All relationships have their fair share of arguments, and they present opportunities for growth and deeper connection. Some fights are specific to you and your partner-but some are timeless classics that most (if not all) partnerships have.
In my work with couples, I have identified the most common four fights most people are consistently having and some solutions to figuring them out once and for all…
Money causes friction in relationships. Most couples fight-or at least argue-about money. Money can feel like a scarce resource and most couples share finances, at least to some degree.
So why is money so contentious, and what can we do about it?
The most important thing to do when faced with financial arguments is that you need to think about the big picture.
Money is fraught because it is a place for us to direct our energy, and we have a finite amount of it. Think beyond just the two of you and consider the setting for these dramas, the background set by your respective families or cultures of origin.
The financial disagreements in your own partnership can probably be traced back to when you were children, individually watching your families handle (or not handle!) shared resources like money. Scarcity, fear, shame and desires are reflected in our attitudes towards money.
I encourage you to begin by individually asking yourselves how your own parental figures handled their money and what messages about wealth or spending you may have internalized.
After you have a grasp on your own money story, I suggest meeting with your spouse for a conversation about money to get a better understanding of theirs! Stay open and curious – even if you have been married for many years, you may learn something new or unexpected.
My wife and I do very different things with our money and we have learned to compromise. She doesn’t care what car we drive, but she really wants a new countertop for our kitchen. I couldn’t care less about having a wool mattress, but I wouldn’t mind driving a nice car. These priorities are all wonderful and can lead to a better quality of life – and we get to discuss them and make plans for how to spend our money together!
Money is how we direct our energy. It is a reflection of what is important to us. How can you appreciate and show respect for your partner’s priorities and interests?
Have authentic conversations with your spouse about how to use your finances to achieve your life’s goals. What is most important to them, and what could you cut back on or let go of? Notice what they dream of spending their money on- Do they prefer to invest in comfort in the home, adventures together or entertaining friends? Do they help friends or family members in need? How are they using money to achieve their desires, and how can you appreciate their intentions?
Be sure to also create actionable goals: What boundaries can you set or adjustments can you make to ensure that you both get what you want?
Let’s talk about it. People are operating under crude and inaccurate assumptions when it comes to sex in long-term relationships!
Most of our discussion about sex in our culture is centered around dating, not being married of partnered long-term. The expectations get skewed and we are suddenly worrying that we are inadequate.
I’m going to go ahead and say it: Sex in long-term partnerships is different, and that’s a great thing!
Our focus as a society is often about frequency, and that is a MAJOR problem. We obsess over how often we’re having sex in a partnership and asking our friends (and Google) if it’s “normal”. But if all of us are asking whether it’s normal, doesn’t that mean that it is?
It’s “normal” for the intensity and frequency of our sex lives to wax and wane.
When we see our relationship as a journey and not a destination, we can let go of our expectations and actually experience the richness of connecting with the other person!
It is our individual responsibility to release our unrealistic expectations of our relationships. You get to let go of how often you have sex and ask yourself the real questions, like…What is the quality of your sex life? What would bring you more pleasure?
I suggest that you explore those questions yourself and then attend therapy with your partner and begin a process of collaboration. Together, you can explore questions like, “How can I bring them more pleasure?” and “How can I be more in tune with their desires and interests?”
You get to stay curious, bravely express your desires and communicate what you do and do not enjoy. That is the richness of relationships, and your sex life will get better and better when you begin to ask different questions!
With family comes allegiances, cultural expectations, wounds and deep enduring love. No wonder we argue with our partner about our extended families!
Your partner’s family probably has differences from yours. Whether those disparities are financial, religious, or cultural, sometimes we compare our families in unhealthy and unproductive ways.
When you partnered, you formed a new family system. This does not require you to abandon your own family or origin, but it does require that you show up for your partner and have their back. Both members of this new unit have a need to feel prioritized, supported and included.
Sometimes family also requires sacrifice. The important thing to remember here is that you and your partner are a unit and you need to present a united front.
In negotiations regarding family, are you being reasonable and are you truly listening to your significant other?
For example, let’s say that your mother in law has fallen on some tough times financially. She’s going through a lot, and your husband or wife has her back. As part of this relationship, you have her back too. However, hosting her is a sacrifice, and requires communication.
As a couple, you get to discuss-before talking to her-how long you’re open to hosting her and your household boundaries. Perhaps you tell her that you will host her for six months and that you ask that she watch your son for a weekend while you take an anniversary trip together.
Without withdrawing or becoming resentful, how can you communicate your needs?
Who’s Doing More
“Comparison is the thief of joy.”
Sometimes fights begin when we compare how much we’re doing to what our spouse is doing…or rather, not doing. We have a natural proclivity to gauge fairness and we naturally want to be in a truly reciprocal relationship. We compare their amount of chores, the difficulty of our work, our parenting, everything.
This is another area for us to step back and look at our own role in the household.
How can you evaluate whether you are doing your fair share? How could you improve how you show up?
If this is a fight you frequently have, I suggest therapy (I know, I know. I’m biased. But talking these things through can transform your relationship)!
Individually, ask yourself what you can improve on. In therapy, communicate your own intention to improve. But you can also express to your partner in a session how inequality in your home makes you feel-and discuss new ways to collaborate. Therapy is a great space to give and receive feedback. Instead of just asking “Who’s doing more”, what about asking richer questions about your overall contributions and expectations for your household?
How do we move forward?
I recently wrote an article titled How NOT to Ruin your relationship. I suggest reading it because it covers a topic we touched on here…
If you wanted to do everything alone, you wouldn’t be in a relationship.
Partnership is a gift! It is a space for us to explore our desires, improve ourselves, set boundaries with our families, take responsibility…I could go on and on!
Relationships are indeed work, but that work is amazing. You get the gift of learning how to work as a team, and your whole life will improve. Trust me.
Working as a unit is important, and it requires a big change: You need to abandon your need to be right.
You have to. Do you want to be right, or do you want to be married? Do you want to “win”, or do you want to be in an amazing partnership that endures?
Lastly, check out this list of The 15 Elements of a Thriving Relationship. This will help you to assess the areas in your partnership that are incredible, and some areas for improvement.
Your fights are normal, and you CAN do something about them. Book a session if you need guidance and support…