The Fight That Saved Our Marriage



Brace yourselves ladies – Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day. All week long your friends will be glowing with happy stories about their picture-perfect relationships. Your social media feeds will be flooded with flowers, kisses, chocolates, and jewelry… You know the drill. It seems like every time February rolls around it’s a non-stop batterment of happy-in-love couples. But if you’re anything like me, you can remember a time or two when Valentine’s Day WASN’T always the happiest of holidays. Or, if it was, the days before and after still seemed a letdown.

The early years of our marriage were rough. We moved overseas to follow my career while my husband took on “Daddy Duty” to raise our son. There was no support group in place for stay-at-home American dads at the time. As far as we could find out, for the first two years we were there he was the only one. He was struggling with a new baby, a huge move, a shaky marriage, loss of his own career, no friends nearby… Let’s just say he wasn’t the most pleasant spouse to be around.

I wasn’t so peachy either. Between burning myself out in a high-stress job, pumping all day and nursing through the nights, wrenching myself with Mommy guilt for not being home with our baby, and struggling with the pressure of living overseas, it was all I could do to pretend to be happy.

I’d look at all my friends posting their “happily ever after” valentines and wonder where I went wrong. There had to be more to life than coming home to a dirty house and a burnt-out husband only so we could fight about whose turn it was to clean the toilets.

And that’s what we fought about mostly. The dang toilets. Because each of us felt – no KNEW – we were already giving 110% and it was really the other one who needed to step it up. We were both in a season of life when finding the energy to do even one more menial chore around the house was too much. And worse, we resented each other for not helping more.


The fights were awful. I’d call my Mom crying. I’d late-night message my friends back in the US with tears rolling down my face. I’d cry while I scrubbed those toilets because I couldn’t fathom how a man who had the luxury of staying home all day couldn’t find an extra 20 minutes each week to scrub them himself.

But you know what? My mom, in her infinite wisdom, suggested a housekeeper.

Don’t be ridiculous, I complained. We don’t have that kind of money.

She told me to “just look into it dear” and had the sainthood not to press further than that.

So I did. You know what? It cost (at the time) about $12 an hour. So, for three hours of deep cleaning around the house it was $36. That’s roughly what we’d spend on a dinner out. Or on a family day trip. I love eating out. I love family day trips. But I really, really HATE cleaning toilets.

We decided to give it a try. Six years later we still hire someone for deep cleanings. Why? Because some fights aren’t worth it. For us, the toilets weren’t worth it. We realized the price of peace ($36 in our case) was worth every penny. More importantly? We realized that sometimes even when you feel your partner should be doing more, it’s better to just give them the benefit of the doubt that they’re in a place in their lives where they can’t.


We joked that it was the fight that saved our marriage in the early years. Because when you find yourselves fighting over little things, it’s a sign that something much bigger is the problem. Toilets were our indicator, but a respect issue of each other’s time and contributions was the real stake.

Toilets may not be your problem area. I’d be foolish if I pretended I knew what was. BUT – There’s a lot of wisdom to be had when seeking advice from friends and family. Sometimes they have a perspective you don’t see, or can’t see, because your mind is too wrapped around the problem. My husband and I were so focused on why we were “justified” being mad at each other for not helping more around the house that we missed out on a truly simple solution. And who knows? Finding a solution to your biggest fight might just be what saves your marriage in the long run.

A version of this story was published on Feb. 13, 2017, by author Kathryn Bailey; it has since been updated.

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  1. This is great insight…into appreciating when you need help and when you need to help each other. Thanks for being brave enough to admit out loud that all married moments aren’t perfect. Hope this Valentine’s days a good one!


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