff that I’m assigning to her to do within our household within our rules. So that’s the way she feels. That’s cool. But I feel that she’s rejecting the very thing that’s important to me. I almost feel like she’s rejecting me. Because I know my wife has three hours to drink wine with her friends and four hours to spend planning for book club and she has time to write and record a parody song for her second cousin’s birthday. But she doesn’t have time to talk to me for an hour a week about stuff that’s important to me and that stings.
And that sting makes me flashback to my parent’s relationship. My dad, a high school educated small business owner, works 8 am-8 pm each day, doesn’t feel secure in his station in life. His brothers are doctors and he’s the hard-working busting guy commuting to New York City. My mom begs him for 30 years to come home early for dinner, put the kids to bed, take a Friday off. He swears he’s doing this for the family, for us. He doesn’t realize that my mom wants his time and his presence more than she needs whatever extra marginal money he’ll spend working until the night. And then I realized my wife. And then there are all things flashing through my head during this conversation. My wife truly does feel like she has no time because she is doing laundry late at night when I’m zoning out reading my phone. And yet I feel resentful because it seems like she has time for everything else that she enjoys more, that are more important to her than discussing business with her husband. And I’m struggling in this moment to figure out how to frame that to her in a way that doesn’t sound judgmental or attacking. She’s my wife. She’s my favorite person. I don’t want to attack her.
So the fact is, in most relationship disagreements, there are two sides to every story. Unless he lied or cheated or did something egregious, egregiously wrong. He might just look at the world differently than you do. My wife and I just look at the world differently in this way. Not in most ways. In most ways, we’re really, really aligned. That’s the way we work. So I’ve made a conscious choice to be different than my dad. I work nine to five so I can get out of work, have time to play with the kids every day, sit down, and ask them about their day while they eat dinner, play DJ, I ask him challenging questions. Get him to think. Put him to bed. Read to them for about 20, 30 minutes every night. And then I hang out with my wife. We have dinner at eight. We hang out, watch TV, whatever. But she doesn’t want to talk. So that’s the life I chose to do. I chose to be better than my dad. It does more of the, what we call, emotional labor. My work stops when I leave the office. This stops when I leave the office. My wife is on. She’s planning the kid’s lunch schedule and she’s trying to plot for their doctor’s appointments. She’s got more stuff on her mind. So she has a hard time just focusing and being present. Her mental task list never really ends because she’s in charge of the house and the kids and I pay the bills. So when I’m fresh out of work and I’m ready to be present. My wife is never really present. Almost always got something on her mind. Usually, that thing that’s on her mind has something to do with being a mom. And it almost never has anything to do with being a wife and I recognize next, that’s cliche, right? This is what happens in marriages. And because this is my job, I vowed not to be like those other marriages where people fall into their roles. And she’s in charge of the kids and she’s all in on the kids. And he’s so focused on his business that he forgets what it’s like to be a husband, what were you like before there were kids? Where did you put your time and energy? You have to continue to cultivate that. It’s my job to keep my finger on the pulse of that. And sometimes I think I’ve got my finger on the pulse of that more than my wife does, which is unusual for a marriage. But I don’t want to be a cliche. I don’t want to be that couple where we fall into those roles and we forget why we came together to begin with.
So I listen and force myself and she cries about how she hates when I ask for a meeting. Even if it’s just a one hour lunch each week to talk about household stuff because it’s stressful and it’s more on her taskbar. And I take it because it has an element of truth, even though it hurts to hear. I understand where she’s coming from.
And I share in return after hearing that she feels like I’m her boss giving her stuff to do, even if it’s talking about our house. That feels like an extra assignment. And I hear her and I share what it feels like to be number five on her list of priorities after our kids and the house and the PTA and her friends and whatever else she deems important at the time and to always have my priority pushed to the bottom of the list. And she understands.
Nobody is wrong. We are both right.
I tell her I feel like a husband whose wife turns him away for sex because she’s busy or she’s tired but doesn’t understand the consequence of making it feel like his sexual needs don’t matter. And we conclude that we’re both right. And that’s important. That’s why I’m giving you this content. Nobody is wrong. We are both right. I apologize for leaving the room at my frustration during our meeting. I handled it wrong. She apologized because she understands that, yes, in fact, she does put more time into her interests than she puts into discussing things that matter to me. And she recognized how that must feel for me. I know how frustrated she is because she wants to be a better wife, but doesn’t feel she has the time or bandwidth to do so. And so we hug and we makeup and the whole thing takes less than a half-hour. And I know two things after this conversation.
