Friday, 13 November 2009

Picking a fight

Everyone knows it's not always sweetness and light even in the most compatible families. Now the time we spend arguing with each other has been pinned down - around 91 hours a year.

A survey by Uinvue, the family website, says the most common arguments are over household chores, children "treating the house like a hotel", couples taking each other for granted, choice of TV viewing, and children's excessive phone bills.

Well, since I don't have children, I've been spared that particular source of friction, but there are plenty of others I could name - like what we spend our money on (or not wanting to spend anything), those irritating personal habits like noisy eating, and arranging that outstanding repair job.

Mothers supposedly start most of the disagreements while fathers and children are less volatile. Does this mean mothers have higher standards (of politeness, cleanliness, tidiness, kindness) and are more likely to complain if those standards aren't met?

In my own family it was my father who started most of the arguments, my mother being more conciliatory and easygoing, so I'm surprised at that finding. Maybe women are more willing to admit they argue?

Of course the 91 hours only applies to the immediate family. If in laws were included, that figure would shoot up dramatically. Getting on with relatives we've only acquired through trails of confetti can sometimes be an uphill struggle.

In fact the tensions can be so bad that one in ten family members aren't even on speaking terms with another member. I can easily believe that. My father and I hardly spoke to each other for the best part of 20 years. We were chalk and cheese the moment I hit adolescence, and that never changed.

21 comments:

Wisewebwoman said...

"Getting on with relatives we've only acquired through trails of confetti" - great line, Nick.
In my family of origin it was my father who started the arguments too.
I really dislike arguments and confrontation and tend to retreat into silence which I know is not healthy either.
I did attend some workshops on conflict resolution. All fine and dandy in theory but practice?
Nudder story.
XO
WWW

meno said...

Only 91 hours a year? Someone's just not trying. :)

Rummuser said...

I had my grief with my father too. In fact I still have. The tensions of doing something out of a sense of duty rather than out of love for the other is a very debilitating existence. Incidentally, the word verification today for this post for me is beless. Be less?

Nick said...

www - I dislike arguments and confrontations too. It really upsets me when Jenny and I have a major bust-up (not often thankfully).

Meno - Oh I don't know, 7 hours a month, that's a full working day of mutual snarling.

Ramana - Doing something out of duty is very hard, it really goes against the grain. I'm sure the other person senses the artificiality too.

Baino said...

I guess because I'm a single with two adult children, arguments these days are few and far between. I am the fat controller! (and often the money lender so pays to be nice!) Yes, I do get cross with messy rooms and the fridge door left open but we don't 'argue' about it. Actually 91 hours isn't much over a year? I prefer to think that we have constructive discussion! My catch phrase these days is quite often, "May I finish?"

kylie said...

did you end up talking to your dad?

interesting question, that about who starts the arguments....

i suspect women and men have different approaches to arguing. my mum is a great one for starting petty arguments but she also tried to play peacemaker, particularly in my brother's teen years when he and dad were always at loggerheads.

Grannymar said...

Living alone means I only have myself to fight with.... a bit of a waste of time so I just talk to the walls. ;)

Nick said...

Baino - Yes, I wonder how they defined "arguments". How heated did they have to be? Being the money lender is a useful bargaining chip!

Kylie - 'Fraid not. When he was dying he suddenly wanted a reconciliation but I just couldn't bring myself to do it. Good point, can you be prone to arguing but also prone to making it up a few minutes later?

Grannymar - Talking to the walls? Dear me, have you taken any professional advice about that, lol.

Megan said...

My mother and her siblings went through a horribly trying time when my grandpa died. It was bad.

I have a very clear memory of sitting on the stairs with my brother, listening to some kind of argument going on "down there" and we just clasped hands and looked each other in the eye and said "that will never happen to us." So far, so good...

Scarlet Blue said...

I'm keeping out of this one..
Sx

Thriftcriminal said...

It was typically my grandmother that started an argument, my grandfather just wanted a quiet life mostly, so he was mostly fairly accommodating. Mind you, they were few and far between, much less than 91 hours I'd say. My mother though is a dab hand at starting completely unnecessary arguments, usually with added drama.

Los Angelista said...

91 hours is less time than the average LA resident spends in traffic in a year so that's not so bad. ;)

We argue over stuff like my husband leaving his clothes on the bathroom floor or leaving dishes around the house. Or last night he told the boys they can have a TV in their room. That kind of thing drives me nuts.

Nick said...

Megan - Glad to hear you've done better at avoiding upsetting arguments. I resolved as a boy never to be as bad-tempered as my father and to be more philosophical.

Scarlet - Cowardy custard!

Thrifty - It was always my father who started the unnecessary arguments - and then sulked for days on end if he couldn't get his own way.

Liz - That traffic figure makes the arguing time look a whole lot better! Ah, the old male foible of leaving messes everywhere. I'm not like that at all, in fact I'm probably a bit obsessive about tidying up after myself.

Cinnamon said...

We had a lot of arguments before the divorce. My elder son still has not spoken to my ex in 4 years. it's very sad, but I understand why.

As for the phone bills, don't remind me! OT ran up hundreds phoning a girl in Dubai.

'Why have you been phoning United Arab Emirates?'
'I havn't!'
'Well someone's been phoning Dubai!'
'Oh, Dubai, yeah well Claudia moved there'
'So where did you think Dubai was? Scotland??'

Nick said...

Cinnamon - Four years is a long time, he must be very bitter. Ah yes, phone bills, that perpetual bone of contention. Perhaps he thought you would confuse Dubai with Dundee....

Jimmy Bastard said...

Arguments are natural in any family, particuarly large families. As long as no one goes to bed angry, things usually look better in the moring.


...hopefully.

Nick said...

Jimmy - That's a very common-sense approach. In fact "things usually look better in the morning" applies to most problems, I find. Sleeping on it is a wise old maxim.

Suburbia said...

Ah! but on the other hand, couples who don't argue (as we never did) store up such huge resentments that it can lead to the end of the marriage! Prime example here :)Sometimes it's best to let it out!

Nick said...

Suburbia - True indeed, bottled up resentments just fester and fester and can fatally damage a relationship. Major rows can be nasty but necessary.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Sometimes a couples fight occurs because one of them is not getting enough attention from the other, no matter what it purports to be about.

Nick said...

Heart - Interesting idea, I think there's a lot of truth in that. I must test that theory the next time Jenny and I have a bust-up!