My husband and I schedule our fights. Every other Monday we take an hour to go over our issues, and now we argue less.

Frances Thomas and her husband posing for a photo
  • Moving together caused some friction in my relationship with my husband. 
  • We considered couples therapy but cost and time made it impossible to commit. 
  • Instead, we talk about our issues with each other during a pre-scheduled time every week. 

Learning how to fight was the best thing my husband, Reese, and I did for our relationship.

When I say “fight,” I don’t mean the teary screaming matches or passive-aggressive stonewalling that the word too often invokes. I’m talking about a different kind of fighting. We call it “Hard Things.”

Every other Monday, from 8 to 9 p.m., Hard Things is booked on our respective Google Calendars. The title says it all: we talk about the hard things. Capital-B Big hard things, medium-sized hard things, tiny hard things. Essentially, anything that’s not easy.

It is now one of our most cherished times as a couple, even when it means being vulnerable, and it helps us grow as a couple. 

We started doing this after moving in together

Recent topics have included Reese’s tendency to leave his midnight snacking dishes on the coffee table for days, my obsessive-compulsive approach to furnishing our new apartment, and, of course, our parents. Always our parents. Though this time is ostensibly reserved for hard things between us, it often roves into matters outside the relationship, like work stressors and friend conflicts, which inevitably affect how we relate to each other.

We instituted Hard Things six months after moving in together. It’s a major step for any relationship, but somehow, one that we both massively underestimated.

Right before we took the leap to cohabitation, an older and much wiser friend told us, “Moving in is a way bigger deal than getting married.” At the time, I scoffed at his comment; now that we’ve moved in together and gotten married, I couldn’t agree more. 

When you move in, you have to merge habits, chores, and lifestyle quirks. Overnight, the daily drudgery of surviving as one adult morphs into the compound drudgery of existing as two. There are twice the dishes, twice the laundry, twice the baggageliteral and metaphorical. It humbled us, to put it mildly. 

We didn’t have time or money for couples therapy

We considered couples therapy, but I was already in individual therapy and didn’t have the extra time or funds in New York City, where we live, couples therapy easily runs over $US300 ($AU419) a session to double up. After some deliberation, Reese suggested we try something like therapy on our own. 

“But … we’re not therapists,” I said, stating the obvious.

“Yeah, but we can still make a safe space for each other,” he said. “For the hard things.”

And so it was born. Almost immediately, a weight lifted. If either of us felt annoyed, hurt, or confused by something, we no longer felt compelled to blow up in real-time. Knowing we had Monday to hash it out, we took a beat to cool off and reflect on what exactly was triggering us. By the time Monday rolled around, we were able to articulate our feelings clearly, without saying anything we’d regret. 

Almost two years later, Hard Things constitutes some of my most cherished times with Reese. We don’t always have thorny subjects to unpack, and on those Mondays, we use the hour to reflect on what’s working well and give each other kudos for becoming better partners and people. 

Even when we’re talking about the hardest things, it is tender. We open a nice bottle of wine, sit on the couch, and show up together to face the parts of ourselves that we’d rather not confront. 

We got married on December 21, 2020 in front of the Zoom screen, where some 50 friends and family members beamed in from around the world, Reese told me, “I vow to do the work, when it’s easy and when it’s hard.” Smiling through my tears, I mouthed back, “I know. Me too.”