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25 Fun Holiday Date Ideas for Couples

Get cozy and grow closer with this merry little list that's guaranteed to make the holidays sweeter!

The holidays are the perfect time for couples to experience closeness and connection in the spirit of the season. Try out a few of these fun holiday date ideas with the one you love most! 

  1. Watch your favorite Christmas movie with some gourmet hot chocolate
  2. Pick up some donuts and coffee and visit neighborhoods to look at Christmas lights.
  3. Bake Christmas cookies together to give to family, friends, neighbors, or first responders. 
  4. Pick out a live tree or wreath at a Christmas tree farm.
  5. Check out a Christmas concert, either live or online. If you’re on a budget, look up local places of faith or high schools having choir or band concerts.
  6. Go Christmas gift shopping in your Christmas pajamas.
  7. Support a local organization such as Toys for Tots by shopping for and delivering gifts for needy families.
  8. Build gingerbread houses together using graham crackers, icing, and an assortment of candies.
  9. Decorate outside of your house with Christmas decorations and add one thing new this year.
  10. Go ice skating.
  11. Create ugly Christmas sweaters together and wear them out to eat.
  12. Have a couple of Christmas photos taken, either by a photographer or yourself using your phone. Be as creative and humorous as you can with locations and poses.
  13. If the weather is right, go sledding, build a snowman, or have a snowball fight. (Or make your own snow!)
  14. Go caroling with other couples or another group.
  15. Do your own photoshoot in matching Christmas pajamas.
  16. Have a backyard fire with hot chocolate and marshmallows.
  17. Dance in your living room to Christmas songs. (Set the playlist on random!)
  18. Have your picture taken with Santa.
  19. Take a holiday cooking class together, either in-person or streaming.
  20. Wrap gifts while playing holiday songs and eating Christmas treats.
  21. Visit your favorite coffee shop and write Christmas cards to families and friends. (Or create a Christmas letter.) 
  22. Watch “A Christmas Story” and give each other a kiss every time the words “Christmas,” “Santa,” or “You’ll shoot your eye out” are said.
  23. Give each other a soothing massage with oil or lotion, candles, soft Christmas music, and nothing but the Christmas tree lights on.
  24. Get a box of assorted chocolates from the store and take turns giving each other a bite and guessing the flavor.
  25. Do holiday karaoke. 

There’s no excuse to not enjoy some special time with your spouse this holiday season. Pick one of these ideas and make a fun holiday date this week. And happy holidays!

What would it look like to be completely stress-free in your marriage? Wouldn’t it be outright, utter marital bliss to wake up next to your spouse, depart for the day, rejoin together, and go to bed at night with the one you love the most without an ounce of stress pervading your relationship? 

Well, unfortunately, you can’t completely eliminate stress from your life. But you can manage stress and become a stronger couple as a result of it. The idea is to manage stress so that it does not manage you… and do harm to your health, your emotions, and most important of all, your relationship. 

What’s a Stressed-Out Couple to Do? 

Here are five ways you and the one you love the most can manage stress well… and grow stronger in your marriage at the same time! 

Come Together.

Perhaps the Beatles knew something about stress management in marriage. Stress research tells us that one of the best tools to manage stress (if not the best tool) is a strong support system. And you have no better support system than each other. Make spending regular time with each other a priority (without the kids). Talk. Do the fun things you love doing together. Reconnect

The Big 3: Sleep, Diet, Activity.

The research also tells us that if you want to manage stress and not have it manage you, you’ve got to get plenty of sleep at night (7-8 hours), eat clean and healthy, and get out and work the bod, whether it’s a heavy-duty workout or simply taking a walk. And hey, the Big 3 can be done together! Why is this good? Because you’re each other’s strong support system (see bullet #1). 

Be Physically Intimate.

