Marriage produces its share of bliss, but it also supplies plenty of arguments, even in the healthiest of relationships.
And it’s funny how often the same issues come up over and over again for different couples. Ask any of your married friends what they argue about, and chances are, they’ll name the same few topics that you and your spouse squabble over.
READ: Why Marital Therapy Often Fails
Here are the most common subjects spouses argue over, along with peacekeeping tips for dealing with them most effectively.
Money doesn’t always top the argument list, but it’s usually going to be close. Husbands and wives disagree on how much to save, how much to spend, and even who gets to make the decisions about spending. Whereas both spouses can often agree on certain expenses — like paying the bills and buying groceries — conflict can often arise when it comes to whether or not $125 is “a steal” for a pair of jeans or whether a new putter is an absolute “necessity.”
Peacekeeping Tip: Regardless of your budget, decide on a set amount of money for each spouse to be able to use without accountability. That way, whether it’s $10 per month or $500 per month, you can each know that you have this amount to spend on whatever you deem necessary (or just fun).
Division of Labor
Dishes, laundry, lawn care, cleaning…These chores only start the list of all the responsibilities required to maintain a household. And when two people live together, they will most likely experience some amount of conflict over who should be taking care of which responsibility. Often, in fact, they will each be taking care of much more than the other person realizes, possibly resulting in feelings of under appreciation and even resentment.
Peacekeeping Tip: For one week, each of you should keep track of everything you do around the house. Then sit down together and assess what you are both doing. Based on this, set up a chore list that feels fair to each of you. (Depending on how much you are both working outside the home, “fair” may not necessarily mean a 50-50 split.) Try your new system for a couple of weeks and then reevaluate. For even more peace in this area of your relationship, work on acknowledging and thanking each other when you notice that little chores have been completed.
It’s not always the case, but the frequency (or infrequency) of sex is often the driving force behind many marital conflicts. Other arguments may also arise over differing amounts of desire for or enjoyment of sex.
Peacekeeping Tip: Although a large portion of the marital conflict surrounding sex would be solved if the wife initiated sex on a somewhat regular basis, it obviously wouldn’t solve all the problems. We’re not saying that it’s her responsibility—just that if she took the initiative more often, not only would she have more say in terms of frequency and schedule, but she might also have to deal with fewer complaints from her husband.
Some annoying habits are so common — like leaving the toilet seat up, being too picky while ordering at a restaurant, and always running late — that they’ve become cliché. Others are more idiosyncratic, like leaving fingernail clippings on the couch, humming during movies, or making a loud popping noise while eating grapes. But no matter how innocent or unique a person’s habits may be, they can really drive someone crazy.
Peacekeeping Tip: Let it go. There are too many important issues to argue about in a marriage to get worked up over your partner smelling his or her socks before throwing them in the hamper. And if you can’t let it go, avoid talking about it over and over again. As much as possible, just remove yourself from the room so you don’t have to deal with it.
Boy, talk about clichés. But those mother-in-law jokes didn’t just write themselves. Many an argument has arisen over where to celebrate the holidays or how involved one spouse’s parents should be in a couple’s life and relationship.
Peacekeeping Tip: Prioritize your own relationship and always work as a team. Love your own parents and be kind and respectful to them, but never waiver in your support of your spouse. We aren’t saying that you can never side with your parents or disagree with your spouse. But make sure that your husband or wife knows that you’re ultimately on his or her side.
Out of all the issues on this list, this may be the one that can get the most emotional. Parents care so much about how best to raise their kids that sharing responsibilities in this area can cause big-time conflict. Moms and dads will often argue about how permissive or strict to be, when and how to discipline, how best to protect and challenge their kids, and all kinds of other issues.
Peacekeeping Tip: Realize that you don’t both have to parent in the exact same way. Decide which values and principles are most important and then commit to responding from a united front. But keep in mind that it’s OK if parents approach things differently from time to time. And when you do disagree on how to handle a situation, discuss it out of the children’s sight and then make sure that your kids realize that you are working together as a team. Or, if your kids know that you two disagree on how to handle a matter, discuss it with the children and offer them a model of how two mature adults communicate and negotiate when they don’t agree.
A marriage can bring deep fulfillment and satisfaction to two people when they are willing to work hard at loving and compromising with each other. Even in the best marriages, conflict just comes as part of the package. The more you can address that conflict from a place of respect and openness, the better chance you’ll have of building a relationship that not only lasts, but also gets stronger and deeper through the years.