This can be around spending habits, contributions to the household or because one controls all the finances and questions their partner about their spending. Or it could be because there is secrecy and one has run up huge debts without the other’s knowledge. Arguments and resentments crop up because one earns more and contributes more.

Even if you don’t have a head for figures it is so important you have an understanding of your finances. If the financial wizard gets sick you may need to take over. I am amazed when couples tell me they don’t have a budget worked out and have no idea where their money goes, and that their money doesn’t stretch each month. I have had a budget since I was 16, and know my monthly outgoings. If you don’t it’s time to sit down and decide on a workable agreement between you.

Household chores

If you are like me and dislike housework, it’s a pain, but unfortunately, we don’t all have a housework fairy who magically does it. Many couples have differing views on what is clean and tidy. Deciding on a way to share chores is the best way forward, and it’s important that you keep your side of the bargain. Complaining they haven’t done their chores within your time frame is counter-productive and will probably lead to more arguments and you being left to do it all.

Rather than ‘I need help’ which leaves the other confused as what to do or replying ‘you should know!’ aren’t helpful. They aren’t specific enough, and they can’t read your mind (which is fortunate at times as I’m sure you would agree).

Reminders can quickly turn into and be perceived as nagging, and complaints that it’s not been done ‘properly’ will lead to animosity leaving you to do it all. Show them or ignore it.

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Thank them – I know you don’t get thanked for everything you do, but you want help, support, and harmony – right? You are more likely to get the help you need by showing appreciation.

Kids and Parenting

Because you were likely to be parented differently from your partner, when you become a parent you are likely to have different views on parenting. So having a parenting agreement helps reduce friction. Otherwise, kids feel confused – and can play each parent against the other to get their way. This can be really damaging to the relationship with your partner. I have seen it so many times where mum says no, and they immediately go to dad, who says yes, without checking to see what their partner had said. It leaves a sense of being undermined which in turn leads to arguments and resentment.

Teenagers can be especially challenging. It’s not entirely their fault, as their body is going through a lot of change. Their brain is undergoing major changes. If you want to learn more, Google ‘Neural Pruning’. Some of the brain connections undergo pruning that it doesn’t consider useful. A bit like having your house rewired and deciding which sockets you need. Also, the prefrontal cortex, the brain’s remote control which weighs outcomes, forms judgments, and controls impulses and emotions doesn’t fully develop until mid 20s. At this time they are likely to have outbursts of anger and be completely unreasonable.

I’m not suggesting you ignore boundaries, but this knowledge may make sense to you – their suffering parents. It’s the reason their room appears that burglars have ransacked it or even why they fail to shower regularly and smell like the inside of a rubbish bin. It’s not a priority to them, even though you have told them many times.

That’s where regular family meetings are helpful. Where each person can air their views and things like sharing of chores, curfews, family events can be discussed. I always suggest the parents talk together first, to agree a united front and avoid slammed doors and more arguments!

Kids need to witness what a good healthy relationship looks like, and they learn that from you.

Let me tell you about James and Louise (not their real names). James found out that their teenager had a piercing. He was really upset, as he hadn’t been consulted, and as their dad he felt it important. He felt excluded and hurt as a result he retreated into his man cave for several days, not talking to any of the family. Louise said there had been an atmosphere, which had affected the whole family with them all walking on eggshells until James came round.

I asked James if he felt it fair to punish the whole family in that way. It wasn’t just a lightbulb moment, it was more like Blackpool Illuminations! It hadn’t occurred to him the impact he had on others, as he was so wrapped up in his own hurt feelings.
I suggested he talk to the kids and explain this to them, so they had an understanding of the way he dealt with hurt and upset, and hopefully, in the future, he would be able to deal with his feelings in a better way.

Youngsters can not only be affected by parents’ behaviour, but they may see this as normal and mimic it.

Extended Family

I am probably going to ruffle some feathers with my next statement, but it’s not going to stop me.

Once you enter into a committed relationship with a partner, that relationship is the most important and comes before all other relationships. Whether it be your parents and other family members or friends. They need to take a back seat.
That also includes your children; you produced them together in love and you need to parent them together, modelling what a healthy relationship is for them. One day they will fly the nest and you will be left on your own with the remnants of a relationship if you have neglected it.

I am not suggesting you don’t have a relationship with your family as of course they are important, but I see many situations where the umbilical cord hasn’t been cut between parents and their adult offspring. This leads to the incoming partner being controlled by them, causing resentments and ongoing arguments that can last for decades.

Your loyalty is with your partner, you are a team and a partnership.

Physical intimacy and Sex

I wrote about different sex drives in the July 2019 issue, so I won’t go into that here. If you are experiencing problems, and drifting apart, take time out to talk about it. Listen to each other, and together work out a way forward. Outward signs of affection are really important a happy relationship. One of you may want physical contact more than the other. Caring about that special person in your life sometimes means thinking about their needs and putting aside yours so they feel loved.

Being at odds in other areas of your life is likely to result with either one feeling defensive and less likely to want closeness with the other. So you can see the importance of ironing out the other areas of your life for intimacy to occur.

How to resolve arguments without falling out

Arrange a time to talk about the problem where you won’t be disturbed. It can help if it’s in a netral place. Maybe a café where you have to keep calm. Or even on a walk together.

Bring ONE issue that you want to talk about, if you bring more it just gets complicated and nothing gets resolved.
Speak calmly and don’t play the blame game as you will have lost the argument before starting.

Let your partner know that you want their help to resolve the issue together, that you value them and their opinions
Ask your partner to allow you to put forward your case without interruption and then listen to them without interrupting. Acknowledge their concerns rather than jumping in, and beware of the ‘YES BUT’ phrase. If you find yourself using that phrase, the chances are you are probably defending yourself or dismissing your partner’s point of view.

Ask questions if you don’t understand

Look beneath what is being said, because underneath what seems like niggles could be something deeper. For example – ‘You don’t help around the house’ could mean ‘I feel taken for granted’.
Be prepared to negotiate, rather than seek to get all your own way.
Litte niggles could be something deeper. For example – ‘You don’t help around the house’ could mean ‘I feel taken for granted’.

Be prepared to negotiate, rather than seek to get all your own way.

Wendy Capewell is a Relationship Specialist, author and podcaster.
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