Loving touch lowers the brain chemicals at work when stress builds, and increases those that bring joy, euphoria, and the ability to work yourself down the ladder of high stress. Cuddle on the couch. Hug each other daily. Give (and receive) back rubs. Hold hands. Lay your hand on their leg or shoulder. Yes, even those seemingly small non-sexual touches can make a tremendous difference in how well you handle stress. And sex? Yeah, that works, too. Let’s just say that having a strong support system has never been so much fun (see bullet #1)

Ease Up On The Schedule.

If your calendar is filled up from dawn to the wee hours of the night with work, projects, responsibilities, and demands, you probably aren’t leaving much margin for your brain to snap out of fight/flight/freeze. Give yourself space in your schedule just to be, especially at night when you’re winding down. Practice the fine art of saying “NO.” Find joy in writing in your calendar times to connect with your spouse. Or to nap. Or to have sex. Seriously

Make Self-Care a Priority.

The idea of “self-care” has been getting a lot of airplay in blogs, videos, and self-help books, but for good reason: it’s good to take care of yourself. Because here’s the thing: how can you take care of your marriage (and your spouse) if you don’t have anything to give? Self-care includes deliberate actions you take with the express purpose of taking care of your physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual health. So… get some sunshine. Journal. Meditate. Do yoga. Fish. Take a nap. Pray. Read. Cuddle with your pet. Practice positive self-talk (I tell my college students to think about what they would love for people to say to them to lift them up, and then just say it to themselves). Enjoy a piece of chocolate cake (in moderation, of course). The bottom line: do what works for you to rejuvenate and care for yourself. 

One more interesting thing about stress that you and your spouse really need to know

*(Fair warning: this gets a little psycho-babble, but bear with me here!)*

There’s a chemical in your brain called oxytocin. It’s gained popularity, becoming known as the “cuddle hormone.” It’s released when moms give birth, when dads look on their newborn for the first time, when a couple is on a first date, and when two people have sex. It makes you want to get closer to another person, to bond, connect, be intimate. 

Kate McGonigal, a Stanford health psychologist and author of The Upside of Stress, shares the real low-down on oxytocin: it’s a stress hormone. That’s right: it’s released when you experience something that stresses you out. Why? (And this is really cool…) This is your brain’s way of letting you know that you need to connect with someone (like, um, your spouse maybe?) to best manage the stress. 

You may not like stress, but it’s not going anywhere. But stress can be managed to where it doesn’t wreak havoc on your marriage. And you and your spouse have the power to use stress, and the brain with all its many wonderful processes, to draw closer to each other and strengthen your marriage. 

***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear that someone is monitoring your computer or device, call the hotline 24/7 at: 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

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There’s a lot that happens when a couple has their first baby

Sleepless nights. 

Endless, life-impacting decisions. 

The world being turned upside down.

Re-creating a “new normal.”

A constant fear of things going wrong.

The steep learning curve for both parents.

The list could go on, and on, and on. And I’ve heard it all… The good, the bad, the ugly, the astoundingly beautiful… And it’s all made me a little worried.

Reality Check

First, let me back up for a second. My husband and I have been married a little over a year, and we are not hoping to have kids for another two years or so. That being said, I’m fully convinced that I was brought into this world to be a mother. You can ask any friends or family. That whole “motherly instinct” has always come very naturally to me.

But for my husband… not so much. Although we both want kids someday, the timeframe and the number of kids differ just a little bit (or a lot, depending on the day). Even though we don’t have kids yet, the conversations around our future kids have already caused some division between us. And it’s caused a little bit of fear for the day that we do become parents.

And as we watch friends around us start to have kids and we hear the stories they share about all the challenges that come with starting a family, our fear has only grown…

“Wait, WHAT happens during delivery??”

“Are you SURE you want to go through that?”

“When we have kids, you can’t ________ anymore.”

“Why don’t we wait till we’re 40 and just adopt?”

“We’re cranky enough in the mornings on 8 hours of sleep.”

“There are very few parts of parenting that sound like a good thing…”

These are just a few pieces of conversations we’ve had about our future. The fear is real. And it’s for good reason.

