Communication in Marriage: Disagreements
Martin and Erica have been married since 2019. As newlyweds they have experienced some disagreements, which is normal for all married couples. They openly share some of their experiences, and we hear some sound advice on how to resolve disagreements between husband and wife.
HAPPY LIFE PODCAST
SEASON 1, EPISODE 5 –
Communication in Marriage: Disagreements
Myrtle Alegado (host): Disagreements, quarrels, little arguments, or squabbles, these are all terms people use when there’s some conflict. And in marriage, some may say that little disputes or disagreements can be healthy, and even help you learn more about your spouse. But conflict that recurs or lingers over an extended period of time could have negative consequences on married life. And let’s talk about that today.
Welcome to Happy Life. This new podcast, brought to you by INCMedia, helps newlyweds navigate through the first months and years of marriage to remind us all that marriage is a blessing. I’m Myrtle Alegado and I’ve been married to my husband, Paul, since 1999.
Inspiration to make your marriage thrive, you’re listening to Happy Life.
Myrtle: On the website psychologytoday.com, they mentioned something called the Romantic Relationships Scale, and there are 30 items that cover the sources of disagreements in romantic relationships.
Some of them included: not showing enough love or affection, lack of communication, one not paying enough attention to the other, and not being appreciated, things that deal with chores and responsibilities like housekeeping, and other tasks at home and who does more work. And finally, these items such as goals in life, future plans, children, who should pay for something, or if one uses all the other’s money.
And to share their thoughts on disagreements in marriage, we have Martin and Erica, who are newlyweds from Toronto, Ontario, Canada. They got married [in] October of 2019. Hi Zerrudos! How are you two doing?
Martin Zerrudo: Hi!
Erica Zerrudo: Hi!
Martin Zerrudo: Thanks for having us.
Myrtle: How are you today?
Erica: We’re doing well, doing well. Thank you for asking.
Martin: [laughs] Excited to be part of this show. Thank you for having us.
Myrtle: From the list that I just read to you, can you relate to one of those reasons for disagreements or a few or maybe all of them?
Erica: [laughs] Well, I think definitely at first, you know, you’re adjusting to each other. So, definitely the lack of communication and maybe one not paying enough attention to the other, and you know, not showing enough love or affection when the other person needs it, definitely.
Martin: Yeah, I think because we were long distance, right, you can really show affection just through the phone or through a video call or you know, sending each other care packages. But once we were married, you know, very much excited to be in love and to be with each other physically, but we were still trying to kind of figure out, like you know, when you’re on the same flow in terms of when is the right time to show affection—does somebody need more, does somebody need less? And you’re kind of just learning that as you go along, because you know, we didn’t have the ability to kind of figure that out because we were long-distance. So I think, definitely that. We’re working from home during the pandemic and it just so happens that the pandemic was the same time as the first year of our marriage.
Myrtle: Right, yeah.
Martin: And so we got to spend the time together physically because we had to stay at home, but at the same time, I’m working from home so it didn’t necessarily allow me to give the focused attention that I could have even if we were in the same space for a long time.
Myrtle: Yeah, definitely. Everybody’s busy these days with, you know, multitasking. And you did mention you were both in a long distance relationship prior to marriage. So, what do you wish you had known about facing disagreements together before saying your “I dos?”
Erica: You want to take this one?
Myrtle: [laughs] You’re both pointing fingers at each other?
Erica: Yeah! [laughs]
Martin: Yeah, no, pointing smiles at each other. Who wants to take this one? No, you take it, honey. No…
So for a long distance, yeah, obviously, the only way that that’s going to survive—outside of prayer and having faith that you’re meant to be—is communication. And, you know, just to be quite frank, like, we’re 9 years apart, and so Erica is in her early 20s and I’m in my early 30s, and so we’re at different stages in life. And so, the things that we’re going through from day to day, whether it be work or duties or responsibilities, they’re different.
