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Till Petty Do Us Part: How Arguing Changes In A Marriage

Marriage

This past summer, a Jewish couple moved in next door. The first few weeks, my husband and I would see them in passing as we carried groceries or our napping three-year-old into the house. They'd be sitting on their front porch watching their three young boys rough house on the lawn, each with a yarmulke securely fastened to his head.


By late autumn, the arguments began. Through the paper-thin walls of our old West Philadelphia row homes, I could hear the wife screaming on several occasions, "You're a nobody and that's why nobody respects you." His reply, "Respect isn't paying bills or allowing you to be a stay at home mom."

It was typical arguing that any couple faces, particularly when two parents reach their breaking point every few months when it all becomes too much. As entertaining as the arguing could be at times, it reminded me of a gem actor Will Smith dropped on wife Jada's Facebook live show Red Table Talk while appearing as a guest on the season premiere. There he made a decent point about the ground rules he had made for the marriage after witnessing domestic violence in his own childhood. Already having one divorce in the works upon meeting Jada, his rules included the banning of profanity and violence in the household, a rule he jokes that wife Jada responded to by cussing him out. It made me think of the concept of "struggle love" as it refers to going through dark times with someone and helping them grow from unhealthy ideas vs. recognizing someone just isn't on your level and when you need to leave for your own self-care.

Marriage doesn't mean you completely know someone or accept all their flaws, but it does mean you're committed to working through difficult times with them.

Arguing changes when you're in a long-term relationship and building a life with someone, especially one that involves children. Before I got married, I didn't understand that living with someone day in and out, you'll routinely have periods when your partner just irks your soul. I recently spent a whole weekend trip slightly annoyed because my husband forgot the Spicy Funyuns I set aside. It wasn't a big deal, but he did manage to remember his Twizzlers, which I hate. And every time I saw him gnawing on red licorice, it was a reminder of how he rushes through things and sometimes forgets small details. Yes, all that over some onion-flavored corn snacks.

Arguments are unavoidable in a relationship, but every disagreement doesn't have to end in a battle royale, destroying one another's character and self-esteem. The next time you find your inner petty rising to the surface over your partner bringing the wrong road trip snacks, take into consideration the following:

1. Find a Partner Whose Arguing Style Complements Your Own

If you're "Shared Netflix Passwords" deep into a relationship, it may be too late for this, but it's important to find someone you can resolve conflict with, even after trading insults and expletives. When I am angry, my tongue needs deliverance. In the past, I've dated men who would trade F-bombs with me until what started as a minor disagreement ended in thrown toiletries and tears. (I almost blinded my ex-boyfriend with a stick of Suave antiperspirant). Those arguments were clearly unhealthy and got nowhere. When I met my husband, the one thing that stood out is that he wouldn't go blow for blow with me. He'd walk away until we both calmed down. It left me with some prime insults that will never see the light of day, but it also led to a healthier way to resolve conflict and kept me free of a criminal record.

2. Choose Your Battles

The dishwasher they forgot to unload. The dirty socks laying right next to the laundry basket. The fact that he left you on "Read" for twenty minutes. If I chose to tap into my inner petty every time I became slightly annoyed with my husband, I'd be the Savion Glover of arguing. In all seriousness, a stroke is third leading cause of death for Black women. Not every minor inconvenience is worthy of raising your blood pressure.

3. Address Issues When They Arise.

Like I said before, if you're packing your bags because your spouse left his beard hair in the sink for the fifteenth time, more than likely, your leaving has less to do with his shaving routine and more to do with much larger issues. In addition, what may be a problem to you may not be on your partner's radar and something they may not even be doing purposely. Sometimes taking time apart to cool down makes it that much easier to work through problems, but it can also be a form of procrastination if you're not careful. If you can discuss it calmly in the moment, don't wait to bring issues to your partner's attention.

4. Understand Tears Don't Solve Problems

They do however have a way of shelving the larger issue. When people are overwhelmed by emotion, it can often come out as tears or profanity, but if you're getting all misty-eyed as a means of manipulation, it's no longer about problem-solving. It's about winning or playing the victim. You're allowed to get emotional, but keep in mind that pulling out the Kleenex alone can't solve problems. Just like time, all they do is put the problem on hold.

5. Avoid Belittling and Name-calling

As tempting as it may be to tell my spouse, "He isn't s**t," or "F**k him and his entrepreneurial dreams," the fact is the low blows are unnecessary and furthermore, I don't believe them myself. During more challenging moments of conflict, it can be all too easy to get distracted by wanting to hurt your partner as they may have hurt you and totally forget about communicating and processing feelings. Focus on finding resolutions, not being crowned "The Queen Of Condescension."

6. Take Into Consideration the Example You’re Setting For Your Children

Parents often take consideration not to argue in front of their children, but honestly when it comes to learning conflict resolution, in many ways you're modeling the behavior you want them to one day display. We're all different people with diverse backgrounds and opinions, so conflict is inevitable. Think about the lessons you're teaching your children, particularly when it comes to communicating with the people they love. How can we tell them to not disrespect others in the world if we're setting the example to demean the very people they call family?

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Featured image by Getty Images.

ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.

Reparations

We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
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Featured image by Shutterstock

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