The Costs of Marital Conflict

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Mr. FAF and I have been married for almost four years.

Although he has helped create some of the best memories of my life, things are not always smooth sailing for us.

We argue every once in a while. Sometimes the arguments are small and easy to resolve.

Sometimes it’s emotionally draining for us to get our points across and to reach an agreement.

It could take us a day or even a week to resolve a disagreement.

We’re not the type of couple who doesn’t go to bed angry. In other words, we do go to bed angry and then can’t fall asleep.

It also doesn’t help that we have a long-distance marriage. A small misunderstanding can grow out of proportion and lead to a heated argument.

Here on my personal finance blog, I often talk about frugality and money saving tips. Savings are measured in currency.

However, marital conflict can cost us an amount we don’t see or can’t measure accurately.

1. Sleeplessness

Whenever we have a fight that doesn’t get completely resolved before we go to bed, both of us will have a sleepless night. In fact, it’s worse for Mr. FAF than for me. He once confessed to me he didn’t sleep until 3-4 AM, and that it went on for days until we started talking again.

Sometimes I’d wake up in the middle of the night, thinking about what angry words we said to each other and can’t fall back to sleep. I’m also tempted to keep checking the phone to see if Mr. FAF has sent me a new message. And that keeps me up at night.

2. Loss of productivity

Needless to say, the poor quality of sleep at night leads to lost productivity during the day. Mr. FAF often has a hard time focusing on his work when we’re in a cold war or just had a fight.

I’d also be tired and distracted from my work since I’d be checking Gchat and my phone to see if Mr. FAF messaged me. If I have something in mind to talk to Mr. FAF about (i.e. more arguing, trying to reconcile our differences), I’d keep calling him, thus interrupting his work and mine.

3. Work backlog

Due to low productivity, we, especially Mr. FAF, are left with a backlog of things that need to get done but have been pushed aside by anger, frustration, and disappointment.

I often have a hard time forgiving myself for not getting things done ahead of or on time, so it exacerbates my emotions during the fight with Mr. FAF. I blame myself and him for causing the delay.

4. Lack of interaction with others

When I’m upset about something, it’s really hard for me to hide my emotions. I don’t make a scene at work (i.e. crying, yelling on the phone). But instead of smiling at my colleagues or making small talk with them, I’d just smile with a sad face and try to withdraw myself to my desk as quickly as I can. Instead of asking questions or contributing to the discussion, I’d just say what’s necessary.

5. Lack of life enjoyment

When I’m happy, even drinking water or breathing air alone makes me feel great about life. When Mr. FAF and I have a fight, however, I don’t feel like I’m enjoying anything.

The entertaining Youtube videos suddenly become so tedious. The delicious parfait yogurt suddenly tastes so bland. The Facebook surfing that makes me giggle at silly pictures suddenly becomes so boring.

Even if I spend $500 on new clothes or $100 on a restaurant meal, I wouldn’t feel happy since deep down I’m upset about something else. No amount of money, no vacation, and no retirement account can cheer me up when I’m in a fight with Mr. FAF.


If a day at work is worth $500, I’d say I waste $100 of that on my lack of productivity. If the argument goes on for a week, that’d be $500/week.

That’s not to mention the cost of sleepless nights, the lack of interaction with others, and the reduced life quality. What currency do you use to measure the state of your emotional and physical health? I don’t know exactly how much it is, but I know it’s more than what I’d like to spend on a fight.

The best solution for us is not to fight about anything. But I don’t even know if it’s feasible. We’re humans. We have our priorities and preferences which are sometimes not perfectly aligned.

Mr. FAF and I are still working towards reconciling our differences and learning how to compromise. We might or might not have made a lot of progress. But I know unless we work out the best way to resolve our conflict, one day we will no longer be able to afford the costs of these arguments.


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46 thoughts on “The Costs of Marital Conflict”

  • I can definitely relate to this situation and I think that I am pretty emotional too. I definitely lose quite a bit of motivation to do anything when I get in an argument with my wife. My motto is to let small things go and pick my battles.

    With all these fights, I also realized that it can be quite taxing on our marriage, both financially and emotionally. I learned that I need to keep a positive mindset. Otherwise, I will be filled with poisonous resentment if I keep on my negativity path.

    After every fight, I always tell myself that I can and will be a better person. This helps to amend things.

    • I know! After every fight, I tell myself I need to be a better wife. And I do make an effort until the next fight when emotions take over >_< I feel really guilty about not being able to control my emotions when I'm in the heat of the moment.