But the desire to have kids is also real. Very real. So how do you balance the fear of parenting, the fear of having kids, the fear for your marriage—with the desire to have kids? Well, I can’t fully answer that for you. That’s something you and your spouse are going to have to work through together. But I can give you a few tips on how to have that conversation!

Here are a few questions to ask each other before having a baby:

  1. What are you most fearful about when it comes to having kids?
  2. In what area do you think having kids will cause us to have the most conflict?
  3. Is there anything we can do now to work on that area before we have kids?
  4. What tendencies do you see in me that might be a problem for you once we have kids?
  5. How will we share responsibilities so that one spouse isn’t totally overwhelmed?
  6. Are you willing to start our routines completely from scratch?
  7. How can we work together as a team and rely on each other’s strengths?
  8. What are your top 3 expectations of me as a parent?
  9. What roles did your mom and dad play in your life growing up? Are there ways you want to be like them? Not be like them?
  10. What are things I can do right now to help us both not fear becoming parents?

Prioritize Your Marriage

Having kids rocks your world. I don’t know that from experience, but I’ve been told that what seems like a bajillion times, so it must be true. Kids are a lot. They come with new responsibilities, new challenges, and new things to argue about.

And if you let it, being a parent might overtake being a spouse. But the key is to always prioritize your marriage first. Yes, kids require a lot. But they grow up. And after they’re grown, you’ll still have your spouse by your side.

So, choose today to strengthen your marriage. Actually, choose every day to strengthen your marriage. And the rest, even babies, will fall into place—a wonderful place.

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My husband and I were having a conversation about navigating work, caring for family, grocery shopping and the like. In the midst of trying to figure it all out and all the “what ifs,” I kind of lost it. Actually, not kind of—I lost my cool. My husband just stared at me. It took a minute (or 10) for me to get myself back together.

Actually, I took our dog on a walk and thought about what had just happened. We aren’t normally snippy with each other.

Let’s just put it out there: Life is super stressful and unbelievably complicated lately. We’re all probably feeling some level of fear about the future. It’s in these very moments that we need to be on guard and very self-aware in an effort to avoid hurting ourselves and those we love. 

If you’re wondering how to know whether you’re on edge or not, keep an eye out for these things. The signs could be any or all of the following: 

  • You’re not sleeping.
  • You are indulging more than normal in __________ (eating, sleeping, drinking, online shopping, as in retail therapy).
  • You’re quiet and withdrawn when you are normally not that way.
  • You feel like you’re going to blow up if your spouse leaves their dishes in the sink one. more. time.

All of these are telltale signs that you may be in the danger zone. So, what can you do so you won’t blow up on your spouse?

Your first line of defense is to communicate.

Talk with your spouse or someone who is part of your support system. The opportunity to have someone listen to your fears, frustrations and needs, even if they can do nothing to fix it, can help relieve some of the tension you feel.

Create a communication plan.

Sit down with your spouse and discuss how you will intentionally check in with each other to know how to best support one another. Don’t assume your spouse knows what you need.

Meditate or pray.

Practicing deep breathing, meditation/mindfulness, as well as praying can help relieve some of the pressure you are feeling.

Take a time out for yourself.

Sometimes we just need to time ourselves out for a few minutes. Sit in the bathroom, your bedroom, the balcony, your front porch or some other spot that will allow you to have a few moments of silence to recalibrate. It can be helpful to have regularly-scheduled times when everybody goes to a specific space. That way, everyone in the family has a chance to be apart.

Exercise!

Exercise is key to helping us release toxins, stress and tension in a healthy way versus taking it out on our spouse. Going for a quick run, a brisk walk (yes, even in the rain) a bike ride, doing jumping jacks inside or anything that will get your body moving and cause you to break a sweat is helpful. Walking the dog has been a huge sanity-saver for me.

Get connected with your support team.

Relying on your spouse to meet all of your needs will likely lead to even more frustration and tension between the two of you. Create coffee time or social hour, even if it’s through Google Meet, FaceTime, Zoom, or some other platform that will allow you to hang out with friends or family.

Take one day at a time.

