It’s no secret that I mention Mr. FAF quite often on my blog.
Mr. FAF is undoubtedly the fugal man of my dream. I’m so glad we have each other on this long journey to financial freedom. However, we’re not a perfect couple.
We’ve been married for almost four years. There have been times when we felt like we could no longer walk together on the same path.
Recently, the stress of career choices, personality clash, and family responsibilities have been taking a toll on our relationship.
It doesn’t help that Mr. FAF and I have been doing long distance ever since we started dating. With the arrival of our son, Baby FAF, the stress seems to have intensified.
I am not someone who posts on Facebook about my feelings and emotions every time Mr. FAF and I fight. I’m not sure if it’d help if I did.
I share the details of our marital conflict only with a few colleagues and friends. But since my blog is anonymous, I feel like I can just be true to myself and share my thoughts here with you all.
Maybe I will go back and look at this post one day to see how far we’ve gone. Maybe it will help someone else. I’m not entirely sure, but I know I just need to write something.
I’ve read almost everywhere that communication is the most important factor in a happy marriage. But what does it really mean to communicate?
Ideally, it means a couple sitting down together, talking about the problems in their marriage without playing the blame game, admitting their flaws, and discussing how to move forward.
It sounds so simple and straightforward. But if you’re married, especially for a couple of years, you might probably agree with me that that’s not how every disagreement or argument gets resolved.
Usually, when Mr. FAF and I disagree about something and feel strongly about it, it often leads to yelling, anger, frustration, disappointment, and everything in between.
Marital conflict can be costly and damaging to a marriage. And I learned and know for a fact that a $300 dress will do little to resolve a heated debate. It’s like a band-aid that can temporarily alleviate the tension. But unless Mr. FAF and I get to the root cause of our problems, the tension will linger, intensify, and explode any time.
In this post, I won’t talk about the specific topics Mr. FAF and I fight about. I will discuss the systematic reasons why we can’t reach an agreement peacefully and how we figured out how to move forward after almost four years of marriage. It was all thanks to a free article my friend sent me, not hours of expensive marriage counseling.
It all happened three months ago.
Mr. FAF and I had been stuck in an argument for days. We finally made up, but I still felt really sad since I knew there was something we had yet to resolve or put our finger on.
Everything seemed peaceful on the surface, but I had a feeling the underlying problems could re-surface any time.
Knowing what I was going through, my best friend sent me the 7 Habits Of Truly Resilient Couples article. I followed the link out of curiosity and immediately thought that article was speaking directly to us.
I called Mr. FAF to tell him about the article and read it to him. To my surprise, he was listening attentively. We discussed the 7 habits mentioned in the article and how we had yet to develop some of those habits.
I will share our conclusions with you all.
1. They don’t play the blame game.
Me: I’m mainly to blame for this. Every time something goes wrong, I immediately point the finger at Mr. FAF and criticize him for making it happen. I’ve been fully aware that this is wrong, unfair and unhealthy for our relationship. I’ve told myself multiple times to stop, but whenever something makes me upset, I’d blame it on Mr. FAF.
Blaming him makes me feel better about myself and the situation. It tricks me into thinking that I am not the one responsible for the mistake, so I don’t have to change anything about myself. As much as I hate to admit, I like to change Mr. FAF, but I don’t like to change myself.
Criticizing Mr. FAF gives me the illusion that I am actually solving the problem by giving him a lesson on how not to make it happen again. In reality, the only thing I’m doing is exacerbating the problem by creating a divide between us and, worst of all, skirting responsibility.
I know this behavior is toxic and damaging to our relationship, but I’ve been doing it for years.
What I’ve been struggling to understand is that this is something I NEVER do at work or outside of our relationship. I am known at my job for having strong work ethics. If something goes wrong (which rarely happens on my watch), I’d be among the first one to admit it although it might not be my fault. I’d apologize to my colleagues and draw lessons from it.
However, when it comes to my marriage, the model above is not what I follow. I do indeed feel guilty for treating Mr. FAF that way. One time I confided in a colleague I trust and asked her why that is.
