Disagreements and arguments are a normal part of any healthy relationship. However, constant fighting and bickering can be detrimental. According to various studies and surveys, there are some common topics that many couples tend to fight about.
Finances are one of the leading causes of conflict in romantic relationships. A survey by Money Magazine found that 84% of couples argue about money. Issues like debt, spending habits, saving goals, and financial priorities are frequent sources of tension.
Often, fights over money are not really about the money itself. They represent underlying issues like different values, feeling under-appreciated, or lack of trust. For example, one partner may interpret frivolous spending as a sign of immaturity or irresponsibility. Or fights about money can stem from a power imbalance, where one partner feels they don’t have an equal say in financial decisions.
Tips for avoiding money fights
- Communicate openly about finances – discuss budgets, savings goals, expenses
- Compromise – be willing to negotiate and find middle ground
- Respect each other’s spending habits and priorities
- Make financial decisions together
Issues surrounding intimacy and sex are also very common relationship stressors. A survey by Harris Interactive found that 61% of couples report arguing about sex. Mismatched libidos, dissatisfaction with frequency or quality of sex, porn usage, and extramarital affairs can all spark fights.
Like money, fights about intimacy often represent deeper issues like power struggles, lack of affection, or poor communication. If one partner feels rejected, insecure, taken for granted, or uncared for outside the bedroom, this impacts the intimacy.
Tips for avoiding intimacy fights
- Discuss desires, turn-ons, fantasies openly and without judgement
- Don’t criticize each other’s bodies or performance
- Make time for non-sexual affection like cuddling, massage
- Compromise on frequency – don’t pressure or withhold
- Work on emotional connection outside the bedroom
Division of household responsibilities like cooking, cleaning, yardwork and childcare is another huge source of conflict for many couples. Often, the conflict arises from the perception that the distribution is unfair. One partner may feel like they are taking on the bulk of chores while the other isn’t pulling their weight.
Resentment can build, especially among women who tend to shoulder more domestic work even when they work full-time. Nagging about chores or keeping score often leads to fights. Disagreements over standards of cleanliness or how to do chores can also spark arguments.
Tips for avoiding chore fights
- Communicate needs and abilities – allow for flexibility
- Make a list of all chores and divide fairly
- Take turns with undesirable chores
- Outsource chores if affordable – hire cleaner
- Lower standards temporarily if needed – don’t nitpick
Time spent together vs apart
Most couples fight about the balance between time spent together versus time spent with friends, family, hobbies or alone. One partner may complain the other works too much or spends too much time on the golf course. Or one may be upset at the amount of money or time their partner devotes to their weekly poker game.
One partner may crave more quality time together, while the other values their independence. Finding the right balance is tricky and mismatched needs for togetherness vs autonomy is a common relationship struggle.
Tips for avoiding fights over time
- Discuss ideal time together vs apart and compromise
- Schedule dedicated dates and one-on-one time
- Respect each other’s outside interests and friendships
- Take turns choosing activities to do together
For couples with children, issues surrounding kids are frequent sources of conflict. The most common fights involve differences in parenting styles and discipline methods. One parent may think the other is too lenient or too strict. Disagreements over sleep training, education choices, parenting roles, and sharing childcare responsibilities also come up.
Fights about kids are so common because children bring up strong emotions. Parents may interpret differences in parenting approach as criticism or an attack on their competency. Exhaustion and stress of parenting can heighten tensions too.
Tips for avoiding parenting fights
- Discuss parenting values, roles and responsibilities
- Agree on house rules and discipline strategies
- Compromise when approaches differ
- Don’t undermine or criticize each other
- Make time for yourself and the relationship
Day-to-day communication issues play a major role in many fights between couples. Partners may fight due to misunderstandings, lack of listening, defensiveness, contempt, criticism, or stonewalling during attempts to discuss problems.
One partner may complain the other doesn’t open up or share their feelings enough. Or one is nagged for not communicating enough about their daily activities. Failing to communicate needs and emotional responses in a relationship breeds unresolved tension.
Tips for improving communication
- Actively listen without interrupting
- Use “I” statements to express needs and feelings
- Avoid criticism, sarcasm, insults during disagreements
- Refrain from stonewalling or withdrawing
- Check for understanding and clarity
In-Laws and Extended Family
Issues with in-laws, siblings, and extended family frequently spark arguments between couples. Meddling, intrusive, or overbearing in-laws are a stereotypical source of relationship trouble. But even well-meaning extended family can cause conflict.
One partner may take issue with the amount of time spent with or money given to family members. Or there may be disagreements over family traditions, values, politics, or how to handle dysfunctional family dynamics. Differing needs for family closeness is another source of tension.
Tips for getting along with family
- Set boundaries with tact – don’t vent, blame or gossip
- Discuss family issues privately – present a united front
- Compromise on family time – respect differences
- Clarify priorities – partner before extended family
Stress and Emotional Support
How couples provide emotional support to each other during times of high stress, grief, injury, job loss, or trauma can make or break the relationship. Fights may erupt if one partner feels abandoned, unappreciated or unsupported during difficult times.
The higher-stressed partner may lash out or make unreasonable demands. Nagging and resentment can turn into major arguments. Maintaining perspective and positivity during hardship is tough but vital.