Number one, we will have this conversation again sometime in the next few months. Guarantee. This is not going to change. This is our life. This is the fact that we just don’t fundamentally agree on what’s important and we never quite will. Number two, we will never break up because of this repeated conversation. We will learn to find our way around it, through it, over it, whatever we got to do because our relationship is amazing. And if this is the biggest problem we have, we are one very lucky couple.
So how does this pertain to you? Well, it’s important to do the following as you apply my little story to your life. First, seek to understand your partner’s side of the story, not to reiterate how you’re right. Try to listen. You don’t have to like it. You don’t have to agree with it 100 percent, but you do have to validate his truth. The same way I did for my wife. Instead of treating him like he’s wrong or he’s crazy. If you’ve ever been with a man who rejected your truth and treated you as just disagreeing with him was wrong or crazy, you know how awful it feels to be invalidated.
Now that you’re in it, reiterate the strength of your relationship and just focus on solving the present issue instead of bringing up a whole bunch of other issues that are tangential to what’s at stake in this conversation. Somewhere in this conversation, this became about me reading my phone and not doing the dishes the way she wants. And I was like, “honey, bring it back. We could have that conversation later. Let’s just talk about why it’s so hard to get a meeting on the books with you and solve this problem.” We can address the other ones separately because it’s easy to conflate those things. And remember the emphasis as a couple, presuming that you’re a good person, your boyfriend’s a good person. The emphasis is on Problem-Solving, not finger-pointing. You are a ‘we’. Together, we have to figure out how to have some mutual respect and create consensus moving forward, even if you can’t have a lockstep agreement. You have to find some sort of consensus, some overlap in the Venn diagram between what you want and what he wants, where you could both live. So when a disagreement or some minor mistake becomes the whole story and defines the entire relationship, now you’ve got a major problem because no one can thrive in such an environment.
If your issues become the defining feature of your relationship, you’re in trouble. And often it’s because we have a set of expectations of how things should go. Right? This fantasy that with the right guy, everything would be perfect. In fact, in any relationship, unless you’re with yourself and even if you are with yourself, there’s going to be friction, because no matter who you marry, there’s no person who’s going to do whatever you want, whenever you want, however you want on your terms all the time without fail. So in a good relationship, 90 percent of things become easy and you’ll work out the 10 percent. That’s what we do. In a bad relationship, that 10 percent blows up, takes over, and suddenly it’s 50 percent. Your relationship isn’t worth preserving because the 10 percent weighs so heavily on you.
So this is about a good-faith argument, assuming the best in your partner. Yes. He cares about you. Yes. He wants to understand. Yes, he wants to please you. And how can we not blow things up and make things worse? But how can we focus on solving the problem? And if you’re a good guy on your hand, you’ve got to give him the benefit of the doubt. You got to speak to him in such a way that he doesn’t feel attacked and you can’t treat him like he’s a bad guy.
Nowhere in this conversation with my wife and I really do disagree with my wife’s priority list, that I treat her as if she’s a bad person or that she’s fundamentally flawed. I told her that I felt neglected. I told her that I felt deprioritized, and unimportant. And I know that was not what she intended. But that’s the byproduct of someone saying, I never want to talk to you about something that’s important to you. And that was a message she could hear.
So that’s my best advice on resolving conflict. A relationship has to be strong enough to fix it, and you have to own your stake in it. You have to apologize when you do something wrong. Otherwise, you’re just pouring gasoline on the fire.
I got a big mouth and you know I got a big mouth. I don’t pretend to have anything other than a big mouth. What I know, what my wife knows, and what we do well is that I can’t always help what comes out of my mouth at the moment. My wife gives me lots of mulligans, but if I screw up, I can take ownership right away. Make it right directly afterward, and with that level of good faith, conversations that could be divisive actually become moments of growth, bonding, and strength that you can build upon the next time you have a disagreement and the next time you have a disagreement because I guarantee you will. If you’re in a good marriage, it’s going to continue to happen. It’s how you deal with it, that makes the difference.
My name is Evan Marc Katz.
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