Disagree without Being Disagreeable

A friend\’s husband told her early in their relationship that there was no need to fight. He said, “Everyone tells you to learn to fight fair. But I say, we don\’t fight at all.” Always a coward in the face of conflict, she thought that was great. And they don\’t fight, meaning they don\’t throw things, dredge up old hurts from the past, or raise their voices to ear-splitting decibels. But they do fight, meaning they disagree. It would be tough to exist as an individual entity without feeling differently from your spouse every once and awhile.

In fact, no fighting or disagreement at all might be a red flag for a relationship. Another friend\’s husband was controlling and had to get his own way about everything, down to where they went for dinner. Always. She found it futile to even try to go to a restaurant of her choice—or do anything else without him shouting her down until he got his way. Finally she learned to be silent and constantly compliant—never even a slight disagreement—right up to the moment she divorced him. Their children were in shock because they never saw their parents arguing.

It\’s a good idea to discuss things before they erupt into fights. What are the hot buttons that cause the most discord for most couples?

1)    Money. There\’s always one partner who spends more than the other. Or there\’s always one partner who is more frugal than the other. It\’s hard to find a perfect match in a relationship, if not impossible. And that\’s just the beginning. There are all sorts of spending and saving habits, opinions about where to put your money, when it\’s a good time to scrimp, or when it\’s worth it to spend a little more to save in the long run. One person can think the stock market is a sound long-term investment while the other thinks it\’s the same as gambling in a casino. There are as many ideas about how to spend and save as there are couples. So work together to set up a budget, and stick to it. If it\’s appropriate, choose a financial counselor you both agree upon. Then when either or one of you wants to go outside the agreed upon parameters, discuss it with your partner first.

2)    Family. If you are in a relationship relatively early in your life, you will have ideas about how to you should spend the holidays with parents, cousins or siblings. Maybe vacation with them. Your ideas are probably based on how your parents operated—whether you emulated them, or have learned you prefer to do the opposite. If you are in a relationship later in life, when children, stepchildren and their spouses and children are in the picture, it\’s even trickier. You will have one set of traditions and your partner another. You need to have a talk about how you two will spend time with family—on both sides. What traditions are critically important to each of you that you should maintain? If you\’re overwhelmed, are there some traditions that can go by the wayside for the sake of your sanity? You need to agree on a plan that\’s fair to both of you. If an equitable plan seems impossible, counseling may help.

3)    Sex. Good sex is key to a good relationship, but it\’s often a topic that\’s difficult to discuss. It\’s important to get over that reluctance, and may require professional guidance. But it\’s worth it because a good sexual bond with your partner can be a source of rich satisfaction. Remember that regardless of your age at the beginning of your relationship, you probably began with an overwhelming physical attraction that is bound to ebb over time. And then you may discover you each have different libidos. Life stressors affect your sex drive and your partner\’s too, no doubt at a different rate. Also, over time, your sex drives change, your bodies change and your interests change. Keeping an open conversation about sex throughout your relationship will enhance it.

There are plenty more hot buttons that happy couples discuss. Next week I\’ll talk about a few of them.

Nancy Travers is an Orange County Counseling professional.  If you need safe, effective counseling services, please get in touch.  You can reach her here: http://www.nancyscounselingcorner.com/contact-us.

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