None of us knows about tomorrow. To keep rehashing the “what ifs” will literally drive you crazy. It will be helpful to you, your spouse and the rest of your family if you can take things one moment at a time. The goal is always to navigate today.

Avoiding some things like unrealistic expectations and negativity will also be helpful. 

It is unrealistic to think that you aren’t going to have some meltdown moments. It’s bound to happen with anyone we’re around for an extended period of time. The goal is to avoid reacting. Instead, take a deep breath, count backward from 10 and then respond to the situation at hand.

If you’ve been focusing on the negative, you might want to refocus on a few positives, too.

Stop telling yourself you’re a failure or thinking your spouse is failing big time. Your brain believes what you tell it. If you think negatively about yourself and/or your spouse, it makes it hard to communicate and life becomes more complicated. All of us are trying to figure out how to adapt and adjust—even your spouse. We have a real opportunity to look for the good things our spouse is doing instead of focusing on what we see as a negative.

Love Each Other Well

One of the greatest things we can do is to love each other well. Remember the reasons you fell in love with your mate. Reflect on the good times you’ve had and what it took to make it through the hard times in the past. Be intentional about complimenting and encouraging them. Don’t lose sight of the fact that you are a team. Listen to their fears and frustrations. Be willing to compromise when necessary. When all is said and done, hopefully our family relationships will come out stronger because we’re choosing to think before we speak. At the same time, we’re trying to make things right when we lose our cool.

***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear your computer or device is being monitored, call the hotline 24/7 at: 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

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,

Do Happy Couples Argue?

It may not be the argument, but how you handle it, that matters.

Even after being married for 30 years, I vividly remember our first argument after we got married. It was intense and to be honest, it scared me. In my mind, I thought, “Wait, we are happy and we love each other, but happy couples don’t argue, do they?”

I wish I knew then what I know now: Happy couples do argue.

In fact, they actually argue about the very same things unhappy couples argue about – money, children, in-laws and intimacy.

Amy Rauer, associate professor of child and family studies and director of the Relationships and Development Lab at the University of Tennessee, along with three colleagues—Allen Sabey at Northwestern University, Christine Proulx at University of Missouri and Brenda Volling at University of Michigan—looked at two sets of couples who described themselves as happily married. One group averaged 9 years of marriage and the other group 42 years of marriage on average.

Couples ranked the issues they tended to argue about from most to least serious. Intimacy, leisure, household chores, communication and money were among the most serious, as was health for older couples. Jealousy, religion and family fell on the least serious end of the spectrum.

Researchers saw that these couples focused on the issues with clearer solutions. These solutions included division of household chores or how to spend leisure time. The couples rarely chose to argue about harder-to-resolve issues, which Rauer suggests could be one of the keys to their marital success.

“Focusing on the perpetual, more difficult to solve problems may undermine partners’ confidence in the relationship,” says Rauer.

Longer-married couples reported fewer serious issues and argued less overall, which is consistent with previous research suggesting that older partners’ perceptions of spending less time together may lead them to prioritize their marriage and decide some issues are not worth fighting over.

When it comes to not discussing the more difficult issues such as health and intimacy, researchers said that part of the challenge is when spouses believed talking about it might make the partner believe they were challenging their competence or it would make the spouse feel vulnerable or embarrassed, which might result in more conflict.

“Since these issues tend to be more difficult to resolve, they are more likely to lead to less marital happiness or the dissolution of the relationship, especially if couples have not banked up any previous successes solving other marital issues,” Rauer says. “If couples feel that they can work together to resolve their issues, it may give them the confidence to move on to tackling the more difficult issues.”

There are several really useful takeaways from this study.

