You already know that every couple fights, but did you know that most couples fight about the same things? As unique as your arguments may feel in the moment, couples’ therapists see the same issues all day long, from all sorts of people. While persistent discord is a sign that you should visit a therapist together, there’s no reason to reinvent the wheel when it comes to finding solutions to the fights everyone else is having. Here are a few common fights couples have, and some quick tips on how to resolve them.
“All You Do Is Stare at Your Phone”
With the 40-hour work week turning into a 24/7 battle with email and text notifications, it’s not surprising so many couples are facing the “just put down your phone” battle on a regular basis.
How to deal: Total banishment of the phone isn’t practical. Instead, set a time period when both of your phones will be turned off that you can hang out and bond. You can also make a pact not to look at your phones when you’re out together. Set a consequence for the first person to break the rules, like having to do the dishes or take out the trash that week. Or make it fun — the first one to look at their phone owes the other the sexual favor of his or her choice. That should break some of the tension!
Definitely don’t say:“I’m just really bored.” You’re only bored if you allow yourself to be. This is the person you love, find something to talk about!
“You Spend Too Much Money”
Sharing expenses and a bank account is a huge change from when you were single. If you spent too much money back then, there was no one to blame except yourself. But now you’re staring down shopping bags or surprising charges, and it’s someone else making those decisions.
How to deal: Use a “yours, mine, ours” structure for your money so you don’t fight over personal spending. Couples therapist Jennifer Aull explains: “The shared expenses go into a central pool and are spent according to an agreed-upon method. The other two pools of money — mine and yours — represent some money each person has complete control over.”
“We Aren’t Having Enough Sex”
This is one of the toughest fights of all, because sex is a barometer for so much in our lives, from our physical health to our stress levels. Dr. Adam Sheck, a Clinical Psychologist, explains that sex can be both the symptom and the cause. “Sex, on a basic physical, instinctual level, is about tension and release of tension.” Therefore, couples who aren’t getting what they need, sexually, may create conflict on an unconscious level in order to try to fabricate a deeper level of tension. What does all that mean? Something we already know: That sex (or lack thereof) can cause a lot of drama — and for good reason!
How to deal: Have an honest talk where each of you expresses, in non-blaming words, why sex matters and what you get from it. Maybe your partner feels unattractive. Are there other ways to show that you’re into them physically? It’s possible your partner feels like you don’t even care that your libido has plummeted. Visiting your doctor for a hormone test, or seeing a sex therapist might show that you’re taking it seriously. One thing Dr. Sheck notes is that if both partners are willing to give it a try, sometimes just “doing it,” even when you’re not feeling hot and heavy, can help shift the mood.
Definitely don’t say: “You’re my girlfriend, you have to have sex with me.” Sorry, but even in relationships, nobody is ever owed sex. Coercion is not only illegal, it’s the last thing that’s going to make your partner want you.
“You’re Not Doing Enough Around The House”
You’d think we would’ve learned by now that fighting about chores is even more boring that the chores themselves!
How to deal: Sit down together, each of you with your own pen and paper, and rank all of the work you do in a day with a number, as well as the work around the house that needs to get done. This list will include everything from your day job to carpooling to cleaning up dishes. If a chore is fun for you, maybe you give it a 1. If something else is miserable, rank it a 10. When you’re done with the exercise, each of you should end up with about the same number for your total chore value. If not, do some shifting around until you both think your workload is fair.
“You Don’t Appreciate Me”
One of the hardest conflicts to resolve happens when someone doesn’t feel valued. What makes this even tougher is that we often feel like if we have to ask for recognition, it doesn’t really count.
How to deal: Say it out loud. Don’t assume your partner knows how much you appreciate them. Dr. Bill Cloke, a couples therapist and author of the book Happy Together, explains that men and women often need to hear totally different things to feel valued. Men, in general, need to hear that the work they do is appreciated, and that the sacrifices they make are recognized. Women, on the other hand, tend to need to hear that they are heard and understood, not to mention cherished.
Definitely don’t say: “You should just know that I love you and appreciate you.” Sorry, that’s simply not how it works. Say it loud, and say it proud: I appreciate you!