  • I’m with you on #1-Sleeplessness: Mr. NavigatingAdulthood has this annoying rule that we have to solve all conflicts BEFORE we fall asleep. This week, we literally were in bed for hours discussing a disagreement until 3AM until it was finally resolved. Needless to say, a lot of coffee was consumed the next day, haha

    • I’m glad you guys resolved the issue! I’m a bit conflicted when it comes to reconciling differences. On the one hand, I want to have the problem taken care of right away. On the other hand, I know for a fact that I tend to make irrational decisions when I’m emotional. We’re not newlyweds anymore, but I feel like I learn something new about marriage pretty much every day!

  • We can definitely relate. Marriage is something we constantly work at (as we should!) and conflict makes us just feel all together “off”. It isn’t pleasant! It has made me realize how important it is to communicate and work together to resolve issues so that we can not only strengthen our marriage going forward, but also remain happy, healthy individuals and create a positive family environment for our son!

    I love your honesty and transparency on this blog, Ms. FAF 🙂 Thank you and keep it up!

    • Aww thank you, Mrs. Adventure Rich! It always makes me feel so happy when a reader/blogger tells me that my writing is honest and transparent. Writing posts is like therapy for me, so I want to put all of my thoughts and feelings out there to share and get feedback. And it definitely helps me feel so much better about life! 🙂

  • Not married, but I understand the complications of relationships and differing personalities. Communication and commitment to understanding each other, without getting upset about it, is essential to building and maintaining relationships.

    • Totally agreed with you. Communication and commitment is key. I’ve had no problem with commitment, but I still need to work on our communication >_<

    • I think it’s awesome that you guys are on the same page about money! Mr. FAF and I used to fight about money every once in a while after we got married. Now we fight about other things 😉

      And I totally agree that communication is super important!

  • Very good points Ms. FAF. I’m definitely not myself if Mrs. HIP and I are at odds.
    I haven’t put a lot of thought into the financial impact but that makes sense. If we are irritable that could lead to poor job performance or even get you in trouble if you say the wrong thing to the right people.

    Tom @ HIP

    • That’s exactly why I now try my best to not fight with Mr. FAF or not let it last for too long. I’m just afraid I might say or do something wrong at work and get fired the next day. >_< I think I also need to try to be my own boss asap so I won't get fired for being irritable @_@

  • Marriage is hard. I think it’s good though that you’re conscientious of your differences and are working on a compromise. When hubby and I fight, I tend not to want to cook and we end up getting takeout. Ugh!

    • When Mr. FAF and I get into a fight, Mr. FAF still cooks. But we either don’t eat at the same time or just eat together without saying a word to each other. Needless to say, nothing tastes good at all @_@

  • So true. I definitely know I toss and turn and can’t sleep when my wife and I have a disagreement. We are both pretty bad at resolving conflicts…me particularly. I am passive aggressive and am horrible about communicating what is bothering me. Sometimes I think talking about it makes it worse and sometimes it does and I think there is no resolution. It’s something I know I need to work on!

    • I think I’m pretty passive aggressive too. Sometimes Mr. FAF refuses to communicate with me, which makes me even angrier. And it just goes downhill from there. I think talking does seem to make it worse when both or even just one person is angry and wants to vent. It’s like a game and sometimes a race to see who wants to apologize first @_@

  • After 39 years of marriage with my starter wife I can see the problem. Mr. FAF needs to follow these simple rules my sweet wife beat into my thick head, I mean lovingly taught me. He’s wrong when he is wrong, he is wrong even if he is right, and it is his fault no matter what happened. And he is extremely blessed that you allow him to stay around. That’s it, the whole rulebook. Even Mr. FAF should be able to learn it. I know it works because my wife tells me I am very happy!

    • Thank you for the great advice, Steveark! I will make sure to tell Mr. FAF that. Not sure if he’ll be happy to hear it, but I just need to let him know. 😉

  • We can definitely relate to this. We spent a year on opposite coasts and it was incredibly difficult. Between the time differences, money involved to travel and just being apart it led to a lot of little arguments that were difficult to resolve because we weren’t in front of each other for more than a few days a month.

    Establishing honest and open lines of communication was critical because we definitely didn’t want to spend our few days a month when we were actually together arguing over petty disagreements.

    • I can relate to you guys too! Mr. FAF and I have been in a long-distance marriage for almost 4 years. Resolving a fight is definitely harder because we’re not in front of each other to clarify a misunderstanding or resolving a disagreement. I’m glad you two are together in one place now! 🙂

  • I’m a huge supporter of communication. I think communication is so complex and nuanced that it can cause and solve so many problems! Even as deep as understanding why a person used the word / phrase they did, and why it then elicited that certain reaction in you. Is it a trigger for some sort of negativity from your youth? Something that reminded you of what you experienced earlier in the day? It’s so complex, and complicated – clearly I was a hoot in relationships 😛

    But working on it is the important part! And caring, which you clearly do, deeply : ) Thanks for the post!

