Even the most loving couples have disagreements, whether they are just starting out dating or have been married for decades. The trick lies in how to air those disagreements in a healthy manner and not have them devolve into a knockdown, drag-out fight that causes a rift in the relationship that may be difficult or even impossible to heal.
What Do Couples Fight About?
Vanessa Marin who, among other things, is a psychotherapist and life coach, listed 10 things that couples tend to fight about in a post on Bustle.
Sex – A fight over sex can happen over many things, including if one partner wants it more than the other, leading to feelings of rejection. Couples might disagree about specific acts in the bedroom, too, where one partner might want to try something that the other isn’t keen to attempt. (Like a threesome.)
Money – Fights over money can happen when one partner is more of a saver and the other is more of a spender. What one person considers a necessary expense the other might think is an extravagance.
Children – Couples sometimes fight over whether to have kids or not. And if they have kids, the problem of how to dole out discipline may become an issue.
Timing – Relationships always proceed in stages. When do you want to become exclusive? When do you want to move in together? When and if you want to get married. These milestones can be occasions of great joy or of bitter disagreement..
Quality time – How much time to spend together and what to do with that time can often be a conflict.
Romance – The fires of romance can turn cooler the farther away you get from the honeymoon stage. One person might like the occasional date night. The other person may not. One person might feel neglected. The other might feel pressured, That can lead to fighting.
Chores – It’s far from unusual for couples to disagree about which chores each person should do. Or, one partner might believe the other isn’t doing their fair share of the housework.
In-laws – Parents can be a major source of tension. Simply trying to figure out which side to spend a holiday with can spark some bitter feelings. If there’s an argument, and sides are taken (“Well, my mother says …”), that can turn problematic.
Pet peeves – Pet peeves can be about just about anything, from snoring to taking the last cookie on the plate. And we certainly don’t need to mention leaving the toilet seat up.
Jealousy – The green-eyed monster has blighted more relationships than perhaps any other factor.
Addiction and Fighting
The American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy suggests that addiction on the part of one person in a relationship can exacerbate the tendency to fight. Addiction can cause issues with money, taking responsibility for chores at home, and staying out at all hours of the night. Fights can occur when the addicted partner is in denial that there is a problem and will not seek treatment. Unfortunately, addiction can lead to physical violence and a breakup of the relationship, since the partner who has the addiction has lost the capacity for sound judgment.
How to Fight Fair
You and your partner and spouse have a disagreement. How do you air that disagreement and arrive at a solution without tears and anger?
NBC News sought the advice of Casey and Meygan Caston, a married couple who are not only therapists but have had trouble resolving disagreements in their marriage themselves. They are founders of an organization called Marriage365. They have several suggestions for couples who are having an argument.
Maintain control: Losing control and saying things you’ll later regret is always a danger when having an argument. One technique to keep that from happening is to have a timeout to allow both people time to calm down. Use a “safe word” to indicate that it’s time to stop fighting and have some time apart from one another before taking up the argument again.
Never Interrupt: One important rule of fighting is not to talk over each other. You might try using a toy microphone or a “talking stick” that indicates that the person holding it is the only one allowed to speak. The object can then be passed to the other person when it’s time to respond.
Don’t bring up the past: Resist the temptation to bring up the other person’s past mistakes. Picking at the past will only hurt the other person. It certainly doesn’t resolve the question at hand.
Don’t criticize: The crucial part of fighting fair is to never get personal. If you find yourself criticizing your spouse or partner, stop. Otherwise, you aren’t trying to resolve an issue. You’re just fighting for the sake of fighting.
Apologize: The hardest thing to do is to recognize you are wrong and then apologize for it. But being a better person has its own rewards. You also have to be quick to accept the apology once it’s given, especially if it is accompanied by a promise to do better.
An Argument is Best When Both Sides Win
Jenny Palmiotto, a licensed marriage and family therapist writes that the best way to conclude an argument is to arrange for both sides to win. The trick is to employ curiosity and empathy. Don’t let your need to be right invalidate what your partner or spouse has to say. That way, both partners recognize they have valid points and can come to a win-win conclusion.
Article written by guest author Heidi Bitsoli
bustle.com: The 10 Most Common Things Couples Fight About
Sunshinebehavioralhealth.com - Los Angeles’s Top Addiction Resource & Information Guide
aamft.org: Substance Abuse and Intimate Relationships
nbcnews.com: Want a Better Marriage? Learn to Fight Fair (in 5 Easy Steps)
marriage365.com: Ready to get your marriage back on track?
familyguidanceandtherapy.com: How to Create Win-Win Outcomes to Recurring Arguments in Your Relationship