On Your Mind: Respect each other’s right to walk away from an argument

Question: I’m recently married and my husband and I have been having arguments almost daily. About a month ago, we got into an argument, and I was trying to leave the bedroom where we were arguing. My husband stood in front of the doorway to block me, so I pushed past him and he hit his back against the wall. I know I should not have pushed him, and we have talked through it and come to agreement that it won’t ever happen again.

However, whenever we fight, he now resorts to saying, “Who’s the one who physically abuses in this relationship?” He justifies his behavior with that accusation. The last argument we got into was in our home, and he got up to go to our room.  He told me to leave him alone and to get away from him. When I refused and asked to talk about what was going on, he got up from our living room couch and headed to our room. I tried to follow him and before I could go into the room, he put his hand on my chest and pushed me (similar to how I pushed him about a month ago).

I tried again to open the door, and he pushed me back quite hard. This happened about 4 times in total. One time he physically grabbed me and shoved me quite hard back into the living room. I’m not sure what to do or how to talk to him about it. A part of me knows he will bring up the past situation and use it as a way to justify his behavior, saying that we’re somehow even. I’ve never seen this side of him, as we’ve only been married a few months. Please help, I’m not sure what to do or if I should treat this as a red flag.

Response by Kim Bond, LMFT, and Whitney Gates, LCSW

Thanks for reaching out and asking for some guidance; that’s not always easy to do. The first several months of any marriage can be trying and it’s not unusual to have frequent arguments.  However, physical violence is never an appropriate or helpful way to resolve disagreements. If at any time you fear for your safety or your husband fears for his during the course of an argument, please leave immediately and call for help; never stay in an unsafe situation.

It does sound like the communication skills you and your husband are currently using are not working. Good communication skills are essential to be able to successfully navigate issues as they arise throughout your marriage. One thing you can both do immediately is to respect the right each of you has to get away from the other.

When you want to leave a room, you should be able to do so. By the same token, if your husband wants to be alone, then you need to respect that and leave him alone.

One more thing to try:  when things are calm and you are NOT arguing, establish a “safe word” either of you can use when things start getting heated. When one of you says this particular word (like “pineapple” or some other word you don’t usually use), ALL communication immediately stops between you and your husband, and you both walk away with the understanding that you will talk about it again when you’re both calmer and can better express what you want. Walking away could also help prevent any physical altercation.

Like all other skills, these things take time and practice. Seeking a qualified Marriage and Family Therapist may be a great start to help you learn – and practice – better communication skills. Also, a therapist can work as a mediator between you and your husband as you tread through the difficult topics and work to ”interpret” what you are trying to say to each other.

It sounds like you are very concerned about your marriage and want to make improvements. You should know that many marriages go through stages like this and with time, improved communication, and sometimes therapy, the marriage can get better. If you or others are in need of emotional or mental health support, the staff at Ozark Guidance would be happy to help. You can reach Ozark Guidance at 479-750-2020.

Some other resources in case there is a need:

  • Northwest Arkansas Women’s Shelter at 1-800-775-9011;
  • Peace at Home Family Shelter at 1-877-442-9811
  • The National Domestic Violence Hotline is available 24/7 at 1-800-799-7233

Therapists at Ozark Guidance would be happy to answer your questions and read what’s on your mind. Click here to read more questions and answers in the On Your Mind category. Click the butterfly icon below to fill out an anonymous submission form with your question or concern. The form contains NO identifying information and is designed to give local women an online place to share concerns with a person qualified to offer feedback.

Disclaimer: This RESPONSE does not provide medical advice It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on nwaMotherlode or Ozark Guidance websites.