And so we had to adapt to that and be mindful of that, knowing that, you know, there are certain things that she has to do at this stage in her life, there are certain things that I have to do at my stage in life. And if we wanted to make the relationship work, we just have to be conscious and aware of that so that we can communicate effectively, you know?
Martin: Her hour or window of opportunity to communicate may not always be the same for me, and vice versa, just because we have different responsibilities and lifestyles. So, definitely, that was one of the challenges and areas of disagreement, is finding those windows where we’re, we’re both available to give quality time for each other.
Erica: [agrees] I feel like it’s also, mistakes are for learning, kind of deal. You try and bring up a problem or you know, just something that’s been on your mind. And you see if this is a good timing, oh it’s not a good timing. You gotta read what’s his headspace, what his day was like. Okay, maybe he likes it, when we’re both sitting down, when we’re both calm, when we both don’t have a lot on our schedule anymore, then I can bring it up and we can have as much time as we need for this conversation to happen.
Myrtle: You know, what Martin said, a few of our other couples have said, you know, our spouse isn’t a mind-reader. So adjusting to, you know, the little nuances of how the other person may kind of, react to certain things or scenarios and even words, that was probably a big thing, in terms of adjusting to each other.
But can I also ask you, you said you finally moved in together during the pandemic and you had to go through those adjustments. So Erica, can you talk a little bit about what that situation was like?
Erica: Yes. So when we first got married, when I first arrived to Canada, at the time Martin was living with his parents, so we adjusted, like, living into his room which at the time was a twin bed, it was—
Myrtle: Oh [laughs]
Erica: —a cute little closet, yeah. And so… [laughs] Moving in with my, you know, suitcases and luggages, we were like “Oh man, where are we going to put everything?”
Martin: Can I just pause? So, we live in Toronto. In Toronto, you know, it’s a metropolis. We live in a townhouse, multiple levels. So, Toronto is all about, like dense, compact living, right?
Martin: And Erica is from the South. She’s from Atlanta and her house is a little bit off into the suburbs. So she’s got a, you know she grew up, at least when she was in Atlanta, in this huge property, huge backyard.
Erica: It’s not huge.
Martin: I mean, for her it’s not huge, but in comparison to a townhouse in Toronto, it’s, like, gigantic. And so, like, her bedroom has a queen bed, she has her own walk-in closet, she has her own bathroom, and that’s the norm. It’s not like she’s wealthy or anything,
Myrtle: Oh, wow.
Martin: But that’s just the norm in the community in the area where she lives, where it’s just massive properties and houses. Whereas here in Toronto, the norm is, yeah, we’re either all in buildings or in townhouses. It’s very densely populated. So you can imagine her adjustment like, “Hey, thanks for marrying me. Let’s live in this box.”
Myrtle: [laughs] Although I’m sure she was, you know, very grateful that your parents allowed you to both move in there and get your start in life.
Erica: Absolutely. Especially, you know, financially. So, they’re very understanding, and we’re very grateful for that. They always tell us, all the time, “Hey, if you want to like come over,” or “Here’s some food to help you guys out a little bit.” They’re always sweet to us, so we’re always thankful for that. They tried their best, you know, helping me to adapt to a new city, new life, marriage.
Martin: (faintly) Winter.
Erica: Yeah, winter in the quarantine,-
Myrtle: [laughs] Winter.
Erica: –which no one’s gone through before. So yeah, just, you had to adapt to, not only, your husband, but his parents, to his siblings and also his sibling’s wife, so the in-laws as well. So, it was pretty packed in the house, but you adjust to each other’s scheduling and where to navigate yourself in the house and how each other, like, how they like to clean… yeah.
Myrtle: So during that time, you know, when you were together and you had disagreements, how did you adjust to each other and how did you handle them?
Martin: I think, I mean one of the challenges is, you know, we’re in a bedroom but not necessarily the most private in terms of like other people in the home. You don’t want to argue in front of other people but sometimes you’re upset at each other and you’re standing in the kitchen. Like, what do we do?
