7 Relationship Fights That You Should Actually Worry About, According To Experts
All couples fight, yes, but some couples get into arguments markedly more than others. Some make a great fuss. Some scream publicly, with incredible gusto, as if locked in a contest to see who will be first to shatter the windows with sheer volume.
Other couples fight harmlessly, or apparently harmlessly, over small things and in small ways. The socks all over the bedroom or the lopsided bed-making or one party's failure to do the dishes, which we all know is a secret relationship death sentence. It can be hard to judge which points of contention are actually icebergs, little peaks of a much bigger problem jutting out of a deceptively calm-looking sea.
So how do you know if the innocent fights actually mean something bigger, something ominous? "Almost all couples have disagreements," LeslieBeth Wish, licensed psychotherapist, author, and founder of LoveVictory, tells Bustle. "In fact, it is actually your differences and complementary styles that drew you to each other — and which make your relationship stronger. But sometimes, those seemingly innocent disagreements can take a turn down a dangerous road. When that happens, you are no longer disagreeing — you are fighting."
And those unresolved issues can creep into the most casual conversations and suddenly blow up. "All couples — even very happy ones who hardly ever disagree — still harbor long-term, unresolved issues," Wish says.
Dr. Fran Walfish, Beverly Hills relationship psychotherapist, author of The Self-Aware Parent, and co-host of We TV's Sex Box, tells Bustle that the issues themselves may not be as important as individual fighting styles: Rather, the question worth considering is can you both "really partner up when there are conflicts? ... [Does] one person or [do] both either go to their own corners and distance from each other, somebody collapses into tears, or do they engage in battle and attack each other?"
Taken altogether, this means that an inconsequential spat over something ostensibly small can inflate into a full-fledged battle, apparently out of the blue. Does this happen to you, when you thought you were bickering about discrepancies in household chores but really you are fighting about discrepancies in respect for one another and one another's time? Here are eight common examples of seemingly harmless fights that are actually a big deal.
(Please note: anytime violence is involved, or threatened; anytime a person begins to feel trapped; anytime the strength of a partner's anger scares you, it is time to consider if and how you can make an exit).
1. Fights Over Finances
Money, Wish says, particularly an inability to see eye-to-eye on appropriate spending habits, is one of the biggest sources of relationship arguments. "You might even start a conversation about something innocent such as the price of steak, and soon the conversations spills into talking about how YOU have to cut back on buying expensive items," Wish says. Which is particularly un-fun when you're just out here, trying to enjoy a nice steak dinner in peace, and now this chump is ruining the ambiance.
If you have merged your lives with a person, finances list among the most excruciating daily topics you will have to hash out. With that in mind, you may consider finding a partner who appreciates, is willing to spend on, a good steak as much as you are. Or, you need to find a way to strike a bargain in which your separate spending habits are your own separate business.
2. Fights About One Person Always Being The One To Apologize
"Even if it is not the case that you are always the one to apologize, if you feel as though you are, it can cause problems in the relationship," Nicole Richardson, licensed professional counselor supervisor and licensed marriage and family therapist, tells Bustle.
Because yeah, if you feel — or if you are made, erroneously, to feel — as if you are always the one messing up, or the only one willing to take the blame that resolves the fight, resentment will likely build and explode into a much larger altercation. And it might mean one person refuses to apologize, even when they really should.
3. Fights About Failing To Stick Up For You
When you love someone, or care for them in your way, it may bother you to hear others say hurtful or insulting things about them. So if you and your significant other are sitting there, and their family member or a toxic friend starts to rag on you, and your partner doesn't speak up, Wish says, that could cue a fight about something much deeper than their actual silence.
"It's not unusual for a partner to go limp in the presence of their family," she says. "Old issues from childhood suddenly get activated. For example, if your partner had parents who criticize them, then your partner might not speak up when their parents are unkind to you. Of course, you feel hurt — and even worse you feel angry that your partner let another comment go by without speaking up."
4. Disagreements About Splitting Your Time
When it comes to your shared time, you want to be fair by striking as close to a 50/50 split as possible. This seems the best possible way to ensure that no one gets shortchanged, constantly commuting to your apartment and sleeping always outside the comfort of their bed; catering to your needs and wants over their own. This, of course, can leave people feeling prickly and ignored in a more global sense, and it's those feelings you should be aware of — in yourself and in your partner.
"You start out flexible, not getting caught up in keeping score, but then you ask for an extra visit, and the nice agreement explodes," Wish says. "Your partner says you've had your turn too many times — and you realize your partner certainly is keeping score." That may make you mad, but rather than ruffling up, take a moment to consider whether or not you do actually ask for more than you give. And vice versa!
5. Disagreements About Not Being Heard
"Arguments around not feeling heard are a real problem," Richardson says. "Often couples that listen and communicate can work through nearly any challenge but if one or both partners doesn't feel heard, resentments build and the fights can get escalated."
So if you find yourself continually having the same argument, or consistently making the same central point, that signals a deeper problem: It's more than just why can't your partner occasionally take the get the groceries, please, it's "why aren't you listening to me when I speak?"
6. Disagreements Over Time Spent With Others
Ideally, when you get into a relationship, you want to maintain your individual lives and interests — sharing things together, of course, but not abandoning your own ship. Sometimes, though, partners disagree about how much time should be spent on couple stuff and how much should be spent on other stuff. When one party feels shorted, or left out, that sentiment can show up in disdain for certain among their party's relationships. It may be easy to dismiss as nothing, just someone being a little fussy, but it can speak to larger feelings of jealousy.
"Even the most confident person can feel jealous and rivalrous if they want exclusivity," Walfish says. And once jealousy curdles into resentment, even anger, it can sink a relationship.
7. Fights Over Discrepancies In Sexual Desire
"Different sexual appetites and tempos," Walfish says, can cause quotidian disagreements with deeper roots. Say one of you has a higher sex drive than the other, one person always wants to have sex and the other just isn't a sexual person, that can leave the former party feeling rejected and frustrated. It can be easy to take something like that personally, without examining the underlying factors. Talking about it without offending your partner will be the key to your success, Walfish says.
Don't pick a fight over sex drive discrepancies. Instead, have an honest conversation about turn-ons and turn-offs, and what would make you both feel more comfortable and satisfied. Avoid making jabs or snide remarks: That only leads to further alienation.
If this sounds a little too familiar, there's hope for you two. "If you have good, open, all-issues-are-available-to-bring-to-the-table communication, there’s nothing that can’t be dealt with and worked through," Walfish says. "And the truth is, when a couple is able to talk about and repair a problem together, it solidifies and strengthens their relationship. It doesn’t make them weaker, it makes them stronger." So talk, don't yell.