Is it ok to fight as a couple, and if so can you work it out? Here are the 5 things couples fight about most! (and how to work it out)
I touched on the topic of fighting and arguing in my last post (you can read that here) but today I thought we'd dive a little deeper and have a look at some of the topics that couples fight about. I also thought it would be helpful to offer some ideas about how to help you work through the problem areas so that you can engage in constructive rather than destructive arguments.
It's ok to have arguments with your partner. Constructive debates and heated arguments are all part of the natural process of life, and much like we fight with our parents and siblings, we should expect to have similar emotional reactions with our spouse or partner. The key is to maintain a degree of self control, and be constructive.
What does constructive argument look like in a domestic setting?
Being constructive means giving feedback that is non-judgmental and free from personal bias. But what does this mean? Well, in a domestic setting it's the difference between saying:
“I hate you, you always forget to take out the trash and I'm sick of telling you about it. Also, last week when we were out with friends you made a joke at my expense and it really p****d me off, I hate your friends, they are all idiots”
“I'm so annoyed right now because you forgot to take out the trash and I feel like I'm having to nag you about it, I don't want to do that”.
Can you see how different these two sentences are? The first one includes a personal attack both on the partner and the partner's friends. It also brings up arguments from the past; this is a definite no-no (I'll explain why later one). Finally it includes a reference to something annoying from the previous week, which the partner knows nothing about because you didn't discuss it when it happened (again I'll explain why you should avoid this in a moment).
It's easy to get so angry in an argument that you lose perspective and as a way to maintain control of what's occurring you offload everything that's been bottling up inside since the last fight.
Let's have a quick look at some of the no-no's of fighting:
Personal attacks on your partner or their friends and/or family
I'm guessing I'm not the only one who has ever resorted to bad-mouthing my partners friends or family. The problem with this kind of ambush is that it takes a constructive argument to a level of fighting usually reserved for the playground. We embark on it in an attempt to hold our position and secure our fighting victory. By the time the words come out of our moths we're already lost and there isn't much other than a sense of humour and admitting defeat that can rescue us. Try to avoid personal attacks during arguments, stick to the facts that you're fighting about and work on saying what you mean.
Bringing up arguments from the past
If you find yourself referring to past fights during an argument I'd encourage you to take a step back and regain composure. You'll instantly undermine your current position if you drag up past fights to bolster your current argument. Instead, stay on topic. Be rational. Once a fight is settled, move on and let it go. Your partner will find it difficult to respect your position if you constantly refer to every previous argument you've ever had.
Referring to something that annoyed you previously but that you haven't discussed with your partner already (i.e. you didn't discuss it at the time, instead you ‘parked' it to use later)
Another common problem when fighting is that people use it as an opportunity to get absolutely everything they can think of off their chest. It's like saving all your pocket money for years so that you can blow it all in one day; it generally feels a bit hollow afterwards. If your partner does something that annoys you, either mention it there and then or let it go. Don't add it to your ammunition store for use later.
Now let's discuss 5 things couples fight about most:
Money is such contentious subject. Do you have joint finances, or should you keep your money separate? Does one of you spend more than the other? Does one of you earn more than the other? How should you spend your money? Do you have pocket-money? So many questions that when they're asked can be a little like lighting the blue touch paper of a firework; expect an explosion.
The key to finding balance with your finances is to agree to a plan and then stick to it. Don't be afraid to discuss money, see money as a tool to enable you to share more of life's adventure. Once you take the fear out of the equation and you find common ground you'll be able to resolve any problems as they arise without the need for fighting. Remember, disagreeing is normal and healthy, all you have to do is jointly choose an agreed course of action.
We all have our hobbies, or pass-times that we know are so much a part of who we are that to give them up would be like cutting off a limb. For my GLH (hubby) it's flying; he just loves to fly. He dreamed of doing it as a kid, he spent his young adulthood planning how he could make it happen, and then finally he was able to pursue his dream. For me it was motorbikes; I always wanted to get my bike license and buy a motorbike, and achieved that dream a short while before we got married (I also really want to learn to fly helicopters too… still working on that dream 🙂 ).
I love that GLH has his own hobby, its his escape and where he can be at one with the world. In addition, together we get to go on all sorts of crazy adventures (perhaps I'll write a post about our adventure flight to Europe or how we landed in France at an empty airfield and couldn't get fuel… so many crazy stories). My point is, these hobbies, no matter how you might feel about them are your partners other passion and it's only right that we support them in it. If we can join them in the fun all the better but we should never prevent them from having the hobby. Once we start to object to our partners hobbies we are stifling a little bit of the person we love; instead remember why you love them and let them have their wings
This one is a little unusual in so far as most of the time couples have an unwritten agreement that they fall in to around the topic of drinking. But as your relationship matures and you grow older, perhaps even having children, the rules shift slightly. You might find yourself arguing about who drinks and who drives, or even how much someone is drinking.
You might even begin to argue about the people you drink with or the behaviour that occurs when you or they are drunk. In order to avoid unnecessary complications it's best to be open to discussing problems as they arise (but only when you're both sober! Never begin a discussion when you're drunk as it will inevitably lead to a fight).
Who cleans up after pets, who feeds them, who walks dogs??? Pets can be great additions to a family but they take a large amount of time and money in order to keep them happy and healthy. If you're getting a pet together then agree beforehand on what the reasons are, this will help you choose an appropriate pet.
For example, are you wanting to get a dog because you love the outdoors and think it would be great to share long walks with your partner and a four legged friend? Consider the size of the pet, how much care it requires, likely vet bills and insurance, food costs etc. These are all things that can cause fights if you haven't put together an agreed plan beforehand.
It's surprising how many fights can result from us having children with someone. From which school they should attend to which friends they are no longer allowed to play with; parenting is a minefield. Even choosing their name can spark a fight that extends beyond just the parents, many's a time I've heard of grandparents and siblings causing fights because they don't like the chosen name. So, best to have a game plan for your children too.
Once you've decided to have children, start to discuss the aspects of it that you can agree upon. (not forgetting of course that some couples also find themselves fighting about whether or not to even have children – my tip here is to make sure you discuss it before you're living together – don't naturally assume that your partner wants children – this is something far too important to leave to chance and for women in particular there is a finite time to become a mother – don't waste that time wishing and waiting).
What's the best advice I ever got about fights in a relationship?
It can take time to realise that you can have an argument with your partner and that it doesn't mean the relationship is over. Learn to engage in arguments from a different perspective and never loses sight of the fact that you love each other.
The best piece of advice I ever received was from one of my dearest and oldest friends, Kitty S. When I told her that I was getting married she said “remember, never go to bed on an argument”. I've remembered those words ever since. If you take only one thing away from this post, I hope it's these words of wisdom. RIP Kitty S, a much loved and dearly missed friend.
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