Myrtle: Right, yeah.
Martin: You’re upset with each other, but you’re in the living room and somebody’s trying to watch TV, like it’s pretty awkward. I remember the late Brother Rod Bruno, we were actually recording an episode of Heart and Soul, and he gave me this example. He goes, “It doesn’t really matter if the wife is right or if the husband is right, because the point is, in principle—the point is peace.”
Martin: And so, when it came to those small disagreements that we would have, in the first year of our marriage, in the shared townhome with my family, we really had to focus on that. Okay, you did something, I got upset. I did something, you got upset. But the point is, not who’s right or wrong, but peace. And that’s really how we were able to get through it, was with that mindset.
Myrtle: That’s a great mindset, and you know, with the pandemic going on and so much happening, there’s so much worry, so much stress, there’s loss. How has that affected how you handle disagreements with each other?
Erica: We have loved ones, you know, pass away.
Myrtle: Oh, I’m sorry to hear that.
Erica: Just, either health issues or from COVID. But either way, we learned that, you know, life’s too short to be fighting. That at the end of the day, you know, it’s about love and peace.
Myrtle: So Martin, I want to go to the blog that you wrote and it was what you learned in the first 100 days of marriage. And in your blog, you kind of kept mentioning that you would just say sorry and say sorry to-
Myrtle: -like you said, to avoid arguments, right?
Myrtle: But then Erica, kind of, caught on and can you elaborate a little bit about that?
Erica: It was like, “Okay, you’re saying sorry, but why? Why are you saying sorry?” And he was like, “I don’t know why I’m saying sorry. I just don’t want to fight anymore, so I thought sorry would do it.”
Martin: And maybe that kind of worked for like the first couple, but then, afterwards she just started to catch on and I started to catch on because it’s good as like a bandaid, like temporarily.
Martin: Like, “Hey, let’s pick our battles. So, we’re not going to fight about this one. Okay, you’re sorry, I’m sorry—okay, great.” But then, for the things that, maybe it really matters for Erica, for us to kind of delve into what’s going on, and vice versa, if I’m like, “Hey don’t just say sorry. I want to know, I want to be able to communicate and go through what’s happening.” You can’t just kind of blanket it with ‘I’m sorry.’
Martin: That’s kind of what was my approach. For me, I’m very like, I guess stereotypically, like A to B. For a guy, “What’s the problem? Okay, what did I do? What did I say? Is that what I said? Is that what I did? Okay, I’m sorry for what I said, I’m sorry for what I did. Are we okay now?”
Martin: “I promise I won’t do this again. I’m sorry—okay great.”
Martin: And sometimes you kind of just want to shortcut it like, “You’re mad? Okay, great. I’m sorry, I’m so sorry. Okay cool, can we just move on now?”
Myrtle: Just get to the ‘I’m sorry’. [laughs]
Martin: Yeah, let’s get to the ‘I’m sorry’ and I think, you know, it’s not necessarily fair whether you’re a guy or you’re a girl, and you’re kind of the person that wants, at that moment, to digest it. Sometimes, you just want to be able to communicate how you feel and have that person hear how you feel, and to kind of just get that door closed on you, like, “I’m sorry!”—it’s not very considerate of the other person emotionally-
Myrtle: For sure, yeah.
Martin: -and vice versa. What if I’m in that moment where I want to be able to express how I feel and then she’s like, “It’s fine, I’m sorry”, and that’s it? It’s not very, it’s not always conducive when it comes to emotional growth.
Myrtle: And then for resolving conflict, it sounds like you kind of both have different ways of going about it as well?
Martin: Yeah, I think, I mean Erica’s very blunt. I can also be blunt, but I think Erica just is naturally very open with how she’s feeling at the moment. Early on, you might be like, “Wow, why are you saying those things?” It might come across as rude or mean or unkind, but for me I have to learn, what is the intention of it?
