The Top 5 Things Couples Argue About
All couples argue from time to time, and, in a general sense,
turns out we're all arguing about the same things.
More than 70% of couples talk to their partners about
money at least once a week
According to relationship psychotherapist Paula Hall, the
top five things that couples argue about are (and roughly
in this order):
A study commissioned by Smart Money magazine and Redbook
found that more than 70 percent of couples talked to their
partner about money at least once a week. With all of this
communication, where are we going wrong?
"When a couple has any problem, it's because of a power
imbalance," says Donna Laikind, a marriage and family
therapist who counsels couples on money issues. "Money
is not seen as the commodity that it should be. It's fraught
with layers and layers of meaning."
The respondents in the study said they fought most often
about debt, spousal spending and then their own purchases.
They worried about saving for retirement, taking risks with
investments and loaning money to the kids. It's common in
many relationships for one partner to be a "spender"
while the other is a "saver," which is where much
of the conflict arises.
Although the study found most couples (64 percent) merge
all of their money into joint accounts when they get married,
this isn't always the best option for everyone. "Married
couples should try different ways of handling the money to
see what works for them," says Ginita Wall, CFP and co-founder
of the Women's Institute for Financial Education.
Says Ruth Hayden, author of "For
Richer, Not Poorer: The Money Book for Couples,"
the best choice to avoid conflict may include keeping some
accounts separate. "You should have some autonomy money,
I should have some autonomy money, and we need to learn how
to practice being a couple together with our money."
"Sex can be a wonderful cementer or a terrible wedge
[for relationships]," says Dr. Linda Banner, Ph.D., a
licensed sex therapist and a researcher associated with Stanford
University Medical School.
While the average adult has sex 61 times a year, according
to University of Chicago's National Opinion Research Center,
emotional and physical problems can drive that number significantly
down. (Studies have also found that couples in happier marriages
have sex more often.)
According to Hall, "Arguing about how often to have
sex is nearly always about feeling loved and cared for and
deeper needs for connection and affection."
"A good sex life is an important part of an individual's
overall health," says Mark Schoen, Ph.D., director of
sex education for the Sinclair Intimacy Institute. "People
who have a good sex life feel better [mentally and physically]."
However, with many people leading hectic lives, sex often
gets put on the backburner. "The worst thing that can
happen to a relationship is that a sex life becomes routine
and boredom sets in," Schoen says.
As long as physical problems are not at play, a sex therapist
can help couples to regain a sense of intimacy. "Much
of the fix is grounded in communication and reprioritizing
one's life to make time for love and sex," says Jan Sinatra,
a psychotherapist and co-author of "Heart
Sense for Women."
Deciding how much time to devote to a career, family and
a spouse is a major issue among some couples, as devoting
time to each is a significant task. Combine this with deciding
who will take care of the family and household and work can
become a major battlefront for couples.
Studies show that couples who fight have happier marriages
than those who avoid conflict altogether.
Issues about career often come down to differences in expectations.
While one partner may envision spending weekends together,
the other may want to spend Saturday putting in extra hours
at the office. Or, if both partners work, dividing roles at
home is a must so one partner doesn't feel he or she is taking
on an unfair amount of responsibility.
"Most rows start because of differences of opinion,
but with patience and basic communication skills you should
be able to negotiate a compromise," said Hall.
Bringing children into the mix brings up a whole new host
of potential problems, from how to discipline the children
to arguing in front of the kids to saving for college educations.
You may also argue about whether or not to have children at
all and/or fertility issues that may arise.
The biggest areas of disagreement for couples who have children
include money, finding enough time for each other and other
responsibilities, sex, and dealing with the in-laws (and their
advice on how to raise your family).
When it comes to raising a family together, the most important
thing you can do to preserve your relationship, says Hall,
"Talk, talk, talk and more talk. It can be difficult
to keep lines of communication open when you're both busy
and exhausted, but it's the most important thing you can do
to prevent minor issues becoming major problems," says
For more tips on raising a family together, try reading "The
Seven Habits of Highly Effective Families" by Stephen
Though it sounds trivial, household chores are a major source
of conflict for couples, not because of the actual tasks but
because of their underlying meaning.
"Rows about housework are often about unfilled needs
for respect and worth," Hall points out.
Indeed, if one partner feels they are putting in more effort
around the house, it brings up notions that the other person
does not respect the other enough to help out. It also brings
up issues of power, especially if the person making more money
feels they shouldn't have to pitch in around the home.
"Love and respect are essential ingredients in a relationship
and sometimes housework becomes the battleground where you
fight for these needs. Housework can become a distraction
from the main issue," says Hall.
Further adding to the potential conflict is that everyone
has different opinions about what a "clean" home
should be. If one partner is a "neat freak" and
the other is more laid back, it can lead to a constant struggle.
Hall recommends the following tips for avoiding housework-related
Sit down and talk about housework. How was it handled
when you were a child, and how does this affect you today?
Negotiate a "tidiness standard" that you are
both happy with.
Come to an agreement about who should do which chores.
Talk about whether your housework-related arguments may
have a deeper meaning.
Is Fighting Always a Bad Thing?
Some experts believe that arguing -- far from being a bad
thing -- is actually one of the healthiest things a couple
can do. In fact, research from the Center for Marital and
Family Studies at the University of Denver found that couples
who argue are more likely to be satisfied with their marriages
than couples who withdraw from conflict.
Taking the time to think about your conflicts and their deeper
meanings is key. "Conflict," explains James Sniechowski,
Ph.D., a couples' counselor, "is generally understood
to be either win or lose. And in that context, it's unattractive
and dangerous. But conflict is in fact a signal from the relationship
saying, 'Something has to change. Pay attention here.' And
once you understand this, conflict can become the doorway
to more intimacy in all areas: emotional, sexual, spiritual,
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