Tempers WILL flare.
All couples argue. Sometimes it’s just minor bickering, and other times you need to clear the room and call in a referee.
But, despite how uncomfortable it feels in the moment, fighting actually isn’t "bad." In fact, experts say arguments between couples are a sign of intimacy, NOT of breakdown in the relationship.
A group of "emotional intelligence" experts in London suggest that because we have such faith in our partner, we often expect him or her to solve all of our problems. We believe in that one special person so much that we assign superhero powers to him or her without realizing it. So, it's easy to see why we feel disappointed and frustrated when they don’t swoop in like Superman or Wonder Woman and magically fix it all.
So, if conflict is inevitable, how do we fight with the one we love without causing damage to our relationship?
Here are three powerful questions to ask yourself when tempers flare to make sure you and your mate "fight nice:"
1. Are you blaming your partner?
Do you believe that if you talk about it enough, gather enough opinions, explain your perspective yet again, you’ll fix the situation? It rarely works out that way. So, ask yourself, "Can my partner really 100 percent fix this problem?” Often the situation (and our frustration) is much larger and more complex than any one person or fight can fix.
Don’t attack and blame your partner every time life (and your relationship) isn’t all rainbows and roses. Are your expectations in the situation fair or realistic? No one person is responsible for ensuring that you never feel frustrated or need to struggle. No one completes you. You are already complete. It's not your partner's job to fix you. Don’t expect your mate to have any more power to fix situations that you can’t control either.
2. Are you really fighting with the right person?
Are you yelling at your spouse because of something he or she did, or are you really yelling because you're mad at your boss, or the relative who still owes you money, or your child’s infuriating coach?
Yelling at others who aren’t really part of the problem, or "kicking the dog," is what psychologists call "displaced aggression." You get spun up at home and start fighting with your Little Love Muffin because your boss questioned your intelligence in a staff meeting, or because traffic was horrible on the way home. We place our aggression and frustration on our safe, always present (yet unsuspecting) mate.
Think before you kick. Is the one you love really at fault here? Would your relationship benefit from something other than an argument right now, like going for a run, taking a long shower, or making a productive mess in the kitchen? Maybe hug your partner instead of turning your biggest supporter into an emotional punching bag.
3. Do you know what pisses your partner off about money?
Couples fight about money ... a lot!
A recent study by SunTrust Bank found that money is the leading cause of stress in relationships. And a Citibank survey revealed that 57 percent of divorced couples cited "money problems" as the primary reason for throwing in the towel.
Money fights are painful because they feel very personal and finances strike fear in the bravest of hearts. After all, money equals power, security, etc.
As financial planners, we know that couples have so many money fights because they rarely approach money the same way their spouse does. Conflict is almost guaranteed.
You and your partner each have a unique way of thinking about and dealing with money. We call that unique approach to finances your "Money Personality."
For example: perhaps you don't mind dropping a ton of money on a weekend getaway with the girls because you'll treasure the memory forever. But your husband watches every penny, uses Groupons, and takes his lunch to work. He sees the credit card bill with the "retreat weekend" expenses, and he comes un-glued. You see money as a means to an end. Your husband sees the loss of money as "the end."
Understand your own approach to money and how that differs from your partner's approach. FYI — neither of you are likely to change your approach anytime soon, so yelling — again — about each other's money habits will get you nowhere.
Look, fighting is never fun (although making up sure can be!).
Expect some fights in your relationship, just don't let them get ugly (and don’t tolerate abuse). Better yet, learn to shelve the irritations that don’t warrant another fight. Let some stuff go so you can get back to focusing on love again.
Scott & Bethany Palmer, The Money Couple, are financial planners, authors, and speakers who help couples solve their money issues. Take their free, online "Money Personality" Assessment to learn about your approach to money and figure out how to fight less about finances. Also, grab a copy of The 5 Money Personalities: Speaking the Same Love and Money Language.