Q&A: How do we stop constantly arguing?

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By psychologist Angie Willcocks

Q: Hello, my husband and I both work FIFO. We have been working together for a while and now work on different sites. We have been arguing for a few months straight. We cannot agree on much, mainly money-related items though. He swears at me a lot and I think it’s the stress from our arguing. He doesn't want to see a counsellor and I just don't know what to do. Is there another method other than counselling you can recommend?

A: Hi and thanks for your email.

It's so frustrating when one partner just refuses to go along to counselling! Sometimes we think that refusing to go to counselling means that the relationship isn't important to that person, but I don't always think that is true. Sometimes people are genuinely worried about what will happen in counselling. Usual worries include that the counsellor will 'uncover' things from the past they want to forget; that new issues will be discovered or that they will be blamed for everything that has gone wrong in the relationship.

I think counselling is particularly confronting for men because they are (generally) not as good at talking about their feelings as women are, and not as comfortable showing emotion, especially in front of a stranger.

You could try asking what the problem is with counselling, to see if you can address this. For example, men who worry that they will be 'ganged up on' or 'told off' might prefer a male counsellor. If he thinks he won't get his point across, you could see if the counsellor would see him once first, or speak to him on the phone.

If you don't get anywhere with this, the best thing you can do is to go along for some relationship counselling by yourself. I know this might sound odd, but one person can definitely make a positive difference to a relationship. This doesn't mean you take all the blame, but it does mean you're taking on the responsibility for improving the relationship, so you need to think about whether that is something you're prepared to do.

Also, I want you to know that swearing at you is verbal abuse, which is never okay in any relationship, no matter what the reason (injury, sickness, stress or unhappiness). Please let your partner know that swearing at you is not okay. If it continues, you'll need to consider whether or not this person is someone you want to stay with. Verbal abuse has been shown to lead to other forms of abuse and should be taken seriously.

All the very best.


To read other columns written by Angie Willcocks during her six years with Mining Family Matters, please click here. And remember that we offer a free email Q&A service with our psychologists, so just click here to ask a question about relationships, parenting or your career. All advice on Mining Family Matters is for general information only and should never be regarded as a substitute for professional health services or crisis services. To talk with a trained volunteer telephone counsellor at any time of the day or night, call Lifeline on 13 11 14. To contact the info line at beyondblue: national depression initiative, phone 1300 22 4636.

Angie Willcocks is a registered psychologist with a private practice in Adelaide – for details about Skype consultations please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. She’s an expert in tackling issues such as depression, anxiety, postnatal depression, child sleep routines and relationship difficulties. She has a Bachelor of Health Sciences in Psychology and a Masters of Counselling Psychology. She is also the co-author of The Sensible Sleep Solution: a guide to sleep in your baby’s first year, which can be ordered from her website www.angiewillcocks.com.