Our Biggest Fight & 4th Anniversary Celebration

Sometimes I still can’t believe Mr. FAF and I have been married for four years. For us, it’s been a long journey.

We first started our relationship knowing that we would have to be far away from each other for at least three years until Mr. FAF finished his doctoral degree.

That wait turned out to be four years. Mr. FAF would spend 20 hours on the road each month to keep our long-distance relationship going strong.

We then had to send our one-year-old son to live with my in-laws in China for a year so that both of us could focus on our careers.

Finally, in August this year (2017), our family was reunited.

Mr. FAF finished his PhD and got a job in the DC area.

My mother-in-law (MIL) took our son back to us. Everything seemed to go perfectly well.

At least, that’s what our family and friends thought.

What they didn’t know is that Mr. FAF and I had our biggest fight ever two months after our family reunion.

The ongoing tension

You might be thinking what in the world we could have fought about now that we seem to have everything.

I asked myself that question as well. Everything looked so perfect from the outside. But inside our house, Mr. FAF and I fought constantly.

It ranged from big issues like our personality clash to small things such as our daily habits that annoy the other. Those problems seem to have magnified since we now see each other every single day instead of once a month like before.

All the seemingly tiny conflict we have had over the past four years have all come together and created a rift between us.

At one point, Mr. FAF and I even felt that we just couldn’t keep walking on the same path anymore. We are two different individuals with two different personalities.

Mr. FAF is patient, and I’m generally impatient and want to get things done as soon as possible. Mr. FAF is disorganized and forgetful, and I want everything to be in a particular order.

Mr. FAF thinks I’m stubborn, and I think he always says that his habits are his style and refuses to change.

Mr. FAF is not detail-oriented, and I pay close attention to every little detail around me.

I think I take over too much housework, and that Mr.FAF is just oblivious to what I do and takes me for granted.

I think Mr. FAF doesn’t spend enough time with our son. He, on the other hand, insists that he tries, but that Baby FAF doesn’t want to play with him.

I want us to go to more get-togethers or events in DC to meet new people and make more friends. But Mr. FAF is shy and doesn’t want to get out of his comfort zone.

There are times when I feel like I have to fight with Mr. FAF to get an answer or more information from him. When I don’t have complete information about something, I tend to make assumptions. And when I’m angry, those assumptions tend to be pretty negative, which in turn causes Mr. FAF to shut down even more. That is the hallmark of our communication breakdown.

Sometimes we just can’t remember what we fought about, and we kept fighting.

The resolution

Fortunately, at one point, both of us got sick and tired of all the tension and conflict at home. Instead of giving up on our marriage and efforts all those years, we decided to sit down and have an honest conversation about how to move on.

That’s when I realized that money doesn’t solve all the problems in a marriage. We no longer have to worry about money, but money can’t reconcile our differences. Only communication can. And communication doesn’t cost a penny unless we decide to see a marriage counselor.

Mr. FAF and I sat down to tell each other what we’re not happy about and why we treat each other the way we do.

For example, I tend to snap at Mr. FAF about little things. Mr. FAF thinks I get irritated too easily. He doesn’t know why I get upset whenever he asks me to make him tea or write on our community Facebook page on his behalf.

And I told him it’s because I have already done most of the housework at our home. I don’t think it’s reasonable of him to ask me to do every little thing in his life.

I take care of our son from the moment he wakes up to when he goes to bed. I clean the house, do the laundry, pack his lunch, and do the dishes.

Why can’t he just make more effort to help out with chores or do simple things like asking a question on a Facebook page? Why is it that I always have to be the one doing things and he gets to sit around enjoying life?

The agreement

We talked about those topics, and it really helped us understand each other’s mindset. I felt like Mr. FAF took me for granted, and I was right. Mr. FAF agreed that he needs to appreciate what I do at home and helps out around the house more.

I also understand that Mr. FAF wasn’t born to be a detail-focused person, and it has definitely affected his academic and professional life. We came up with a solution for his forgetfulness: Labeling.