    • Hi Ms. Raggedly, thank you for your great comment! Communication can definitely make or break a relationship. Sometimes I think it’s still good that Mr. FAF and I care to fight about something. It’ll be a dead end if we just don’t care to say anything to each other anymore >_<

  • When I’m mad at my partner, I don’t sleep well either. It does this weird inverse effect, though, where I get totally engrossed in my job during the time that I’m mad at him. Like an ostrich burying its head in the sand! Luckily it always passes and we make up 🙂

    • Wow sounds like you become really productive when you have a disagreement with your partner. But I know no productivity will make you as happy as when you’re on good terms with your significant other 😉

  • Marriage can be hard. Me and Jared fought over $2.50 once… And that time I I was mad at him for not knowing I wanted a burrito. That fight was 2 days long… over a burrito. It must have cost his employer $1000!!! We don’t fight that badly anymore. Blogging keeps me too busy to notice him now harharhar 🙂

    • Oh yeah, after I’ve had one of those days where you just don’t get anything done/done right, my husband tells me it’s ok because not everyone is always productive all the time. Distractions happens, don’t sweat the small things and keep chugging forward (:

      • Mr. FAF and I once fought over a $5 chair at a thrift store. I thought it was too hideous for $5. Mr. FAF, on the other hand, thought that we just needed a chair. He almost left DC afterwards. @_@

        Now we don’t fight about things like that anymore, but he still annoys me sometimes by forgetting his stuff everywhere and then asking me to help him find them. >_<

  • I’ve always felt that “some” conflict in a marriage is good. It means we’re still two different individuals with our own needs and wants. It teaches us how to compromise and adjust and adapt and grow to love and understand the other person better. Yeah, it seems like big deal in that heated moment but is meaningless two days later. I know because I just had an argument and it’s already meaningless 🙂

    • I know! Now we don’t even remember what we have fought about all those years. But yes, we’ve also gotten to know ourselves and each other better after each disagreement! ^^

  • I believe in communication, its very crucial in a marriage. Whenever me and my wife, Mrs. Mother with Cents, had an argument I would go to another room or for a walk to reflect on what just happened and figure out a middle ground to the issue we are at odds at. Then I would just go to her to apologize first for getting into an argument then try to solve the issue by countering each other’s solution until we find an agreement.
    We both agreed early in our marriage not to go bed angry with each other and for the most part we have stuck to it. If their was an disagreement in the evening, we would find some sort of middle ground before we went to bed even if it meant staying up all night.
    Marriage can be tough but I tend to make it easier by knowing that she is always right especially if the argument is something tedious. Some things are not worth arguing about.

    • Wow you have such a great strategy to solving conflict, Kris! I think I need to learn that from you as well. When I’m angry, I just want to vent, which makes me feel a bit better but can make the situation even worse >_<

  • My wife and I also have trouble sleeping if we get into an argument. It definitely needs to get resolved before bed otherwise we are zombies until we can catch up on the missed sleep. I never thought about the productivity costs but you are absolutely right. Great article.

    • Thank you, Mr. MSM! I hear you. Mr. FAF and I are also like zombies walking around our house and in the office when we’re in a fight. Definitely not worth it!

  • I’ve been married for 7 years and we mostly like each other. I think that when we have an argument, it’s usually more of a disagreement than anything else. Normally we can resolve it without resenting each other.

    • Wow that’s great. We’ve been married half of that time and still try to figure out the best way to resolve our disagreements -_-

  • We’ve been married for 16 years now and we’re still each other’s favorite person. It’s not that we never fight, but when we do, we fight fairly and resolve things quickly. I will say that it’s worth learning to fight well. Neither of us were born knowing how to do this. My husband’s blended family went through extensive family counseling and he taught me everything he learned about communicating and talking about feelings. It took awhile!

    My family never did that, my dad would yell and rage and storm out and my mom would get extremely passive aggressive and say things like, “One day you all are going to wake up and I just won’t be here…” I couldn’t wait to move out when I turned 18 and I swore my kids wouldn’t grow up like that.

    I highly recommend marriage counseling, especially since you’re going from living separately without your baby to living together with him. That is bound to be enormously stressful, even though it’s such very very happy stress. Also, if there is one thing that it’s tough to compromise on, it’s child rearing decisions. Marriage counseling isn’t for folks on the brink of divorce, it’s for people who want a happy, healthy marriage.

