Agony Aunt Annie offers advice to a reader who is married to a man whose solution when she is upset/irritated/angry is to walk out, because he can’t handle any form of conflict…

Dear Annie

I have been married and divorced twice before and finally settled into being alone. I made peace with it and felt happy and content. I have my children and I made single friends who were also mothers like me. We socialise together and I accepted that was how things were always going to be.

Although fulfilled and satisfied, I did miss having a life partner and would look on enviously at my happily-married friends. I did not try and find a partner though, as I thought if it was meant to happen it would.

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After being single for a few years I met a man at a work function

We laughed and flirted and after the function I said goodbye. He really liked me and managed to get my number from a mutual business acquaintance.

He contacted me and we met for coffee. We got on really well and very soon felt that we belonged together. Neither of us are spring chickens and we both know what we want. After a relatively short courtship, with the approval of all our friends and family, we married. I would like to say that we lived happily ever after, but we have argued.

My husband, a lovely man, is allergic to conflict

In our short married life, he has thrown in the towel several times and walked out. He claims that he loves me but doesn’t want conflict in his life. He has come back each time and now says that he wants to commit to this relationship… until I am upset that is. Then I have supposedly killed the reason for him wanting to stay.

I love him, but fail to be perfect and that is what it will take to make this marriage work

I am a passionate, creative and loud person. If I’m upset my TONE is of paramount importance and the subject of my unhappiness really does not matter.

Can this marriage be saved? Is it possible to have a marriage without having conflict?
Love
Belinda

Dear Pretty Belinda

Well, I assume that to be so, if you’re having a good hair day and have put on your make-up. Unfortunately real life and close relationships get messy and we want to be loved regardless of our mascara smudges.

I think when marriages are conflict-free, one or both partners are stone deaf, or one partner has in fact passed away.

I think when marriages are conflict-free, one or both partners are stone deaf, or one partner has in fact passed away

Perhaps another exception would be if one partner didn’t know that they were in a relationship. Take George Clooney and me for example. We have a great relationship (well I follow him on Instagram and Facebook, so technically that is a relationship), and we never fight.

With that in mind, I would like to suggest several alternatives that could result in conflict-free relationships.

The first would be to move to Japan… without him.

When you have had your coffee – you may have to switch to tea – put on a clean blouse, some make-up, (you can keep the pj pants on) it’s time to make that Skype call. Keep the subjects pleasant and light. Should it appear that conflict is looming, alternate between suddenly remembering you’re late, needing to pray for your mother-in-law and a bad connection.

Please do not think that this scenario may work in France or Italy where the men are good looking, passionate and loud.

They may mistake your conflict tone and occasional glass thrown as flirtatious passion. If Japan will not work for you, consider any other country where the men are predominantly small and preferably smelly.

Perhaps there is a really good coffee shop where you currently live, you have established some great besties, and despite the drought, the rose that you planted is a actually flowering. You may then not want to take up my brilliant suggestion of moving.

Stepford Wives was a movie about be-aproned, perfectly-behaved, perfectly good little wives who never used a negative tone.

The original movie was remade so maybe it is worth considering.

I am not for a minute suggesting that women ingest be-good-now-dammit tablets… that would be insane.

However, good little women wake their darling husbands with freshly-ground coffee every morning. No one would notice a little tablet popped in. When he gets up to make the coffee tomorrow, tell him you want it freshly-ground too.

The house that we grew up in, the experiences that we have had, and the conflict that we’ve seen all influence how we deal with it as adults.

More importantly is how we witnessed conflict being resolved

The house that we grew up in, the experiences that we have had, and the conflict that we’ve seen all influence how we deal with it as adults

Perhaps your peace-loving, gentle man fears that he may morph into the Hulk if he gets angry. People who avoid conflict tend to eventually blow up. They regret this behaviour and it reinforces for them the belief that conflict will cause harm and should be avoided.

If neither of my above plans (which are creative and include travel) appeal to you, I suggest that you help get to the root of your husband’s fear

Together trace back his experiences of conflict and see what he learnt. Just ask him gently, don’t fight about it.

Some counselling can give you both rules of engagement and guidelines for constructive battle. The idea would be to grab up together… sigh… predictive text… OK, when you’re done grabbing up together, I was going to say, team up together and confront the issue at hand that is harming your relationship.

You are beautiful!
Love and blessings
Annie