Last Thursday, I met Leah for an emergency appointment. “I just needed to vent about Jake! We had a fight.” I’m no stranger to propping up my clients from time to time as they navigate battles and break ups. So, when Leah broke the news about a fight with her soon-to-be husband, I felt prepared.
You see, I have discovered that many fights fall into one of three categories; Leah and Jake’s situation was no exception. Curious what I shared with Leah, my neighbor and bride-to-be? Check out my top three fight factors; keep these in mind and they may help you save your relationship.
The Top Three Fight Factors: Time, Trust, and Money
Fight Factor #1 – Time
“We barely see each other!”
“You never have enough time for me.”
“I feel like this relationship isn’t a priority to you.”
Does any of that sound familiar? Leah’s ears perked up when I mentioned the first of my three fight factors. “That’s totally us!” She said. “Don’t worry,” I told her, “It’s normal.” Many couples struggle over how to achieve a healthy balance of time together and apart that leaves both partners satisfied and ready to be successful in their daily routines. For most pairs, the time issue ultimately pivots on quality, not necessarily quantity. “Have you and Jake thought of planning a weekly date time? It could be a Tuesday night or a Sunday morning. Just a block of time that is reserved for just the two of you.” A little regular one-on-one time goes a long way.
Fight Factor #2 – Trust
Trust is a tricky one because it is so far-reaching. Trust issues may taint a relationship because of a simple lack of consistency or timeliness or they may be as serious as one partner feeling that the relationship lacks fairness or absolute honesty. In the course of our talk, I figured out that Leah and Jake were working through some basic trust issues. “He gets so mad when I show up late to dinner or I forget to pay the phone bill!” Leah shared with me. Like I coach anyone about trust, I advised Leah to start small. “Show him you respect him and his boundaries by making an effort to be timely for dates as well as responsible for your share of the bills.” Typically, fights over wounded trust endure because one partner doubts that the other is sincerely committed to resolving the problem. (A common side effect of broken trust!) To resolve a fight rooted in trust issues, both parties need to be willing to communicate honestly and openly, setting limits and then taking immediate, active steps to re-enforce simple bases of trust. Making sure to show up on time for date night is an easy starting point.
Fight Factor #3 – Money
I saved the most common fight factor for last. I know few couples who don’t experience the occasional cash quarrel. Do you know the way to save your relationship heading for money-related mayhem? (I’ll give you a hint, it goes hand in hand with my second fight factor.) The answer is transparency! Couples who hide their financial details from each other to avoid conflict often end up in worse trouble. Although it is normal to find money matters uncomfortable to discuss, it is important be an open book-keeper in your relationship. Sit down with your sweetie and develop a financial plan and everyday budget that works for both of you. Then, make sure to check in with each other. You can curb future fights by wearing your financial worries, woes, and wins on your sleeve.
It’s been a few days and Leah and Jake are back to normal (smooching and giggling like your typically lovesick, engaged couple). What about you? Would you let us in on how identifying and working on these three fight factors has helped save your relationship?
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