  • Learning to choose your battles matters. Early on, it might be a little more difficult to discern what is a mountain and what is a molehill. Some of this can happen through conversation and some will happen through experience. The most important thing? Focus on the issue and don’t point the proverbial finger at your spouse.
  • Differentiate between issues that truly need resolution versus those that you can set aside for the time being. Sometimes timing or taking time to process can make all the difference. Some challenging issues really do require an amount of simmering to figure out what you think before you can even talk about a helpful resolution. Plenty of long-married couples could tell you that sometimes there is no quick fix. It may help to talk and think, then repeat the process over time in order to solve certain problems well.
  • Seek solution-oriented. Clearly, couples who focused on working together to find a solution seem happier in their relationship. Also, working as a team to solve less-challenging issues builds confidence that is helpful when tackling more complicated issues.
  • No matter what stage of marriage you are in, there will always be something to argue about. Remember – your spouse is not the enemy. Choosing the issues you will focus on matters. And making some intentional decisions together about how you will engage around those issues will impact your marital happiness, for better or for worse.

Even after 30 years of marriage, obviously there are issues that still arise.

We have learned over time that many of the issues we spent a lot of time and energy on were molehills. Ultimately, we began asking, “Is this something that will matter a month from now or six months from now?” If the answer was yes, we began to problem-solve together. If the answer was no, we stopped letting it distract us from what really mattered – our marriage.

***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear your computer or device is being monitored, call the hotline 24/7 at: 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

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Let’s be honest—boundaries can be hard to talk about for everyone. “Can we talk about boundaries with opposite-sex friends?” or “We need to talk about boundaries with social media. Both of those topics can easily be construed as passive-aggressive suspicion or even a flat-out accusation. 

So, let’s change that. Let’s take a look at why we need boundaries in the first place.

For any relationship to be healthy and thrive (and I do mean any relationship– marriage, in-laws, friendships, co-workers, even your relationship with yourself) there need to be some boundaries that are in place and respected.

These boundaries not only help us avoid uncomfortable, hurtful, even relationally destructive things, but they also help us feel safe and secure and allow our relationship to grow and deepen. They define and celebrate our relationship.

Boundaries are both a sign of and a byproduct of emotional and relational health. Boundaries show that we understand and respect where we end and where the people we care about begin. Saying “I do” is by definition saying, “I won’t.” A spouse that thinks they should be able to do whatever they want doesn’t understand marriage. But we’ll get to that…

Now, here’s the good stuff…

Boundaries help us avoid things that could damage our relationship, but they also allow all the good relationship stuff to happen. They help provide an environment where intimacy can grow and thrive. They are what makes us uniquely us. So, if we need to talk about boundaries with our spouse, let’s lead with the positive.

Even if your spouse really does hate boundaries, hopefully, they are down to talk about how your relationship is special, can grow, and how you can achieve deeper levels of intimacy. Try framing the conversation that way and see what happens.

Don’t forget the flip-side. Even if your spouse “hears” negative things when they hear the word “boundaries” rest assured they have their own list of things that help them feel safe and secure in your relationship. That’s just Being Human 101.

This can be a great place to start the conversation!

  • When do you feel the safest and most secure in our relationship?
  • What do I do that makes you feel guarded or uncomfortable?
  • When do you feel the closest to me? What do I do that hinders that?
  • What situations feel like a threat to our relationship being the best it can be?
  • What are your expectations when it comes to _____?
  • What are some healthy goals for us when it comes to _____?

When you start a conversation like this, you are showing how much you value your spouse and your relationship.

The word “boundary” is nowhere in sight. BONUS: you are leading the way with trust, respect, and vulnerability. You are starting with their needs. Also, notice the phrasing here. These aren’t “yes” or “no” questions like, “Do I ever do anything that makes you feel insecure?” You don’t want to stop the conversation before it has a chance to start.

Knowing your relationship goals, expectations, comfort-zones, and well… boundaries show that you are self-aware, emotionally mature, and value your spouse and your relationship with them. Even if your spouse hates talking about boundaries, don’t be afraid of these conversations; navigate them like the positive conversations they should be.

Looking for more marriage resources? Click here!

***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear your computer or device is being monitored, call the hotline 24/7 at: 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

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What people are thinking about about marriage may surprise you.

At the 2019 NARME Summit in Nashville, Dr. Scott Stanley shared what people are thinking about marriage using the latest marriage and cohabitation research.