She said that for someone as close to me as my spouse, it is hard to separate personal feelings and the problem at hand. But at work, I’m conscious about not letting my personal feelings dominate my professional relationships and my job. I think she was right.
Mr. FAF: Mr. FAF is an excellent example of the no blame game habit. If it’s his fault, Mr. FAF will admit it willingly and apologize.
Normally, when I do something wrong or make a mistake, he will just say it’s ok, laugh it off, or say that it’s his fault, not mine. And in this process, he will help me fix the problem without complaining or criticizing me. This is one of the traits that I like the most about him: calm, patient, and understanding.
Sometimes he does get upset and blames me. However, that’s when it’s pretty obvious that it’s my fault, but I don’t want to admit or do anything to fix it.
Me: I fully admitted this problem to Mr. FAF and explained to him why I always blame him. As usual, Mr. FAF laughed it off and said it’s ok. But I know it’s about time I changed this blame game habit and stopped my accusatory tone.
Mr. FAF: I don’t think there’s anything he needs to do. He’s already been doing a great job.
2. They can find humor in tough situations.
Me: I tend to get anxious, irritable, and scared in tough situations. And boy, do I show it.
Mr. FAF: He is very good at alleviating tension and/or preempting a potential fight with a laugh or a joke. Sometimes his jokes are not funny and are easy to be misunderstood.
I’d get even angrier at him, thinking he’s mocking me. But he’s just trying to prevent an argument from getting worse.
During tough times, I know Mr. FAF might be freaking out inside, losing his sleep and not being able to stay focused. But he always tries to find a solution while assuring me everything will be ok.
Me: I need to learn to calm myself down in stressful situations and not to worry too much about the future. This is something both my family and Mr. FAF have been telling me to do. I need to learn to let go and not overthink everything.
Mr. FAF: I think he needs to learn to communicate his jokes better or not tell jokes that are easy to misunderstand.
3. They ask for help when they need it.
Both of us: We saw our parents fight constantly when we were growing up. However, they never saw a marriage counselor. They’d talk to their close friends or family members, but that was it.
I think it might be just an Asian thing. In Asia, problems between a couple are often seen as private and usually are not exposed to public scrutiny. They fear that if others know about their rocky marriage, they will lose face. In order to save their dignity, many couples pretend to be happy when they actually are not.
I think another key reason why our parents never sought professional help is because they didn’t have the money to do so. It was just not a priority for them. Food and shelter was.
To this day, Mr. FAF and I sometimes still see marriage counseling as something only people in developed countries, especially rich couples, do since they can afford it.
Me: Sometimes when I get too upset, I will tell my friends about it. What I didn’t realize was that by being supportive, my friends tend to take my side and give me a biased view of the situation.
Seeing that they agree with me reinforces my decision not to compromise with Mr. FAF. I’m by no means blaming them for their good intentions. It’s just to show the importance of having a professional, experienced, and objective take on the problem.
Mr. FAF: He usually doesn’t talk to anyone about our issues. When things get too intense and he sees no way out, he will reach out to my family. It can either help since my family will talk some sense into me or exacerbate the situation since I’ll get even angrier with him for going behind my back.
Both of us: We have agreed to make changes by ourselves first. One reason is because we want to see if we can change ourselves for the better instead of spending $75-$150/hr on marriage counseling. I’m not ready to spend that much money on an hour of service when I don’t even make close to that figure.
We have also decided to see a marriage counselor if there comes a point where we just can’t agree on anything. Sometimes some things are just too important to save money on. And our marriage is worth more than any amount of money I can think of.
4. They’re not afraid to be vulnerable.
Me: I have no problem showing my vulnerability to Mr. FAF. Sometimes I can seem too strong-headed, but it usually masks a fear that I have. If I do something my way, I will accept the outcome no matter how bad it is. But if I do it Mr. FAF’s way, I might regret listening to him later. That’s why sometimes it’s really difficult for us to reach a compromise.
Mr. FAF: Sometimes in a heated argument, Mr. FAF will use my vulnerability against me, which hurts me deeply. I feel betrayed since he’s using my secrets to launch a personal attack on me. He insists that he only does that to help me improve myself. But I just can’t stand the negative words and energy coming from him.