If she’s saying something, is it to help me, to correct me, to show me something that I need to change, you know? And then other times, maybe yeah, she’s emotional and she’s upset, but being able to read that helps in resolving a conflict. Because while it doesn’t help if I get caught up in misreading her intention, and then I’m just getting mad over the wrong thing or I’m just getting mad over something that’s not necessarily speaking to why she’s saying those things.
And for me, like, I grew up in a household of like constant yelling. And I remember when I was a kid one time, I was like, “Mom,” like she was yelling about something. And I don’t even think she was necessarily mad. I said, “Hey, can you not yell? You can just tell me what you want me to do without yelling. Like, why are you always yelling?” She turned to me, she was like, “I yell because I yell, okay? I just yell.”
Martin: So, I think, when we got married, in those moments where you may get emotional or might get upset, and I may think like, “Oh, Erica’s yelling or she’s raising her voice.”—I’m very sensitive to that. Like, “Hey can we just not, can we not yell?” And sometimes I don’t even know that I’m raising my voice and I’m yelling as well, and she’s like, “Hey, you need to calm down.” And I’m like, “I am calm!” And then I’m like, “Oh, I’m not calm, I’m yelling.” [laughs]
Myrtle: It’s almost like a little trigger, huh?
Martin: Yeah, oh I hate it, I hate it. The yelling triggers me a lot, a lot. And I mean, I’m not saying I’m not guilty of it myself, but yeah. But and vice versa, like I mentioned earlier, I’m sensitive to the yelling but I’m almost overcompensating with the silence where I kind of store it all up inside and I don’t really say anything. So, it’s hard for Erica even if she’s yelling or not yelling to kind of understand what I’m going through if I’m not saying anything, so it’s kind of like a Catch-22. [laughs]
Myrtle: Well, it sounds like you’re both kind of on the way to understanding how you each deal with, you know, issues and misunderstandings and conflict. And that’s at least, you know, a good basis to start developing your understanding.
And at this point in our discussion, let’s bring back Brother Felmar Serreno, a minister of the gospel in the Church Of Christ. Hi again, Brother Felmar, how are you doing today?
Brother Felmar Serreno: I’m doing well, Sister Myrtle. Hello to you, hello to Brother Martin and Sister Erica, and to everyone who’s tuning in again, here with us on Happy Life.
Myrtle: As you’ve heard, Brother Felmar, today, Erica and Martin have been sharing, you know, how they’ve handled some of their disagreements in marriage. What advice can we take with us today, based on the Bible, when it comes to handling disagreements?
Brother Felmar: Well, may I first start by saying that if anyone listening right now is feeling anxious, because maybe an argument between you and your spouse has happened recently, we pray that the Lord God may help you right now to be calm, and open to receiving guidance.
Disagreements in marriage are normal—they do happen. After all, we are NOT perfect beings; there is a limit to what we know at present, and there is a limit to what we can foresee. Note, too, that as individuals we have different upbringings; different individual qualities. But while disagreements are to be expected in marriage, what Bible-based principle should be remembered when they arise? Allow me to read for you what can be found in the Book of Ephesians, chapter 5, verses 28 to 29, in the Good News Bible:
“…A man who loves his wife loves himself. None of us ever hate our own bodies. Instead, we feed them, and take care of them, just as Christ does the church;” [Ephesians 5:28-29 Good News Bible]
Brother Felmar: The Bible is clear, “A man who loves his wife loves himself. None of us ever hate our own bodies.” What can we learn from this? Treat your spouse the way you want to be treated. Don’t treat your spouse the way you don’t want to be treated.
So to the newlyweds listening, the next time a disagreement might occur between you and your spouse—for it not to escalate, please consider the following: If you don’t like being interrupted or cut off while you’re trying to express yourself, don’t do it to your spouse. If you don’t like feeling insulted; spoken to sarcastically or condescendingly, don’t do it to your spouse.
If you like being given a moment to collect your thoughts and calm your emotions before continuing a discussion, so why not do that for your spouse. If you like being listened to when you’re explaining your side, so do the same to your spouse; listen well when he or she is speaking.