If you’ve heard that married couples have a 50% chance of eventually divorcing, did you know that this statistic pertains specifically to Baby Boomers—the most divorcing generation ever in U.S. history? The news is better for those marrying today—their lifetime risk for divorce is only around 38%.

Before you get too excited about the divorce rate decrease though, it would be important to know that the marriage rate has also decreased. 

WHAT MARRIAGE LOOKS LIKE TODAY

According to Stanley, demographers and sociologists wonder whether people are marrying later or if a historic number of younger people just won’t marry. Some people are thinking marriage will bounce back, while others think the younger generations are afraid of or disinterested in marriage. 

This is quite perplexing when research, including the U.S. General Social Survey, indicates that around 95% of people say they are “pretty happy” or “very happy” in their marriage. Stanley says it’s possible that people are happy, but that when things go south, they may do so very quickly.

The average age of first marriage is currently 30 for men and 28 for women, but this delay in marriage puzzles many who have young adult children or grandchildren. Boomers and Gen Xers reflect on their own young adulthood and realize that not only did they marry in their early to mid-20s, but they also had children and jobs.

So what’s up with the delay? Stanley likens it to people milling around the airport who aren’t all there for the same reason. 

THREE TYPES OF SINGLES

  1. Seekers: Some are there seeking the one perfect person who will be perfectly attuned to them. Stanley cautions these seekers to examine if they are unrealistically seeking perfection from someone when they aren’t perfect themselves.
  2. Determined Delayers: The “determined delayers” at the airport might eventually be seeking “the one,” but are uninterested in finding them, at least for now. They say they want to get married—but maybe in five years or so. These delayers are either having fun trying out several relationships or are enjoying being uninvolved romantically.
  3. Wanderers: Then there are the wanderers, who aren’t looking for a relationship or preventing one either. If they get into a relationship and it works, they could easily end up married.

It’s when a seeker starts dating a determined delayer and doesn’t know it that things can get complicated. Stanley says ambiguity can lead one person in the dating relationship to believe that the other is more interested in marriage than they really are.

THE COMPETITION TO COMMITMENT

According to Stanley, the number one competitor to commitment in a relationship is how good your alternatives are and your awareness of them. People who carry a lot of relationship experience into marriage tend to think, “I hope this works, but if it doesn’t, there are other fish in the sea.”

“Marriage for many people has moved from being a cornerstone to your life to a capstone,” Stanley shares. “Instead of being foundational, it is a major achievement as a status symbol.”

Yet, the 2018 American Family Survey (AFS) indicates that 64 percent of us believe that marriage makes families and children better off financially. A large majority believes that marriage is necessary to create strong families and that society is better off when more people are married. The percentage of people who believe marriage is old-fashioned and outdated hovers in the mid-teens.

KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • If there is a benefit in delaying marriage, Stanley believes that perhaps people are self-insuring to protect themselves from potential loss. However, the downside of that means they are doubling down on individualism versus interdependence.
  • Friends used to connect their friends to their future mate, but the data shows that more people are meeting online instead. If people wisely use these online systems to look for someone who is a better fit instead of limiting themselves to only the people in their community, this is good news for relationships. Stanley says people need to think about what they are looking for and intentionally surround themselves with people who share their values.
  • People are wrestling with the idea of marriage for various reasons. When the AFS asked what was essential to living a fulfilled life, marriage was the lowest thing on the list. A good living, education and a rewarding job were at the top. It could be that people are thinking if they have those three things, their chances of making marriage work are greater, but no one knows for sure.

In The Atlantic piece, What You Lose When You Gain a Spouse, Mandy Len Catron contends that marriage is socially isolating, marriage is no longer what many want, there is too much emphasis on marriage and commitment is really the main thing, not marriage.  

Research does indicate singles have more social connections than marrieds, and they tend to have a broader community. When people marry, they do tend to invest their time and energy into their marriage. However, couples who know that marriage could become socially isolating can be intentional about building social connectedness and community.

