Couples tend to think that there are 1,001 things to fight about. After all, it’s possible to fight about something new every day. However, in our work, we find that there are only 7 categories of arguments that really cause people to lose their minds. These are disagreements that, left unresolved, force people to split up, scream, retreat, or self-medicate. Simply put, these are The 7 Things You Argue About.
We’ve all had a dirty roommate or two. It doesn’t matter how nice we ask, they just can’t seem to meet this easiest of expectations on a regular basis. It could be that they don’t clean up after themselves, that they’re totally disorganized, or maybe they do gross stuff that causes us to shake our heads in disbelief. Even though it can be relatively easy to quarantine ourselves from our friends, our partners are another story. It’s likely that we can soon start to feel disgusted if we are not on the same page with agreements and expectations. Our home is sacred to us and it greatly impacts our emotional experience. No wonder we get so livid about the dishes not being done!
When we’re not getting the touch, sex, or attentiveness to our physical desires that we want, we can get pretty ornery and act out in weird ways. This is often where the foundation of fidelity begins to crack. There’s a misconception that men just want sex and women want attention, but the reality is that both parties actually enjoy both. We come wired with a core human need to attach to someone in a physical way and this is the first thing we learn how to do. However, if one or both of you was smothered, hurt, or neglected as a child or in later relationships, it can be tricky to know where to meet in the middle. The point is that, if you don’t figure this one out, you’re either going to break up or turn into bickering roommates.
Have you ever found yourself on a vacation, out to eat, or burned out after returning home from work and notice, “I just need some time to decompress?” And, if in that moment, your partner starts asking you what you want to do, what you want to eat, or what’s wrong with you, then there can be a sudden, knee-jerk, reaction to snap on them. Now imagine that this essentially happens every day because you both don’t know how to voice your needs, set boundaries, and take care of yourselves? Well, you may fight a lot about other little things, but it’s primarily going to be about space.
Money. For most of us, we’ve been taught that this is the most valuable form of currency. It stands for freedom, success, hard-work, power, and fun. Usually, couples do not make the same amount of money, nor value all the same things equally, so an issue immediately arises. With everything that needs to be paid for and with everything that could possibly be purchased, how do we decide how to share, spend, and save? When disagreements come up here, it can mean disaster because all the stories about what happens when you don’t have money come rushing in. You begin to see your partner as the one person who has the control to make you feel trapped, unsuccessful, powerless, and unhappy. This is a perfect cocktail of fear that will rise to the surface again and again if it is not dealt with.
It seems like partnership and marriage are often correlated with having more responsibility or being “tied down”. Of course, part of that is true because you are agreeing to take the other into account, but the emotional feeling of being trapped, stuck, or uninspired is not necessary. When individuals are insecure about where they are at in their life, they will project this on to their partner and often, vice versa. So, if you find yourself complaining about your partners life situation, there’s a good chance that either you or both of you are not feeling like you have a choice in where your life is going. You’ll fight about this all the time if you don’t understand how to own your decisions, voice your desires, and support each other in manifesting a shared vision.
Quality time and attention is a never-ending game of balance because it will change with the flow of life. Despite raising a family, showing up for work, and taking care of the house, both parties are going to feel some lacking in this area at some point. There will come times when, no matter how independent we are, we just want to be noticed, listened to, and acknowledged. If these moments go overlooked too often, then resentment will build and this will turn into petty fights. You will push your partner away because you aren’t trusting that they really care. This can go around and around in circular arguments until both of you set aside enough time to really figure each other out and design a system for both of your attention needs to be met.
This is the giant elephant in the room that is weaved into all of the other types of disagreements that you will have. The truth is, if you don’t feel emotionally safe with your partner, then you’re not going to figure any of this out. If you get deep into one of these arguments and you still can’t find the source, odds are that it is the emotional safety that is lacking in that moment. Whether you or your partner is dealing with some deep wounding from past trauma or you’re just using a tone that conveys agitation, annoyance, or condescension, you’re going to need to learn ways to calm your nervous system, drop into your heart, and show your partner that you care in ways that they can understand in order to get through any argument successfully.