Let’s move on to another point. According to many research studies, some of the leading causes for disagreements and problems in marriage are: money, in-laws, differences on matters of religion (or level of faith) and even opposing preferences in spending leisure time. However, what must we also stop to consider when there is distress or lack of peace? In the Book of Deuteronomy, chapter 31, verse 17 in the New International Version, the Bible reveals to us this:
“And in that day I will become angry with them and forsake them; I will hide my face from them, and they will be destroyed. Many disasters and calamities will come on them, and in that day they will ask, ‘Have not these disasters come on us because our God is not with us?’”
[Deuteronomy 31:17 New International Version]
Brother Felmar: According to the verse we read, when disasters would come upon God’s people, God said they would ask, “Have not these disasters come on us because our God is not with us?” So that’s what married couples should reflect on. Have disasters come into their life because God is not with them?
Now this obviously is very bad news for a married couple. Upon reflecting, we realize that God is not present in our marriage. And why is that? Because according to the Bible (and we’ve studied this in our previous podcasts), it is God who joins husband and wife in holy matrimony. It is by God’s laws and commandments that husband and wife are bound to each other in marriage. Therefore, a married couple should be benefiting from God’s companionship in their married life.
However, here we are hearing that it is possible for God to distance Himself from us—but why would God do that? When would He do that? What would prompt the Lord God to end up distancing Himself from His people?—even from a married couple that He had joined together? Let’s find out the answer here in the Book of Isaiah, chapter 59, verse 2, in the New King James Version we can read:
“But your iniquities have separated you from your God; And your sins have hidden His face from you, So that He will not hear.”
[Isaiah 59:2 New King James Version]
Brother Felmar: So, iniquity or sin is the leading cause for lack of God’s presence in our life (or none at all). In married life, this can only lead to things like recurring disagreements, tensions, and heartbreak. Which is why we must not commit sins like adultery; or giving into things like drugs or drinking alcohol, or any other kind of vice. For how can we expect God’s love, peace, and blessings to enter our marriage, if we will allow wickedness to enter instead?
So just in case there’s a husband or wife listening to this right now who may be asking, “How then can we have God back in our life and harmony back
in our marriage?”
Listen please to what we can read in the Book of Malachi, chapter 3, verse 7, in the Christian Community Bible, God says:
“Since the day of your ancestors you stray from my ordinances and do not practice them. Return to me and I will return to you, says [the LORD] of hosts. …”
[Malachi 3:7 Christian Community Bible]
Brother Felmar: Which is why in the Church Of Christ that we are members of, we are taught from the Holy Scriptures that if we have committed sins and mistakes, we should repent, renew our life and return to God. And for so long as a married couple retains God in their life, all disagreements will be resolved, without compromising the harmony between husband and wife.
Myrtle: As always, Brother Felmar, we thank you for sharing those words from the Bible with all of us.
Brother Felmar: Thank you as well to you Sister Myrtle. More power to the Happy Life team, and God bless always to the married couples.
[22:47 – BREAK]
Before we get back to our newlyweds, I just wanted to mention that Martin is the host of Heart and Soul. It’s another podcast produced by INCMedia. So make sure you check that out and other podcasts like The God’s Message Podcast and the Faith and Family podcast.
Myrtle: Alright, so back to our guests, Martin and Erica, how much of an impact does having the same faith as members of the Church Of Christ have on your relationship? Does it help in any way when there are disagreements?
Erica: It’s a huge impact. You know, in those times of disagreements, you look at each other and then you realize, hey, this is…you have to remember that this is God’s blessing. Treat it like it’s your blessing. Show God that, you know, this relationship is worthy of His love, worthy of His blessings. And you base your relationship off of your faith in the Church Of Christ. Through those times, I can remember, you know, Martin reminding me that in (being) long-distance that we’ve got this, because God’s got us. We have our prayers, we’re very prayerful. We had our devotional prayers and, as goals and aspirations as a couple, we wanted to get married—we wanted to have a ‘happy life’ together. Look at that.