For example, Mr. FAF always forgets to use a mug when he brushes his teeth. He stuck a big label with the word “MUG” onto the mirror so that he will remember to use it next time.

He also put labels in our storage closet for medicine, household items, and other things so that I won’t have to help him look for his stuff every single day.

Imagine you come home from work all tired and hearing your spouse say they can’t find their wallet on a regular basis. I don’t know about you, but it really gets to me.

We had those conversations two days before our anniversary and on the night when we came back from our anniversary. Yes, we had a fight on the very same night we celebrated our 4th anniversary.

But those fights had a happy ending. We resolved a lot of the ongoing conflict that we had been having in our lives. We understood each other better and agreed to improve ourselves for our own sake and our family.

If there is one good thing that came out of those conversations, it is that we should discuss with each other more often whenever we are unhappy about something instead of keeping it bottled inside.

When I wrote the post about the financial implications of housework, Joe at Retire by 40 and other well-intentioned readers/bloggers told me to do exactly that: communicating with Mr. FAF instead of keeping it to myself.

I didn’t fully understand such words of wisdom until I finally exploded and told Mr. FAF everything that I felt at the time. It helped me feel relieved and understand Mr. FAF’s reasonsing, and it helped him understand me better as a wife and a mother.

Our 4th anniversary

On our anniversary, we left home at 3:30 PM on a Sunday to go to the city that has our favorite steak house. My MIL kindly agreed to babysit Baby FAF for us.

Mr. FAF took advantage of this opportunity to have a $5 haircut from an older Chinese lady. She spent 40 minutes cutting Mr. FAF’s hair. He gave her $10 afterwards, but she refused to take the bill and only accepted $5. We were touched by her gesture.

We then went to visit an older Chinese couple in the area who used to live close to us. We also dropped by a Dollar Tree to pick up some Christmas decorations for $2 (I know!). Mr. FAF also got a bottle of Pepsi for $1. Our celebration ended with a $38 dinner that left us hungry later that day.

The $38 celebration of our 4th anniversary: twin lobster tails, French fries, cold slaw (missing from picture), fried mozzarella, and sweet tea (also missing from the picture). 

At 11:30 PM that day, after having a serious conversation about our marriage, Mr. FAF and I went to the kitchen to eat leftovers and watched half of the movie “Madagascar 2” before going to bed.

In total, we spent $46 on our anniversary. We could have chosen a more frugal way of celebrating such as cooking at home. But we opted to go out for a change (aka no fussy toddler) and to keep up our tradition of eating at our favorite steak house on our anniversary.

We woke up the next day feeling happy.

Conclusion

It seems to me that every time before Mr. FAF and I have a big fight, we’re drifting apart from each other. However, after we reconcile our differences and reach an agreement, we come to appreciate each other more.

Mr. FAF and I have never spent more than $100 on our anniversary. I do want to travel to some exotic place or try an expensive French restaurant. But thinking about spending a huge amount of money on a celebration doesn’t make me that much happier either.

Maybe one day we won’t care about money anymore and just do whatever we like no matter no expensive it is. But for now, our fights have shown me that even when our household income has gone up by 128%, our happiness definitely hasn’t doubled.

Money has put our financial worries at ease, but it definitely hasn’t brought us a perfect marriage. Unless we have honest conversations with each other (which could come free of charge), Mr. FAF and I won’t be able to reconcile our differences and reach a compromise that makes both of us happy.

Related:

How Our Lives Have Changed With A 128% Increase In Income

The Pros & Cons Of Our Dual-Income Family

Housework – The Financial Decision In A Marriage

The Struggle For (Financial) Power In A Marriage

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39 thoughts on “Our Biggest Fight & 4th Anniversary Celebration”

  • Hey I’m still up from earlier! Haha, you posted 1 minute before Financial Samurai bawahaha.

    I agree with Joe – communication is the biggest, most effective way of dealing with tension.

    It is easier said than done, I know. We’re married to engineers. Jared bottles all of his work issues inside and I have to pry it out like a koch shell 🐚. It’s exhausting!!! And it effects our marriage when we don’t communicate.

