The Five Most Common Things Couples Fight About – And How To Overcome Them

The Five Most Common Things Couples Fight About:

  • Money/Resources

  • Sex/Affection/Intimacy/Attention

  • Kids/Parents/Friends/Pets

  • Work/Hobbies/Free Time

  • Mess/Order

The conventional wisdom of relationship therapy will suggest that you prepare, focus, and get clear about how you can ask about what you want in a healthy way. 

When we are hurting in a relationship, we need to repair quickly and effectively to get through the pain and find relief.

It provides us hope!

But, let’s face it, as much as we may want to change our partner or spouse, it is unlikely that my messy husband, or your perpetually late wife, is going to start to do what we want them to do.

So, we need to accept each other and develop workarounds that will help us both get our needs met

  • Let’s take a look at each topic and how to overcome our most problematic conflicts. And relationship hacks that can get you out of the conflict fast. 

  • So, follow this simple process with any of these five topics you might find yourself fighting about. First, look at the chart below for determining what you are REALLY fighting about and apply each step in each column to the two of you. Then, go to the last column and determine what each of you really wants and needs, and finally, design a workaround to meet the needs and wants.

An example might be, from the money topic, what I want is to live stress free with money to have what we need and want and have it easily.

My partner wants to live within our means. 

Relationship Hack: We have a financial planner, but have never done a budget together before. I searched around and found YNAB, a simple budget planner that helps us understand where our money is flowing through and how both of us get what we want.

Money and Resources

This is a super thorny issue because in our current culture, without it, we cannot survive.

It often triggers the most basic fears in us based on our parents’ relationship to it, our financial security as children (which can be a factor if there was enough fear and struggle to cause PTSD), and our current means of making it. 

Ask yourselves, what emotion does this trigger in me and what need was I trying to get met

Then we can do a relationship hack to meet those needs.

Example:

Couple Argument Issue: Money/Resources What emotion does this trigger in me and my partner? (If it’s anger, go deeper.) What I really need or long for is:  
Me Fear I long to have what I need easily and without stress
My Partner Anger and underneath fear I long to live within our means
Relationship Hack What emotion can I imagine when we figure it out?: Peace and relief We use an online budget like YNAB

Sex and Physical Intimacy

Libido, sexual desire or needs for affection, attention or physical intimacy is something that is frequently mismatched in couples. 

We may be arguing or having conflict and feel hopeless or helpless to get our needs met in healthy ways when we have a sexual or physical intimacy mismatch.

Remember, you create the ground rules with each other

It is very important for us to talk about where we get our sexual/intimacy messages and what we want to do with them as a couple.

This sensitivity and ability to talk with each other will help design a satisfying intimate life. 

Each of you get clear on the below and then discuss how to get your needs met in a healthy and mutually beneficial way.

Example:

Couple Argument Issue: Sex/Intimacy/Touch What emotion does this trigger in me and my partner? (If it’s anger, go deeper.) What need or longing was I trying to get met?
Me Sadness I long for physical touch given and received freely and to have regular connection with my partner
My partner Sadness I want to have more sex and intimacy
Relationship Hack What emotion can I imagine when we figure it out?: Deep Connection  We schedule an intimate night where we share our fantasies for our relationship and design an intimacy continuum in which we each get a bit of what we want

You, Me and a Third

When it comes to managing the relationship with your partner, there are other relationships in your life that you have to consider – your kids, extended family, friends, and even pets.

These are the extra ‘heartbeats’ as my husband calls them, that affect our relationships. 

The responsibility that we have to these beings is important and some more than others.

The oxygen mask reminder on a plane is apt when we are considering how to manage all the other relationship “thirds” (as Stan Tatkin, PhD calls them in his book, “Wired for Love”).

The couple bubble contains (1) me, and (2) you and anything else is a third. 

In order to have a healthy relationship with any of these thirds, we must first take care of the couple

Take a look at the below and decide how these affect you and how you can set boundaries for yourselves as a couple to protect the couple bubble.

Example:

Couple Argument Issue: Kids/Parents/Friends/Pets What emotion does this trigger in me and my partner? (If it’s anger, go deeper.) What need or longing was I trying to get met?
Me Jealousy I want someone to have my back and see me and my needs first
My Partner Hurt I want someone to have my back and see me and my needs first
Relationship Hack What emotion can I imagine when we figure it out?: Connection and joy We speak to each other before making major decisions on where we spend holidays and weekends

Work, Hobbies and Free Time

Getting on the same side of an issue requires that we are honest about what we are spending our discretionary time on.

Do you each have things that are important to you? 

Anything we are spending time on outside of our relationship is outside the couple bubble or, a third.

We have to have interests outside of our relationship and it is important to determine how we want to relate to those things as a couple. 

When my husband goes fly-fishing for a weekend, the benefit to me is that he comes back home as a better dude, husband, and father. 

Examine the below as a couple and determine in what way you can manage time so each of you gets the important couple time and ALSO time for the other things that make us happy.

Example:

Couple Argument Issue: Work/Hobbies/Free time What emotion does this trigger in me and my partner? (If it’s anger, go deeper.) What need or longing was I trying to get met?
Me Fear I long to have what I need easily and without stress
My Partner Fear I want to be able to enjoy the things I was doing before we got together that make me happy
Relationship Hack What emotion can I imagine when we figure it out?: Fun and joy Scheduling two weekends where we each take care of the kids and the other goes away with friends

Mess and Order

Life is messy…whoever said that first opened a door to the 80% of us that have some kind of disorder in our homes, offices, and heads. 

As a couple, we need to understand that each of us will have different tolerance levels for each other and our capacity for disorder. 

One person may feel like they do most of the work and the other person doesn’t even see the mess.

So get underneath what mess means to you and apply a strategy for you both to get what you want.

Example:

Couple Argument Issue: Mess/Disorder What emotion does this trigger in me and my partner? (If it’s anger, go deeper.) What need or longing was I trying to get met?
Me Fear of no partnership I long for order. It helps me to feel calm.
My Partner Anger and underneath fear I long to have the pressure lifted and to feel appreciated
Relationship Hack What emotion can I imagine when we figure it out?: Relief and calm We hire a housecleaner once a month and alternate cleaning the bathrooms in between

Are You Ready To Make This Love Work?

This LoveWorks is more than therapy.

As a relationship therapist and coach with over 20 years of experience, I’ve worked with clients during the most challenging times in their relationships.

Through open and honest communication, I challenge people to acknowledge each other’s intrinsic wholeness and worth to cultivate strong, genuine connections.

The work won’t always be easy, but achieving your most important relationship goals, cultivating real connections, and building and maintaining the relationship you desire is WORTH it!