Turf Wars

Sunday, Jun. 10th 2012 8:17 PM

One of the most challenging components of romantic partnerships, especially those that are fairly new, can be the sharing of space. Even couples who get along great will probably find themselves in the middle of the occasional turf war.


I recently received the following from a reader:

After three years together, my husband and I recently had our first big fight. A friend of mine wanted to crash with us for a couple nights. I said yes, knowing my husband was having a rough week at work and didn’t want company. He got angry with me for not putting him before my friend, which I understand. Knowing that he has a stressful job, I usually work very hard to ensure that our home is peaceful. I regularly give him a night at home alone, and I field invitations from friends and family, often getting him out of doing things he doesn’t want to do. I’m happy to provide this support. But then, one of the few times I failed to do so, he got mad at me. While I understand and share his need for “me time,” it’s my home as well, and I want my friends to feel welcome there. How do I strike a balance between ensuring that both our needs get met?

This sound like an exchange between two people who are doing pretty darn well. Three years … first fight. I’d like to know their secret. But this is an issue that most co-habitating couples will have to navigate at some point. When two people share a home, they both undoubtedly want to feel comfortable there. But there will probably be times when they have opposing desires about what should go on in that space. In my reader’s case, her husband wanted no one in the house (presumably except her), and she wanted company.

The issue is whose wishes trump whose. That’s where things get tricky, but a little creativity can go a long way in achieving a solution where both people get what they want. For example, whichever person in this relationship is the most flexible could have spent the night in a hotel – either the husband, or the wife and her friend.

If resources do not allow for such an alternative, things get a little hairier … but not impossible. Based on the reader’s description of their decision-making about guests thus far, it seems that both parties are comfortable with the general state of things. This incident sounds like an exception. In all relationships, there will be times when we step on each other’s toes and get irritated, and so long as it’s not the norm, there’s no real cause for concern. We are all different, so we will undoubtedly disagree from time to time. But when both parties make an effort to understand where the other person is coming from, you can usually recover without much, if any, lasting damage.

The key is a mutual understanding that neither person has malicious intentions. As long as the husband’s desire to avoid company is not to control or isolate his wife, it would be wise and Powerful for her to accept his preference. As long as she isn’t inviting her friend over to irritate him, then he also has the opportunity to accept and try to honor her desires.

Finally, it is worth noting that most people need some occasional “me time”, and scheduling time for one partner or the other to be home alone not only helps with turf wars, but also with other relationship problems. After all, when we are well-rested and refreshed, we are more patient, easy-going partners. I can personally attest to feeling like I’m on cloud nine when my family leaves the house for a while. In fact, sometimes I jokingly barricade the door when they pull up. My desire to be alone doesn’t have anything to do with how I feel about them. I love them like crazy and would be devastated if they never returned. But I am oh-so happy to see them go sometimes. And I bet my mate also says a silent prayer of gratitude when I pull off with the kids in tow.

Keep Rising,

Frank Love

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How to Gracefully Exit a Relationship

4 Comments on “Turf Wars”

  1. Dionne Says:

    Love this one, Frank! Its so true, they sound like a great couple with one fight in 3 years. Maybe she means its the first time that they fought over this subject…. 🙂

    I learned something interesting a couple of weeks ago that I wanted to share with you. I was looking at this reference book on biblical principles, and it talked about removing irritations from your life. The book said that irritation is a sign that God is trying to work on your character. It suggested that you thank God for the irritation, and then ask what character trait God is trying to work on within you, based on the biblical principle that “the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” So, maybe the irritation is a sign that you need to be more patient. So apparently, irritation is an opportunity for God to work that out, and once you allow Him to work within you to resolve those irritations they go away. If you don’t, they show up in another person and another form for Him to try again to work on it with you. What do you think? 🙂

  2. Janis Leslie Evans, therapist Says:

    Good topic, Frank, one that we can all relate to as coupled humans sharing territory. Whether it’s 3 years of marriage or fifteen, we continue to negotiate physical, as well as emotional turf. Since I’m home more in the evening, my husband is missing his “quiet time” when he gets home. It’s not that I’m making noise or talking him to death. It’s that his emotional turf or wind-down time has been interrupted by my new schedule. We are adjusting fine but I know that it’s not easy and I’m willing to compromise by maybe “disappearing” for a while some evenings to give him his time and space. I can run an errand or take an evening power walk. It’s not just about me, it’s about us striking a balance by honoring each other’s comfort levels and need for space on one turf.
    I love your comment, Dionne. Patience is the key as we adjust to each other’s little foibles that can be irritating. It all about love and acceptance that in turn improves our character. Thanks.

  3. Dr. Glen H. Says:

    Great commentary, Frank! Humbly and respectfully, speaking as an individual/marital therapist, you speak QUITE well to this issue…it is one of the most significant difficulties in marriage/couple relationships. The finest of marriages/relationships are able to display less of an unhealthful spirit of one-upmanship and competitiveness. It is in learning to love each other in the healthful spirit of True Honesty, promoting of True Happiness and True Freedom, but most importantly, needing less and less to hide behind. It is in acceptance that each individual has the RIGHT to feel the way they feel…yet learning to lovingly avoid significant levels of co-dependence. It is in the truly benevolent, empathetic, and altruistic spirit of doing the right thing for the right sake, without the need for selfish recognition or hidden agendas.

  4. Steve N. Says:

    Mr. Love, I enjoyed your comments on Turf Wars and wanted to share what has been an incalculable blessing to me and the clients in my practice. It is something my mate shared with me. We were having a disagreement, a ‘turf war’ about something, I forget what. She turned to me calmly, as I was in the midst of ‘feeling right’ and while staring sweetly at me she said, “would you rather be right, or would you rather be friends?”. Her response stopped me in my tracks. I had to search my heart, deeply, to respond. After a moment, I said, honestly, “I’d rather be friends”. I am reminded of that moment and her comment whenever I feel I need to be ‘right’. All else seems to fall into place, then. I realize that she truly has my best interests at heart. Joy, Steve

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