    I know that because I’ve been tracking our fighting for 6 months now. We use to fight 1x-2x a month (lasts a few hours). Last 3 months, we’re fighting just 1x a month since I’ve started tracking them. It’s 70% over chores just like you guys.

    20% over a simple miscommunication.

    10% me picking a fight for no reason. He can’t have it *too* good.

    • Ahh I have to do the same with Mr. FAF! Sometimes (or most of the time?) I feel like I have to fight with him to get some info out of him. Otherwise, I’d be kept in the dark @_@ It’s so annoying, frustrating, and exhausting!

      It’s a great idea to keep track of how often we fight. Maybe I’ll ask Mr. FAF to do that. He likes keeping a log of things he does. 1x a month is pretty good, I think. Chores and miscommunication are among our top reasons for fighting too!

  • Having been married for almost 10 years, I also had my fair share of fights with my wife. I definitely agree that communication is the key to resolving our differences and letting small things go.

    I am not sure if it’s a men thing, but i am also super forgetful in terms of my short memory. As I tell my wife, it’s not that I don’t listen to her, it’s that I just can’t remember, even if my life is depending on it. So give mr FAF a break if he forgot something not on purpose. 😀

    • Thanks for sharing your tips, Leo! I will take your advice and give Mr. FAF a break for being so forgetful. Maybe I should just expect it to happen instead of trying to prevent it from happening *sigh*

  • Thank you for writing this. I always find it somewhat encouraging to see how other people have issues and resolve them in their relationships. It’s nice to be reminded that it’s not all roses!

    Communication is so, so important. Sometimes Mr. E. and I joke that we talk things to death, but the alternative is so much worse! I think it is brave of you to post about these things, and happy anniversary!

    • Thank you, Kristine! I’m glad you found the post helpful in a way. When I fight with Mr. FAF, I try to find stories from other that I can’t relate to. Since I couldn’t find many of them, I decided to create one for myself and for others 🙂

  • I’ve been married for 13 years and I can vouch that communication is a big component, but having compassion and understanding also comes to play. Communication without trying to understand the other person perspective is pointless. I’m glad you and Mr. FAF have that willingness to understand each other, it means only good things from here on out! I also don’t spend a ton of money on celebrations, we go to any restaurant that sounds good that week and focus and being together. The amount of money spent (like you said) doesn’t make us happier. 😁

  • Great post. I appreciate your openness on this topic as well.
    I’m a bit older (40) and on my second marriage. My first husband and I got along much better in the early days of our marriage before we had much money. When we finally hit a point where we were financially comfortable and could have reached FI early, the marriage fell apart. It wasn’t financial alignment and security that ruined our marriage; it was lack of communication. Needless to say, my second husband and I make FREQUENT communication a priority.

  • Sorry to hear that you an Mr FAF had an argument but that’s good you had a good talk about it.

    I wonder if you may be feeling a bit more resentment towards him especially since you have a goal (working on your blog) and you have almost zero free time whereas he has more free time. I’ve been feeling like that too even though my husband does a lot.

    • Oops hit post comment too fast! I wonder if a set time once a week so you can get a few hours to yourself might help. Maybe Mr FAF can take baby FAF and go with grandma FAF somewhere for a few hours once a week so you can get your alone time to concentrate.

      My husband noted that I spend a ton of time on the blog and I feel guilty he notices that but also annoyed since he’s the one who encouraged me to start a blog again.

      • In a way, I do resent Mr. FAF for having more free time than I do, especially when I try to grow my blog. I have to remind myself that I choose to blog, but I still get upset at him for not helping out with chores and taking care of our son. Mr. FAF and I did talk about me taking a break on the weekend, which is exactly what I do now, and it feels great! 😀

  • It’s rare that Kristin and I actually fight. I can’t remember the last time we flat-out yelled at each other.