THREE QUESTIONS TO CLARIFY COMMITMENT IN A RELATIONSHIP OUTSIDE OF MARRIAGE

For those who align with Mandy Len Catron, Stanley offers three questions that are important to ask.

Have you…

  1. Both agreed to a lifetime of commitment to each other?
  2. Publicly declared the depth of your commitment to those who matter most in your lives?
  3. Agreed to be faithful to each other for the rest of your lives?

The answers to these questions can help determine the trajectory of the relationship, for better or for worse.

***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear someone is monitoring your computer or device, call the hotline 24/7 at 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

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Why do couples fight? And what do they usually fight about?

Most people say they fight about money, sex, kids, and in-laws straight out of the gates.

In romantic relationships, all kinds of major and minor disagreements can impact the quality of a couple’s relationship. If you’re wondering what couples are most likely to fight about, check out this 2019 study by psychologists Guilherme Lopes, Todd Shakelford, David Buss, and Mohaned Abed.

They conducted the study in three stages with newly-married heterosexual couples. They looked at all of their areas of discord, and what they found was pretty interesting. Out of 83 reasons for couple conflict, they found 30 core areas which they placed into six component groups.

Component Groups:

  1. Inadequate Attention or Affection. This would include things like not showing enough love and affection, lack of communication, one not paying enough attention to the other, not being appreciated, and feelings.
  2. Jealousy and Infidelity. This was affected by real or perceived risk to the relationship from things like talking to an ex, possessiveness, past relationships, and differing opinions on whose friends couples hang around more.
  3. Chores and Responsibilities: Think about everyday tasks that couples may share. The housekeeping, chores, who does more work, not showing up when expected, and sharing responsibilities would fit here.
  4. Sex. One may want sex and the other doesn’t. Frequency of sex, sexual acts, and telling private information about the relationship to others—the list goes on.
  5. Control and Dominance. This would refer to events in which one partner tries to manipulate or control the other in some way.
  6. Future Plans and Money. Things like goals for the future, children, and the ability to invest in the relationship fall into this category.

Utilizing these areas of discord, the psychologists created the Reasons for Disagreements in Romantic Relationships Scale (RDRRS).

Key Findings

  • Jealousy and infidelity seemed to decrease after several years of marriage
  • A husband’s higher income contributed to control and dominance issues.
  • Men who were more religious mentioned less disagreement over jealousy and infidelity elements.
  • Relationship satisfaction improved over time, although the frequency of differences did not change significantly during the three years of marriage.
  • Females were less satisfied when there was more disagreement about control and dominance. As women grew older, there was more disagreement about infidelity and jealousy.
  • Women reported that sexual satisfaction was lower when there was greater disagreement about chores and responsibilities.
  • Women were more likely to guess they would have an affair in five years when there was greater disagreement around inadequate attention and affection.

Whether considering marriage, engaged, or already married, this info can provide a great foundation for a conversation about potential disagreements. There’s some relief in knowing that lots of people struggle with the same types of issues. However, it might be a bit disconcerting to find that the one you love doesn’t see things the same way you do. It’s pretty much impossible for two people from two different upbringings to come together and not have any differences of opinion about certain things.

Either way, knowing you have these differences or areas of conflict can help you talk about how you’ll navigate them so your relationship can thrive in the process.

How Do You Talk About It?

Find a time when you both can talk for 30 minutes or so without distraction. Choose one of the topics you differ on and begin sharing. Keep in mind, always seek information and to remain curious. Don’t include any rules about the conversation ending when the timer goes off! This also isn’t the time to try and convince your partner they’re wrong and should for sure see things your way.

Couples often find that seeking to understand their partner helps them make sense of why they think the way they do. It doesn’t mean you have to agree. You can still disagree on some things and have a healthy marriage, but it’ll require some effort on each person’s part. If you’re dating or engaged, your differences may be significant enough for you to evaluate whether marrying each other is the best next step. It really boils down to respecting your partner and doing what’s in your relationship’s best interest.

***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear your computer or device is being monitored, call the hotline 24/7 at: 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

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