Conflict is inevitable in every relationship, whether it’s about age-old issues like money and sex or contemporary ones like social media use and leisure time.
However, a relationship’s longevity hinges primarily on how these conflicts are approached and resolved.
In fact, a certain degree of fighting is not only inevitable but also healthy if it helps couples address and resolve underlying relationship issues. Avoiding conflict and suppressing thoughts and feelings can lead to problems, such as resentment and an eventual breakdown in communication.
Recognizing common topics of contention helps a couple find mutually-agreeable resolutions that maintain harmony in a relationship.
Here are three common reasons why couples argue and research-based strategies for effectively resolving them.
1. The Fight Over Finances
A study published in Family Relations found that while money only accounted for 19 percent of conflicts in relationships, arguments over money and finances were found to be “more pervasive, problematic, and recurrent” when compared to non-money issues. These conflicts also tended to remain unresolved, despite more attempts at problem-solving.
The most likely reason money gets a bad reputation is perhaps because money is strongly linked to feelings of personal power and independence.
A recent study published in the Journal of Consumer Research hints at an antidote to such abrasions caused by financial issues in relationships. The study recommends that couples merge their finances to safeguard against the decline in the quality of the relationship over time.
The findings suggest three potential reasons why merging finances leads to positive relationship outcomes:
- Joint accounts urge partners to consider how to justify their purchases to one other, leading to reduced conflict and better financial well-being.
- The transparency introduced by opening a joint account can allow partners to better understand each other’s priorities and align their financial goals.
- Merging money into a joint account can create a sense of togetherness and eliminate the dynamic of “your money” versus “my money.”
Open conversations while navigating these changes are vital. The lead author of the paper, Jenny Olson of Indiana University, suggests:
- Those who are newly engaged or newlywed often face confusion when combining their finances. They must have ongoing conversations to weigh the costs and benefits of different bank account structures and adapt to evolving needs and challenges.
- To effectively navigate these financial matters, regular and dedicated financial date nights can play a vital role. These planned conversations allow partners to prepare and avoid feeling blindsided by unexpected financial discussions or decisions.
2. The Sexual Struggle
Sexual intimacy plays a vital role in many romantic relationships, and differences in desires and needs can often lead to dissatisfaction and discord.
For instance, a recent study published in the journal Psychology and Sexuality suggests that heterosexual men, who strongly adhere to traditional gender role beliefs and endorse stereotypes surrounding male sexuality, may be more prone to engaging in sexual compliance, which involves consensual but undesired sexual activity.
This can occur when an individual engages in sexual acts for altruistic reasons, such as meeting their partner’s needs, or out of respect for established relationship norms.
To neutralize the arguments stemming from sexual dissatisfaction, research published in Sexual and Relationship Therapy suggests that couples incorporate sexual mindfulness in the bedroom and have authentic sexual communication, which could increase experiences of pleasure and meaning in their sex life.
3. The Chaos Of Household Chores
Division of household chores can cause conflicts among couples due to imbalances in responsibilities and differences in cleanliness standards. One partner may feel overwhelmed by their workload while the other contributes less, leading to feelings of unfairness and resentment.
One study published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior highlights how an unequal division of household labor can explain low sexual desire in women. The study’s findings indicate that women who took on a larger share of household chores compared to their partners experienced decreased sexual desire.
These women were also more likely to perceive the division of labor as unfair and to view their partners as dependent on them, both of which were associated with lower levels of sexual desire.
To address this issue proactively, research suggests that couples:
- Identify areas of inequality and explore ways to make changes that provide one’s partner with more support.
- Let your partner know that you’d like to explore ways to lighten their load around the house.
- Challenge traditional gender roles by promoting a teamwork approach to chores. By showing your commitment to sharing household tasks, you may experience improvements in other aspects of your relationship, including your sex life. For instance, a study published in the Journal of Family Psychology revealed that when male partners started making a fair contribution to housework, couples experienced more frequent sexual encounters and both partners reported higher sexual satisfaction.
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Conflicts are a natural part of any relationship. Understanding the fundamental reasons behind relationship friction can guide you toward resolution. When disagreements arise, remember to approach them with empathy, really listen to each other, and be open to finding compromises.