Dear Tzippora,

My husband and I have a very loving relationship, but we don't work well together under pressure. When the going gets tough, we bicker. We return exhausted from work, and then have petty disagreements over who should do the dishes, hang the wash, or put the baby to sleep. We always resolve the disagreement before we go to bed, and promise to do better the next time, but somehow, we fall back into the same routine.

Bogged Down in the Nitty-Gritty

Dear Bogged Down,

The situation that you are describing is referred to by psychologists as "The Big Three." The big three refers to the three sources of conflict for married couples: who does the housework, how to divide up the childcare, and how to manage money. In other words, most marital conflict stems from the stress of dealing with everyday life.

Yet it sounds to me that despite being undone by the daily grind, you have managed to maintain a very loving relationship. Your letter is not a critical one, and it does not cast blame on anyone. Nevertheless, you have fallen into a common rut, and begun taking your frustration out on each other. This is not productive, and over time, this pattern can eat away at the foundation of your commitment to one another.

Therefore, it is important to break this destructive pattern, and find a more productive way of dealing with the stress of daily life. Choose a quiet time to sit down together, and make a record of your daily challenges. This means that you will need to be open with each other about what you see as the obstacles to true marital harmony. Then, brainstorm together for solutions.

If you both work fulltime, perhaps you should consider employing someone to assist with housework. If you tend to quarrel before dinner, pack a snack for the ride home, so you don't walk in the door irritable and hungry. Today's modern couples carry a high stress load, and they often find that their lifestyle creates a situation where they are permanently running on empty. The mentality of "I gave at the office" may leave one with little to give at home.

Yet in order for a living environment to be a true home, one must be willing to make the necessary investments at home. These investments include shared family meals, a clean and orderly environment, and a lifestyle that makes raising children a priority. These responsibilities are not a burden; rather, they are the true components of a Jewish home.

If you cannot figure out how to create the necessary time and energy for investing in your home under your current lifestyle, you may need to consider whether that lifestyle needs to be altered in order to allow you more time for "real life."

Thanks for writing,

Tzippora Price, M.Sc.