Tips for supporting each other through stress
- Listen without judgement
- Validate their feelings and stress
- Help reduce external pressures
- Discuss love languages and needs
- Don’t take anger personally
Bad Habits and Annoying Behaviors
Pet peeves and bad habits that grind on the nerves can escalate into major fights if allowed to fester. Nagging one’s partner to stop behaviors like leaving dishes in the sink, chewing loudly, or cursing can breed resentment on both sides.
Letting these little things build up rather than addressing them constructively can lead to explosive fights down the road. Judging, criticizing or trying to change the other is especially damaging.
Tips for handling annoying habits
- Determine if it’s worth bringing up or better to accept
- Don’t criticize – use I statements to express effects on you
- Compromise – agree to changes that address the root issue
- Focus on positive traits and express your needs
Social Media, Phones and Technology
Excessive phone usage and social media can interfere with quality time spent together and breed jealousy and arguments. Partners may fight about one constantly being glued to their phone, ignoring the other person in favor of screens. Social media images or conversations can also spark jealousy, even when innocent.
Technology facilitates emotional cheating and outside relationships that overstep boundaries. Partners spending too much time gaming or watching TV means less time connecting.
Tips for balancing technology with quality time
- Set guidelines for phone use during dates, meals, time together
- Discuss feelings and boundaries surrounding social media
- Unplug regularly – do activities that don’t involve screens
- Put phones away after a certain time each night
Division of Labor
Fights over how labor is divided in the relationship and home spark resentment and anger. One partner may complain of taking on an unfair share of earning, childcare, housework, planning, organizing or emotional labor.
Imbalances in initiation of sex, conversations, dates and other relationship maintenance tasks can also cause issues. Partners may fight about one not contributing enough or about feeling unappreciated.
Tips for divvying up labor
- Track all tasks and time spent – visibility helps
- Divide based on strengths and availability
- Switch up tasks routinely so both get a break
- Outsource what you can afford – housecleaning, etc
- Express appreciation and recognize efforts
Anxiety, depression, PTSD, bipolar disorder, and other mental health conditions in one or both partners can lead to increased fighting. Symptoms like irritation, mood swings, isolation, insomnia or anger outbursts disrupt relationships.
Fights may stem from misunderstandings about symptoms or partners feeling abandoned, ignored or mistreated during episodes of poor mental health. Partners must learn how to support each other through rough patches.
Tips for supporting each other’s mental health
- Learn about their condition and treatment options
- Don’t take symptoms personally
- Encourage professional help when needed
- Discuss triggers and how to minimize them
- Check-in on their wellbeing compassionately
House, home and living situations
Issues like cleanliness, decor, pets, guests, noise levels, and privacy around the home are common argument starters. Partners may disagree on division of chores, home organization, rent vs buy decisions, or where to live.
Fights over “my space” vs “our space” and clashing living habits are especially likely when couples first move in together. Different needs for order, quiet, and household rules cause tension too.
Tips for avoiding home-life fights
- Decide on shared household rules and standards together
- Split chores based on individual strengths
- Allow each other space when needed
- Compromise on decor – incorporate both tastes
- Communicate visitors, parties, guests ahead of time
A partner’s alcohol or drug abuse can create relationship issues that spur arguments. Excessive drinking or pot use may disrupt family life or cause money and responsibility conflicts. Any kind of addiction breeds distrust and can damage intimacy and communication.
The user’s withdrawal from family life or denial about the extent of their substance problem often causes fights about related issues like money, chores and time together.
Tips for addressing substance issues
- Express your concerns and their impact on you/family
- Avoid nitpicking or shaming about use
- Encourage counseling or support groups
- Set boundaries about responsibilities and behaviors
- Don’t enable or cover up consequences
Distrust, Jealousy and Infidelity
Jealousy, secrecy, lying, and infidelity can irreparably damage trust between partners. Losing faith in one’s partner or suspecting cheating fosters extreme insecurity and conflict.
Snooping through phones or devices tends to backfire. Flirting outside the relationship and blurry emotional or physical boundaries also stir up arguments related to jealousy.
Tips for building trust
- Check-in about boundaries and expectations
- Don’t accuse without proof – avoid paranoia
- Keep communication open – discuss feelings
- Limit interactions that spark jealousy
- Reassure each other
Different Values and Priorities
Partners may fight due to fundamental differences in outlook, values and priorities. Religious, political and social viewpoints can clash. Wanting to start a family or not is a common make-or-break point.
Lifestyle compatibility, ambition levels, adventure vs routine preferences also spark conflicts and resentment when unmatched. Mismatch extends to priorities surrounding career, family time, health, pets, friends and hobbies.
Tips for bridging differences
- Discuss core values, dreams, priorities early on
- Look for shared goals and common ground
- Agree to disagree on certain topics
- Compromise and take turns when possible
- Respect each other’s autonomy
While every couple is unique, these areas represent the most common sources of conflict in romantic relationships. Money, sex, division of labor, communication style, family, stress levels, values and more can drive wedges between partners if not handled with care and compromise. But being aware of the common pitfalls can help couples anticipate and sidestep unnecessary fights. Understanding root causes and each other’s sensitivities is key, as is openly expressing needs in constructive ways. With commitment, empathy and effort, couples can navigate even hot button topics in positive ways.