Me: I need to communicate my vulnerability to Mr. FAF better so that he can understand why I want to do things in a certain way. I also need to be willing to let go of my fear and trust Mr. FAF a bit more in order to reach a common ground with him.
Mr. FAF: He needs to give constructive feedback, using his words more carefully instead of launching a personal attack on me.
5. They don’t expect their partners to read their minds.
Me: I usually tell Mr. FAF everything that’s on my mind. At times I feel like I’m the only one talking. I’d get frustrated because Mr. FAF won’t say much. Mr. FAF says sometimes I ask too many questions. But it’s only because I want to know how he’s doing, but I won’t get much information from him.
Mr. FAF: He’s particularly guilty of this, in my opinion. In many cases, Mr. FAF won’t say much or won’t explain to me why he wants to do certain things. He assumes that the logic is there, so I should understand it without him saying anything.
However, oftentimes I’m left clueless and confused due to the limited information that I get from him. That leads me to make assumptions about Mr. FAF. When I feel frustrated and upset, those assumptions tend to be pretty negative. That ensues is a big fight about things we could have prevented with better communication.
Mr. FAF: He needs to be more willing to communicate with me in words instead of expecting me to know what he is thinking.
6. They’re committed to solving problems, not ignoring them.
Both of us: Mr. FAF and I don’t ignore the problems the other has. I know his flaws and want him to change them. Mr. FAF sees what part of my personality I need to improve upon.
What we have not been committed to is fixing our own flaws, which can help solve the bigger problems that both of us face. If I didn’t play the blame game and if Mr. FAF didn’t expect me to read his mind, we would be able to avoid a lot of misunderstanding and arguments about trivial issues.
Both of us: We discussed points 1-5 and agreed to change our current habits of dealing with conflict.
7. They have a genuine desire to move forward.
Mr. FAF: Whenever we have a fight or disagreement about something, Mr. FAF will recite incidents that happened 2-3 years ago just to show that I am currently making the wrong decision.
It is very frustrating since I just want to focus on the current topic, but he won’t let go of the past. I have never done anything morally wrong to hurt Mr. FAF. But the fact that he recites every little thing I’ve done for the past 3 years seems pointless to me since we cannot undo those.
Me: I tend to do this sometimes but not to the extent that Mr. FAF does.
Both of us: We have agreed to not dwell too much on the past. We will focus on the issue we currently face and what we will do in the future.
Below is what Mr. FAF and I agreed to change about ourselves to have a resilient marriage:
1. Stop the blame game.
2. Calm myself down in tough times and don’t try to control the outcome of everything.
3. Don’t let fear take over the willingness to compromise
4. Trust Mr. FAF more with his decisions.
5. Don’t ask too many questions about the same thing.
1. Don’t make jokes that are sensitive or easy to be misunderstood when there’s tension.
2. Choose his words more carefully to give constructive feedback instead of being negative.
3. Be more willing to communicate with me in words.
4. Don’t recite past problems and mistakes to make a case for the present.
Seek marriage counseling when really needed.
It has been three months since we agreed to improve ourselves and our marriage. We also reached a compromise on a topic that has caused ongoing and probably the most tension between us over the past 4 years. Mr. FAF wants to pursue his Software Engineer career in Silicon Valley while I want to follow my career path in Washington DC.
I want to support Mr. FAF in his career, but I also want to pursue my dreams. We have agreed to stay in DC for now and revisit the move to California in the near future. Each of us has taken a step back to listen to the other and agreed on a solution that makes both of us happy.
It also helps that I have been busy blogging over the past few months and don’t want to waste time on a frivolous argument. Sometimes I don’t agree with Mr. FAF about certain things, but I choose to let it go and focus on my blog instead. In fact, the only two fights we have gotten into after the discussion were about my food expense reports.
If we have a big argument in the future where we get stuck, I will go back to this post and ask myself what Mr. FAF and I can do differently to improve our marriage and pursue financial freedom happily together.