According to the American Psychological Association, “Healthy marriages are good for couples’ mental and physical health,” (Adapted from the Encyclopedia of Psychology) yet 40-50 percent of marriages end in divorce.
Whether you’re married, engaged, or not even entertaining the thought of matrimony, a healthy relationship with your mate is not only desirable, but attainable. Every individual comes to the table with their own set of baggage, and today’s society presents a myriad of additional stresses on couples. Occasional bickering is to be expected, but when arguing becomes your number one method of communication, the relationship could be at risk.
Each couple has their unique quirks, but some common stressors include:
Today’s couples come from a variety of backgrounds and upbringings. The days of the male being the sole or even primary provider are gone. Even with changing norms, some individuals are less comfortable than others with traditional provider roles and deviations from these expectations.
Besides income, other factors such as joint vs separate backing accounts, combining bills or having individual expenses, and large purchase decisions can ignite resentment.
Typical couples juggle a busy lifestyle. Whether or not kids are involved, the workday rarely confines itself to 9-5. Household responsibilities like cooking, shopping, cleaning, and yard work can lead one partner or another to get hot under the collar if things feel inequitable.
Though we love to say, “opposites Attract”, one significant obstacle so-called “opposites” face is their perception of a social life. When one partner is an extrovert and the life of the party, and the other partner prefers a quiet night at home, disenchantment can bubble below the surface.
Probably the most difficult topic to disagree about is sexual intimacy. Maybe the problem lies in the build-up, the frequency or the practice itself. Individual expectations and needs are as varied as the people involved. What might seem like the easiest and most natural part of a relationship can actually be the smoldering ember that destroys the union.
The fire these factors and a host of others fuel can all be doused with a set of simple steps within the PLAN.
As unromantic as it sounds, planning is the key to avoiding conflict. Sit down with your partner and make a plan for common stressors. For example:
- a budget (including agreement on banking, spending, income expectations/roles)
- a chore chart (make a monthly or weekly agreement about cooking, cleaning, etc. & switch it up to keep it equitable)
- a social calendar (agree upon a reasonable number of date night and discuss upcoming social obligations)
- a commitment to intimacy (Now, you don’t have to schedule dates and times for sex, but you certainly may!) More importantly, openly discuss with your partner your feelings and expectations, and listen to the needs of your partner. When both people express their desires, it is easy to find a satisfying compromise.
Before you speak, listen to your concerns if they’re firing around in your head. Organize and reflect on what you want to say. If it’s your partner who’s expressing their annoyance with you, listen. Consider the issue from their perspective before reacting.
3. A-Address the issue.
Remember to focus on the issue that is causing the concern. Say, “I am having a difficult time with the amount of chores I’m doing around the house, and I’m feeling like there is an uneven distribution of household responsibilities.” Don’t say, “You never lift a finger around here!”
4. N-Negotiate a resolution.
The goal is not to win an argument but to resolve the problem. Keeping the discussion relevant to the issue and fair to both parties avoids unnecessary insults and subsequent hurt feelings.
Arguing doesn’t have to turn your relationship into a statistic. Don’t wait another day. Share the PLAN with your mate, and save the fire for the bedroom!