More than having ridiculously steamy sex, liking the same TV shows and craving the same kind of food, drunkenly at 3 a.m. on a Saturday night —learning how to fight fairly in a relationship is a key to having a healthy, happy one. While your battles with your partner may not seem all too — just yet — the longer you’re together, the more invested you become and more intertwined your lives are, your heated discussions will be deeper and more impactful.
“There is a level of fighting that is healthy for the relationship, as each of us should not be internalizing our anger to the point that we either make ourselves sick or blow up at some point,” says psychologist Dr. Nikki Martinez, Psy.D., LCPC. “You need to be able to disagree, but also have the skill of making up or finding common ground you are both ok with walking away from the subject that caused the disagreement.”
If you feel like you speak to each other in a way that’s respectful, kind-hearted and comes from a place of understanding, then you’re already off to a great start as a couple. But here’s another thing to know about language: even if you’re talking regularly, if you’re not saying anything of substance, your relationship isn’t making the distance.
Here are the most important fights that all good relationships have, straight from the experts who coach couples all the time. But first, check out the latest episode of Bustle's sex and relationships podcast, "I Want It That Way":
1. The One About Feeling Loved
Though you may not think about it on the daily, having a partner who will listen to you vent about the stressful day you had a work or how you aren’t feeling your best (and could they please pick you up some soup?) — is not a luxury that everyone has. In fact, ask anyone who has been single for many years and they may roll their eyes when talking about how some of their friends take their partners for granted. Martinez says that at some point, you might fight over the fact that one of you isn’t showing the other how loved they are in a way that makes a difference for them. “If the words please and thank you have left your vocabulary, or if the partner feels taken advantage of or for granted, you need to hash it out,” she says. “You need to find a way that you are going to show that appreciation for each other. “
2. The One About Your Apartment
You want 10 throw pillows, he just can’t with that. You want to live in the heart of downtown, she wants to move further out where your dollar will stretch. If you decide to move-in together, you are deciding to have more than one disagreement about what your new space — aka, your home! — will be like. “Moving in together is a big step in any relationship. When you live alone, the atmosphere and lifestyle you choose to live in is your own decision. Adding someone into the mix can easily cause arguments to arise,” dating expert and matchmaker Sarah Patt tells Bustle. “When sharing a space and combining keepsakes from your past, it’s important to be respectful of both of your feelings. As a couple, you should be living together in an environment that you both feel comfortable with otherwise you’ll constantly be stepping on each other’s toes.”
3. The One About Money
Some folks are savers, others are spenders. Some lucky few are able to achieve a happy medium. But as your relationship progresses and you consider combining your incomes, you might find yourself bickering over who-pays-what and OMG-you-spent-how-much-on-that?! “If one person is saving and working lots of hours, and the other person is spending without a second thought, there needs to be a summit for sure. Each person needs to talk about their contributions (they do not have to be monetary), and the realistic financial picture,” Martinez says. “Perhaps set a rule that you will discuss purchases over a certain dollar amount, or you can each spend a certain amount per week.”
4. The One About Sex
One of you prefers a little more kink than the other, or maybe your sex drives don’t match up in a way that leaves you both satisfied. Regardless of how deep your connection is (or how hot your orgasm) — you’ll likely clash over sex more than once. “There can be a lot of irritability and animosity built up over different sex drives, needs and views,” Martinez says. “This needs to be discussed, and there needs to be a common group that both of you feel that your needs are being met, so that it does not present issues in the future.”