Hello Ms Peirano,

my wife is 57, i am 56 years old. She is dominant, I less so. We always argue about every four weeks, roughly. In between we get along well. But when we argue, she’s a different person, almost like a different person.

It used to be a lot worse. Then she completely forgot herself. Even scolded me. It’s often just a word, a forgotten thing of mine and it explodes. I’m then accused of everything that didn’t work out in the last six months, that I didn’t do etcetera.

We have a large property and I think I’m already doing quite a bit. It’s enough for me too. Something is built every year, be it a conservatory, carport, terrace and so on. As the argument begins, I remain calm for a long time, deliberately not accusing her of anything. But at some point she drives me into such a corner that I explode as a very calm person. But always fair, I’m sure. It’s getting harder and harder from her side and she just won’t stop. I just don’t know how to react. I would appreciate your advice.

Best regards

Nils J.

Dear Nils J,

I can imagine that you feel unfairly treated by your wife and also attacked out of the blue. It’s amazing that between the grueling conflicts you two are having a good time together again – how do you manage that?

You can’t always calculate exactly who does how much in a partnership, and that’s ultimately not the point. It’s about how you two resolve conflicts with each other, and that sounds very destructive.

Couple researchers have long studied how happy couples treat each other and what behaviors make couples unhappy in return. Dispute behavior played a central role in this. It is quite normal that in a partnership both do not always have the same opinion. Sometimes you get annoyed with the other person, perceive him as unfair or you are annoyed by certain habits. All of that is part of a partnership.

I work as a behavioral therapist and love coach in private practice in Hamburg-Blankenese and St. Pauli. In my PhD, I researched the relationship between relationship personality and happiness in love and then wrote two books about love.

Information about my therapeutic work can be found at www.julia-peirano.info.

Do you have questions, problems or lovesickness? Please write to me (maximum one A4 page). I would like to point out that inquiries and answers can be published anonymously on stern.de.

The big question is how the conflicts are settled. And behaviors have emerged that damage trust. These are, for example, threats, insults, recurring accusations, insinuations (if you loved me, you wouldn’t…) or icy silence and walls (you’re not listening anyway, why should I explain that to you at all.)

The American couple researcher John Gottman has observed many couples in an artificial apartment through a mirror pane for decades and found that happiness in a relationship is linked to the relationship between positive behavior (smiling, agreeing, asking questions, joking, nodding, etc.) and negative behavior (turning head away, pointing fingers at each other, blaming, shouting, etc.) were closely related. In happy couples, the ratio of positive to negative behaviors was 4:1!

In a partnership, it is particularly good if both feel free to openly address grievances (i.e. do not have to swallow anything), but at the same time remain appreciative and friendly. Here the tone of the music makes it very clear. So instead of saying: “What’s it like here? Can’t you at least think about me and tidy up? But you’d rather watch your stupid series…” you could say at a suitable moment: “I find it difficult to keep up To live in disorder. What can we do to make things tidier here?”

An important recommendation is not to approach your partner with a conflict if you are already irritable and angry. Most of the time, these conflicts get completely out of hand and accusations, reproaches and other actions occur that you later regret. Or one stone wall because he is afraid of the other, and the silence fuels the other’s anger.

In other words, if someone is at a loss, he (or in your case, your wife) should first let off steam on his own. Writing in a diary, going for a run, yelling at some innocent birches in the woods, hanging up a punching bag or doing 30 push-ups. When the anger has subsided, you should sort yourself and write down: what do I really want to say? And what’s the best way to convey it? And as a next step you should ask your partner to talk to you and bring up the topic.

Some couples also write each other an email, which is not so far-fetched as written language is often used more carefully. Conversely, this means: If one of you is just properly loaded, there will be no couple talk, since it only backfires.

My tip for you would be to first read up on conflict behavior in partnerships with your wife or to take a special course (sometimes this is offered in family education centers or adult education centres).

The podcast “Paaradox” with Claudia and Oskar Holzberg is recommended. And the books:

I hope that with these tips you can prevent the disputes from escalating for the time being. It is very helpful for many couples – but only if they use it consistently.

Best regards

Julia Peirano