    The other day we got mad at each other and gave each other the cold shoulder for an afternoon 🙂 but we talked it out later that night and figured out what was bugging each of us. TBH it was semi-blogging related 😮 which bums me out and is one of those things I didn’t even THINK of, but it really bugged her. Sometimes you just have no idea that something you’re doing could be perceived in a way that irritates someone else. Having that conversation helped me be more conscious of the issues that were bugging her and how I can try to minimize those things.

    Nothing’s ever going to be perfect, but I think as long as there’s open and frequent communication things go a lot more smoothly. The key is to talk about the things that are bothering you before they turn into problems. When we do that, we never fight. We disagree, yeah, but we always resolve our disagreements without much trouble.

    • Wow it’s great that you and Kristin have such a great line of communication. It can definitely prevent a lot of tension and stress in your life. Will take that advice from you 🙂

  • It’s true that money doesn’t buy happiness. Communication is the key, not to mention awareness. I’m trying to be more and more aware of whatever I do right or wrong so that when we do get into a fight I know what I’m saying sorry for 🙂
    I’m glad you two work things our promptly because if you let it drag on it definitely makes it worse.

    • Awareness is key! Mr. FAF admitted that he wasn’t aware of a lot of things going on at our house while I was. It bothered me, but he has started to make some changes, and it’s positive! 🙂

  • Thanks for being so open! I definitely agree that open communication is so important. (We are a two engineer household, so that can be easier said than done!) My husband’s chronic pain and struggles with not being fulfilled at work have definitely led to me doing significantly more of the housework. That was sustainable until I started blogging seriously, and after a month or so of me runnning around like a crazy person we sat down and talked about it. We figured out what chores actually needed to be done (vacuuming!) and I started cooking larger batches of food and freezing some leftovers, so we have some emergency food. And he just accepted a new job, so we will see how that’s change goes!

    • Congratulations on the new job offer! I read your husband’s post about getting a PhD. That’s exciting!

      Blogging takes up a big chunk of my free time at home. Sometimes I feel like I have to balance it with family duties, and it can get stressful. I’m glad you guys talked it through 🙂

  • Hey, FAF. Thanks for sharing the trials and tribulations of your marriage. It’s both comforting and sobering to know that money doesn’t solve all problems. I’m not a marriage counselor by any means (what a curse that would be for humanity if I were), but I think you and Mr. FAF are playing it right. Just keep on communicating. It may not solve everything, but not communicating solves nothing. And I love that you’re learning to appreciate Mr. FAF’s “faults.” For years, Mrs. Groovy’s “faults,” like her propensity to leave kitchen and bedroom drawers ajar or open, used to drive me crazy. But now I see an open drawer and I smile. Awesome post, Mrs. FAF. Cheers.

    • ” It may not solve everything, but not communicating solves nothing.”

      This is such great advice! I don’t know about a marriage counselor (I’ve never seen one), but you have given me great tips on how to work on our marriage so far! 🙂

      I’m starting to understand that there are things I just can’t change about Mr. FAF. Maybe there are also things that he can’t change about himself either. Mr. FAF takes things out and never puts them back in the right place, which also drives me insane. I’m trying to be patient and not get upset about small things like that >_<

  • It’s tough at the beginning. We fought when we first got married too. I’m sure every couple does.
    After 18 years, we’re pretty comfortable with each other and rarely fight now. And the fights are over with very quickly. It gets better. Best wishes

    • Thank you, Joe! That’s so comforting to hear. I was just wondering if we were the only couple who fought so much four years into our marriage. >_< My grandparents are in their 80s, and they fight almost every day. But they're still married, so I guess there's hope. ^^

  • It’s definitely wise to work on the communication now before the wall between you has too many bricks in it. If you both speak from a place of wanting to make things better and not attack each other you’ll do great. May you have many more wonderful anniversaries together!

  • Don’t underestimate the power of humor. It can really diffuse the tension before it escalates to WW III. Whenever my wife starts ordering me around too much, I just salute her and say “Yes Sir!!”