    • Thank you so much for your great advice, Tarynkay! Mr. FAF and I have talked about marriage counseling. We will definitely resort to that the next time a big fight happens. As far as I know, my parents never saw a marriage counselor. They probably couldn’t afford it anyway. But I’ve also learned a lot about marriage by watching them. Like you, I couldn’t wait to move out before and when I was 18!

  • I agree with you on pretty much all points. The hardest part of marriage is learning how to discuss without fighting. We are 7 years in and still struggle, and with you being long distance, I’m sure it’s even harde. The biggest thing that helps for us is to never go to sleep mad. I’d rather stay up late working through the problem, than to carry the issue into the next day after a bad, sleepless night. It has made for many late nights, but our relationship is better because of it.

    • Aww thanks for the advice, Ember! I can’t remember how many times we have gone to bed angry at each other. It’s definitely not healthy or good for our relationship. I’m glad you two have a great strategy to deal with disagreements! 🙂

  • Hey, Ms. FAF. Marriage is hard. Long-distance marriage is even harder. Mrs. G and I are extremely lucky. With no kids and no debt, fodder for 90% of potential conflict has been removed. When we do get into spats, it’s usually over something extremely silly like Lily’s $2.50 burrito war. I like Steveark’s advice. I used to resist the notion that I was wrong, but then begrudgingly, after many years of marriage, I came to the conclusion that I USUALLY WAS WRONG. And once I stopped my obsession with being right, our marriage improved remarkably. Any chance Mr. FAF can live with the notion that he’s usually wrong?

    • Thanks for the great advice, Mr. Groovy! It’s great to hear that you and Mrs. Groovy get along well. Mr. FAF and I still have a lot of work to improve our relationship. Mr. FAF often takes the blame, but sometimes he does resist and argue that I need to change my way of thinking and doing things -_-

  • Communication and having a happy, healthy relationship is super important! I think it’s inevitable that we fight with our partners, there’s just no way to be 100% in sync all the time, but I think it’s useful to develop tools to help alleviate the stress it puts on other things in your life! With that said, it’s way easier said than done 😛 I’m the same way where if I’m in the middle of an unresolved disagreement, I feel poorly overall and don’t want to interact with other people and also feel like I’m more spaced out during work because it’s so present on my mind…I’m still working on a good system to put the problem on hold temporarily when I need to get other things done :/

    I actually started going to couple counseling with my boyfriend over one major disagreement we had, and though it’s pricey and probably not a long term thing we want to do indefinitely, it’s really helped so much! Just having one hour to talk about everything we disagree about and talk out things that usually would cause a really bad reaction if it just came up in every day life has been really helpful! It’s almost like when we sit down to talk about things we know cause tension between us, we’re more open minded to hearing the other persons point of view. When our differences come up in everyday life, it turns more into a reaction to the other person’s way of thinking and I feel either defensive or offensive instead of neutral. I really noticed a huge difference in our communication after going to see someone, and we also don’t fight as much in general just because we have an established time we know we’ll talk about it. 🙂

    • Hi Jing, it’s great to hear that counseling has been working out well for you guys. I think Mr. FAF and I will need to try it when things get tough. If it helps, it’s definitely money well spent 🙂

  • Thanks for being vulnerable by sharing something like this! Happens to the best of us. Most couples don’t like to admit these sorts of things, so they portray everything to be good and dandy on the outside. This is most evident on social media where everything is shown through rose tinted filters. Quite literally, lol. So yeah, I think communication is key, and trying to put yourself in one another’s shoes. It’s easier said than done though. My wife and I fought a lot before our marriage. We almost broke up a few times. But we’ve been married 7 years now and we fight less and less as the years go by. I’m not saying this is the case for everyone. It’s just we’re both pretty mellow at home and the big thing is realizing that most aggravating situations stem from little annoying things. Not big things. At least that’s what we deal with. I hope you guys can continue to mature in your relationship, it gets better but both individuals need to be dedicated to work together because the road isn’t easy.

    • Thanks for sharing your story, Tim! I agree that a lot of couples look super happy on social media. I myself want to look like that too. But no one would know what I’m really going through. What a lonely world it would be. It’s great that things are getting better for you and your wife.We’re dedicated to our marriage and want to do everything we can to improve it. It’s a work in progress! ^.^

  • I feel you. Marriage takes so much work. And I pray for patience every single day. I work faster and do things faster than my wife, so I need to patiently wait. She is an angel.

    But we talked about things a lot. I never get angry, I just get kind of sad really. Because I’m always very cheerful, if I’m acting normal and maybe weird. Everything is relative!

    Call the key I think is practicing active empathy and putting yourself in another person shoes. It may not resolve problem, but at least it will prevent an argument From blowing out of proportion.


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