Erica: And, because we’re members of the Church Of Christ, we truly believe in our prayers, and with time, we truly see that God’s blessings showered. He really does guide your plans.
Myrtle: So Martin how does, you know, prayer, kind of, shape how you handle being a husband in the relationship?
Martin: You know, like, just to speak to what Erica was saying, we met each other at Washington, DC on a chance encounter during rehearsals for C3, for the….
Myrtle: Yes, you guys had the best hashtag for your wedding.
Erica and Martin: [laughs]
Myrtle: From C3 to eternity!
Martin: C3 to eternity. You think about that, like, oh a guy from Toronto, a girl from Atlanta. They met in Washington, DC for a huge Church event. And then, you know, age gap, long distance—there’s no way that’s going to work out.
And when you’re a member of the Church Of Christ, it’s all the more possible because those plans—however impossible it might seem to the world—is guided by God. And we’re proof of that, and we’re thankful for that, and it’s something that we include in our prayer every single day, to cherish this seemingly impossible relationship that blossomed out of faith and prayer.
Myrtle: For sure, yeah. I’m a product of a long distance relationship myself, so-
Myrtle: –I absolutely know where you’re coming from.
Martin: And you guys used letters. Like, what is instant messaging?
Myrtle: What was a jpeg, you know?
Myrtle: We had to mail photos—that we had to print—to each other. Okay, now I’m aging myself.
Myrtle: Let’s move on. [laughs]
Myrtle: So Erica, you did mention that with this pandemic, you’ve experienced some loss too with family. What do you pray for now, in terms of how this pandemic has affected you and your marriage?
Erica: You know especially, yeah, with the pandemic, you realize that life’s too short and that, you know, we pray in our devotional prayers that God will take care of all of us and keep us healthy and safe, and all of our loved ones and friends, that everyone’s going to be okay. That God’s plan will you know pan out and that He will always keep us all safe but bless us especially in our duties so that all of us can be united in one faith, so that we’ll all be together in the end.
Myrtle: Absolutely. So why don’t we finish up our discussion today with this question: “When it comes to disagreements, what are you both still working on in your marriage?”
Martin: I think we’re at this stage now of being as goal-oriented as we can be. Right now, knowing the pandemic has hurt a lot of people, like Erica said everybody, everybody is suffering.
Martin: And right now we’re in a position where we’re very, very blessed. We’re very, very taken care of in every aspect of our marriage at this point. And so really, our goal isn’t so much like ‘what are we trying to figure out that you know, that we’re fighting over.’ Our goal is how do we share as much of the blessings that we’ve received to our, to the immediate ones that need it the most in our life. With God’s help together, as a married couple, how can we help spread the blessings and share what we have with the ones who aren’t as fortunate right now.
Myrtle: For sure, yeah. So it was so great to talk to you both today.
Erica: Thank you so much for having us in your podcast. You’ve opened up a conversation that we don’t usually have on a regular basis, but appreciating each other you need to have those times too.
Myrtle: We thank you for sharing that, because you know what you really have to hold onto is each other, and your love for each other, and the blessing that God did give you through marriage.
So, we heard how Martin & Erica have learned to deal with little conflicts in their marriage. And most of all, we heard God’s words and advice through the Bible. We hope that all of this information will help every married couple to get over any tough spots when it comes to handling disagreements between husband and wife.
Now, for our next episode we have a topic that falls under the ‘inadequate attention’ category. What do you do when your spouse has tuned out and they’re physically there but maybe mentally somewhere else? We’ll be delving into that interesting topic next time, so make sure that you tune in!
And that’s all we have for you today. To learn more about Christian relationships please visit www.incmedia.org. If you have any questions or just want to send us a message, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject Happy Life.
Thank you from all of us here on the Happy Life team. We’re so glad you joined us today, and hope we’ve all been reminded about the blessing of marriage.