  • After living apart, your family coming together under the same roof has got to be a challenge, so don’t be discouraged. My husband travels a lot for work, and sometimes when he is home for an extended period, I want nothing more than for him to go away again, ha ha! You get used to having your own space and routines, and it’s normal to clash at times. I can also relate to your feeling s at the unfairness of doing the bulk of the housework and childcare – I think it still tends to fall more heavily on us moms, even when we’re working full time too. But keep up the communication and maybe use a little of your new extra income to make choices to take some of the load off of yourself…babysitters, a cleaning service, more carry-out food, whatever, just to stay sane 🙂

    • Thank you, Kat! I understand that feeling. After being away from each other most of the past 4 years, I guess I’m used to having my own space. Now that Mr. FAF lives with me every day, I have to make some major adjustments. Getting help sounds like a great idea!

  • It makes perfect sense that you would fight a lot as soon as your lives changed drastically. Stress is stress, even when it’s the stress of achieving a long awaited dream. Of course it’s going to be a huge adjustment for everyone involved- you and your husband living together, changing roles for MIL, and of course Baby FAF’s whole world just changed. That doesn’t mean that you aren’t thrilled to be reunited, just that naturally it is a big change and there is going to be friction. Also, toddlers are just a lot of work! I won’t say that kids get easier, but the challenges are different as they get older. And it’s great once they can talk and tell you what they are upset about!

  • It took me and husband close to two years before we adjusted to each other’s quirks and annoying habits. During the first two years of our marriage we were constantly fighting and somtimes even thought of divorce. But we decided to stick together and work on our marriage, and it became easier and easier over time. We have been married for 8 years now. I think the initial days of cohabiting are always difficult even if you have known each other forever. But if you manage to get through those, it will definitely get easier. Happy anniversary.

  • We just celebrated our 15 year anniversary in September! We still struggle with a lot of the same issues you mentioned in terms of feeling like you’re taken for granted and stupid little habits that get annoying, but you make a great point about communication being key. It’s important to make the time and effort to communicate and consider each other’s feelings. As a friend of mine used to say, “Marriage isn’t all cupcakes and rainbows. It takes some elbow grease to keep it going smoothly.”

  • What helped me the most in my marriage was discovering our Myers-Briggs personality types. After I studied and researched our types extensively, everything made sense. In fact, I began typing all my family members and friends and I felt that all of my relationships improved once I truly understood all 16 types. Here’s a summary. https://www.16personalities.com/personality-types
    Based on what you have written, I think your husband is an INTP or ISTP. Read the descriptions and see what you think. Try taking the test and see. Just make sure you answer as honestly as possible, what you really are instead of what you think you should be. I actually did the test for my husband to get a more accurate result. https://www.16personalities.com/free-personality-test
    Finding out that I’m an INTJ was one of the most life changing things for me, I wish I knew about it when I was a teenager. Once you find your type, just google it, there’s endless info on it.

  • “He, on the other hand, insists that he tries, but that Baby FAF doesn’t want to play with him.”

    Awwww 🙁 🙁 🙁

    Thanks for being so open and sharing your struggles. I agree with you that a marriage takes work and money doesn’t solve everything. I’m glad you guys are able to work it out even after big disagreements. That’s the strength of a relationship, to be able to weather storms. A relationship without any conflict isn’t a true relationship.

  • It sucks to hear about you guys fighting but the good thing is that your communicating about so he is aware of your frustrations about him. As long as you keep having conservations with him about anything bugging both of you then you guys should be okay. Lots of marriage that don’t make it is because couples are drifting apart and do not discuss to each other what’s bothering them.

  • Thanks for sharing, Ms. FaF! I assure you that you are not alone with marital tensions. It’s a part of being married… says me after being married 12 years. 🙂 But, like you said, your relationship grows after a disagreement and reconciliation. It’s also worth noting that men and women’s brains operate very differently. So, finding the best communication style the works with your husband is key. One of my favorite books on this topic is, “Laugh Your Way to a Better Marriage” by Mark Gungor. Well, keep at it and don’t give up!

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