For over a decade, we argued over money, sex, cheating, weed, lying, unfair distribution of duties, family, friends, AA, church, fixing things around the house, and if it’s sunny or cloudy. Arguing the same talking points is not moving forward. It takes two to argue, and I decided to take myself out of the equation. I don’t condone cheating, lying, and weed addiction, but I accepted it. I am done fighting it. I’m working on changing my approach. I respond instead of react and state facts instead of opinions. I adjusted my tone and stopped being loud and profane. Instead, I respectfully said what was on my mind. This approach is healthier for me. In my calm manner, I told bitter truths, not to hurt him but to keep it real, as in reality. The truth hurts, so he gets mad and calls me names. I refuse to argue and gladly give him the last nasty word because I’m done explaining, defending, and justifying myself. His hurtful words still hurt, but hanging onto them hurts more. I remind myself not to take it personally, rebuke the words and let them go. I slept through the night, got up, spoke pleasantly, forgave, forgot, and moved on. My spouse responds: oh, you’re not mad about the argument and I say: argument, what argument.

My spouse notices my efforts to change. The more rational I am, the more my spouse challenges me and picks apart my words, which is a trap to start an argument. So, managing my communication helped keep discussions cool before they heated into arguments. I set boundaries for myself. I ignore the taunts, name-calling, refuse to engage in hostilities, agree to disagree, say no and mean it, and finally, after all these years, tell him: don’t talk to me that way.  Does that mean he will stop, I don’t know, but saying it to him out loud felt good. Change means reprogramming myself with multiple updates.

Most of our bills are separate except for food, mortgage, school clothes, fees, and Christmas gifts. I present the receipts and mortgage bill and ask for my spouse’s portion of the money only once.  If I don’t get it in time, I cover it if I have the cash, float a check, or charge it if I don’t.  No tears, stomping, and screaming. I stopped begging for the promised money and stopped arguing about it. Ashamed or guilty, my spouse started forking over his share sooner rather than later. I aim to seek peace and keep it, do what I can, and be grateful that I can do it.  I’m sick of arguments and being mad.

My spouse wants to talk. We both promise not to argue. He talks and talks, and I listen. It’s my turn to speak, and he immediately cuts me off and says: nope, no argument; we promised not to argue. I calmly ask: argument, what argument, I was going to agree with you. I can’t help but laugh. I know he hears my voice and sees my mouth moving, so he’s either deliberately not listening, doesn’t care what I am saying, or wants to argue. He must miss the excitement of a good old-fashioned knock-down, dragged-out fight. And I refused to be pulled into these stale, unproductive arguments that have been rehashed ad nauseum over the years. I see resentment contorting his face when he looks at me. He insults me out the side of his mouth. The more I refuse to argue, the more he punishes me for not indulging in his chaos. Even with my new and improved approach, I am still the object of his rage. I know it’s cliché, but there is a thin line between love and hate…