My parents have been married for over 20 years. They are extremely supportive of each other's professional pursuits, say "I love you" often, and they bicker all the time. My parents' arguments can range from trivial to serious, from dinner table interruptions to money management. In fact, the things they fight about the most might even surprise you, as the topics can seem as insignificant as eating standing up without a plate. Their banter used to bother me, but at the end of the day I can tell that this type of discourse is part of what makes their marriage work.
According to a recent survey of 75,000 married couples by Lasting, a new marriage health app, the five topics that married couples fight about the most are: how exactly cleaning gets done, what "clean" looks like, how often to have sex, how much mobile phone time to have, and what to spend money on. These are very common problems because they pertain to a couple's day-to-day communication, something that's paramount in relationships.
"The ability to effectively communicate with your partner is one of the best predictors of relationship success," Marriage and Family Therapist Dr. Gary Brown tells Bustle. "The ability to communicate can help you as a couple to explore more possibilities to grow and expand your wishes, hopes, dreams and desires." Luckily, experts have plenty of tips for settling the most common arguments from Lasting's survey so that you don't have to bring your problems to bed at night.
1How Exactly Cleaning Gets Done
When couples don't evenly split cleaning responsibilities it can lead to a major source of conflict. Dr. Wyatt Fisher, licensed psychologist and founder of Christian Crush, tells Bustle that couples should make a list of who's in charge of what chores. "Make sure it's roughly 50/50," Dr. Fisher says.
2What "Clean" Looks Like
I was literally having this argument with my partner last night. He thinks clean refers to a lack of dirt, and I associate it more with neat and tidiness.
"The real issue here is what is reasonable to expect in terms of what clean looks like," says Dr. Brown. "It may be that you both don’t agree on what is reasonable. If that’s the case, see if you can find a way to compromise between your “must haves” in terms of cleanliness, and what is more negotiable." This is especially prevalent in the midst of flu season, when surfaces might require an extra wipe down!
3How Often To Have Sex
When couples' lives are consumed by conflicting schedules, chaotic jobs, and a constantly changing household, sometimes the exhaustion allows their sex life to take a temporary back seat. But Dr. Brown confesses that this trend is perfectly normal. "Here’s the real truth about this: recent research shows that about 25 percent of couples have sex once a week," says Dr. Brown. "The vast majority have sex between one to three times a month."
Discuss with your partner what the right frequency is for you as a couple, without comparing yourself to other relationships. "It’s important to explore with your partner what sex means to each of you," Dr. Brown says.
4How Much Phone Time To Have
This is so incredibly relevant today, when our entirely lives are completely influenced by technology. It's easy to forget that a healthy relationship should be maintained in person, rather than online. Dr. Fisher recommends that couples agree on digital boundaries to protect their relationship. "One example could be no gadgets in the bedroom after a certain time each night to provide one another with undivided attention," Fisher says.
5What To Spend Money On
Money management is extremely difficult, even when you're only in charge of your own budget. When making major monetary decisions, make sure to consult your partner first, leaving the choice to become more of a collaborative conversation. Dr. Brown proposes finding "an amount of money that you both agree on so when you are contemplating making a purchase above that amount, that you agree to have a discussion before making that purchase." This establishes a level of fiscal trust, and will help outline the financial priorities in your relationship for the future.
When my partner and I first started dating, I saw fighting as a form of weakness or imperfection. It took me a while to accept that disagreeing on certain issues didn't more our connection any less legitimate, because our core values were still the same. But thanks to experts' advice on these common topics, you'll be able to tackle any relationship qualm with mutual respect. And remember to stay away from Settlers of Catan — that game is way too intense and always ends in the silent treatment.