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In romantic relationships, two distinct individuals must strive to make decisions not just for themselves, but for the health of their shared relationship. Some of the most beautiful aspects of romance are intertwined with this sense of unity and oneness; the most difficult parts of maintaining healthy relationships, however, also have to do with the conflicts that arise when partners disagree.
In this two-part article, we first explore the most common sources of contention between romantic partners. Are any of these topics causing strain in your current relationship? Have these issues caused problems for you in the past? By identifying these recurrent sources of conflict in your relationships, you can determine how to best address the issues and resolve them in constructive ways, paving the way to a happier and healthier future.
Sex & Intimacy
Sex and physical intimacy are sensitive topics in most relationships. Two individuals’ preferences and libidos are very rarely perfectly matched. Couples may fight over their sexual differences or may bottle up their feelings. Neither of these approaches is healthy, and will ultimately lead to unhappiness. Do you and your partner have vastly different sex drives? Does one of you tend to do more of the work in the bedroom? Does one of you have a kink or interest in a particular sex act that the other partner is uncomfortable with? Though many of us feel self-conscious discussing sex, these are issues that you should strive to work through, rather than fight about.
Family & Relatives
Though senior couples can usually avoid the murky waters of child-rearing, family in general may be a source of disagreement. Should elderly parents be allowed to move in with you, or should they enter assisted living facilities? How often do you want to spend time with your adult children and grandchildren? If a family member comes to you in financial distress, are you willing to support them? Whose family will you be seeing for the holidays? There are so many ways in which family matters can affect your romance, and most of us have at least some relationship with our immediate family. Most couples will be affected by at least one disagreement involving family dynamics.
According to research, money is the most common source of contention amongst couples. Most of us are firmly set in our financial habits. As with sex, money is a sensitive, multi-faceted subject. What things are worth spending money on? How much are you willing to spend on food, for instance? Do you feel as though your partners spends too much money on frivolous purchases? On the other hand, do you find yourself getting frustrated with your partner’s frugal habits? As your relationship progresses, the issue of combined finances may arise. Many couples struggle with budgeting and planning for the financial future. If one of you is a spender and the other a saver, you’ll certainly need to discuss your financial goals before bigger issues arise.
Timing & Commitment
In both new and established relationships, timing and romantic milestones often cause couples to fight. Sometimes, differences in commitment can even lead to the deterioration of otherwise healthy relationships. Are you interested in becoming exclusive, but your partner would prefer to keep dating others? Have you had your eye on marriage, whereas he can’t foresee a life in which he isn’t a perpetual bachelor? Perhaps he’s interested in renting a shared apartment, but you’ve got cold feet. Individuals often feel prepared for these different milestones at different points in time. An inability to compromise on these issues can spell disaster for many relationships.
Quality Time Together & Priorities
As relationships become more serious and move out of the dating phase, couples often find themselves spending less quality time together. Watching TV every night or browsing the internet on your phones can hardly be considered peak romance! In other cases, one partner may spend much more time with friends or family than the other, leading to feelings of jealousy or loneliness. Workaholics may spend their best hours focusing on work projects, allowing romance to languish. Not spending quality time together can lead to festering bitterness and resentment, triggering arguments that slowly destroy a relationship. On the other hand, not spending enough time apart may also lead to annoyance and feelings of suffocation. Instead of letting jealousy and frustration corrode your relationship, you and your partner should strive to resolve these issues in a mature manner.
Chores, Cooking, and Cleanliness
As with money, chores and cleanliness are issues on which individuals rarely agree. Few people genuinely enjoy chores and household work. Most of us, however, begrudgingly do these things out of necessity. In general, however, couples fail to fully discuss the distribution of household work, their personal tidiness preferences, and the schedule and habits they’d like to follow regarding cooking and meal preparation. If you or your partner feel as though one of you is doing all of the work, a fight is likely to occur. As with many of these subjects, finding middle ground is crucial to maintaining a healthy relationship. You probably won’t be able to turn a “slob” into a “neat freak.” Rather, you and your partner will need to compromise, finding a way to satisfy both of your personal preferences.
Past Problems, Misremembering, & The Blame Game
In many relationships, fighting often revolves around the fact that past arguments are constantly being brought up in non-constructive ways. Constantly bringing up old issues during current fights only serves to escalate matters. Many of us misremember certain events or recall them in unfair ways, putting all of the blame on our partners’ shoulders. Though some issues may need to be re-evaluated so that they can ultimately be resolved, there are many situations in which the past is best left in the past. If you’re constantly fighting about past issues, it may be time to drop these old matters and refocus on the present.
Sometimes, we think we’re communicating clearly with our partners when we really aren’t! From small issues, such as planning what to do over the weekend, to bigger issues, such as discussing mutual future goals, communication struggles often contribute to major arguments. Perhaps your partner can’t discuss certain subjects without getting angry and shouting; maybe you’re prone to brooding over issues rather than discussing your concerns with your partner. Speaking your truth in a clear, rational manner is easier said than done! Listening and processing what your partner has to say in a calm, open-minded manner is also a skill that must be learned. By working on the ways in which you communicate, you can stop yourself from fighting about fighting.
If any of these recurrent arguments are causing problems in your relationship, have no fear! You’re not alone. In the second part of this article, we delve into the best ways to work through these disagreements, leading to better, more successful resolutions.
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