My husband and I are always arguing. It seems to be getting only worse. We’ve been married for over 20 years now and really do love each other very much. However, the bickering is getting out of hand. We have three girls — two of whom are now in college and the third one of which will be applying to colleges soon. My husband and I have more time together as a result and don’t quite know what to do with this extra time.
It sounds like you may be dealing, at least in part, with the beginning of the proverbial “empty nest syndrome.” Two of your three children are now out of the house and the third will be on her way shortly. This changes the dynamics of your relationship with your husband significantly.
I think we underestimate the extent to which our time and attention as couples is focused on issues pertaining to the care taking of the children in a relationship. This goes on for many years, not weeks or months. When the children do leave the house to go away to school or to get married or live on their own, it opens up a lot of time and space that couples are unaccustomed to having in their relationship. In a sense, it requires a re-acquaintance between the couple and perhaps a new lease on the couple’s relationship.
Many couples feel that they don’t even know their spouse particularly well since they’ve been so focused on their children’s’ needs for years, often to the exclusion of their own needs and those of their spouse. Minor annoyances or irritations in one’s spouse’s personality which may have been overlooked for years may feel heightened or exaggerated. Disagreements or arguments may often be less about their content than the relationship’s discontent.
In addition, to use a popular term, ‘mid-life crisis’ challenges of aging, mortality, and desirability may be coming up for you. Although this is a challenging time, it can also be seen as a wonderful opportunity for a new level of intimacy to be introduced into the relationship. Consider taking a marital workshop designed to enhance intimacy, enter couple’s counseling or marriage counseling, work with a Relationship Coach, or consider buying one of many intimacy-enhancing workbooks to read and work through together with your spouse. The challenge is not to “fix” the relationship but to create a new relationship following what may have been years of neglect.