Recognising the flashpoints in a relationship is the first step to avoiding them.
“You spend too much money”
When you’re single, your money was yours and yours only — but when $350 vanishes from a joint account between Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning, you’ve got some serious explaining to do. ‘Fiscal infidelity’ — lying about how much you earn and spend — can betray almost as much trust as infidelity of the physical kind, so use the joint account for payments like bills and rent, but retain individual stashes that you each have full control over so there’s no bickering over that umpteenth pair of shoes or that $120 round of drinks.
“You never help out around the house”
The most tedious fight in the book, with the easiest solution. Whip out the pad and paper and divvy it up like you used to choose footy teams in the schoolyard, with each one of you picking chores one by one: ‘I’ll take the bathroom, you take vacuuming, I’ll take dusting, you take the bins’. And it’s important to show appreciation for each other’s efforts — if she’s just spend two hours cooking your favourite meal, don’t gloat too loudly about taking 10 minutes to do the dishes.
“We don’t have enough sex”
The most likely argument to simmer under the surface because it’s so awkward to bring up, but it’s easy to feel resentful or worry your partner finds you unattractive if you’re not open about your expectations between the sheets. A relationship isn’t a season ticket to a certain quantity of sex, but you’re certainly entitled to have a frank conversation about what you need in the intimacy stakes. And take every opportunity you can to get intimate — if there’s a better way to release that simmering tension, we haven’t heard about it.
“You’re turning into your mother”
You’re a lucky man if you love your in-laws and the feeling’s mutual — for the rest of us, take a deep breath and mind your manners because this is an argument that’s not worth having. Her dad might not think you’re good enough for her, her mum might be a nag, her brother might still live at home as he consumes an industrial amount of pot as he meanders his way through a seven-year arts degree . . . but her family were in your partner’s life long before you rocked up, and they’ll be there when you leave, and the only thing heat-of-the-moment insults are going to achieve is opening deep wounds that eat away at your relationship. Zip it.
“You’re so controlling”
Plenty of partnerships thrive on the yin and yang of different personalities — one person’s happy to go with the flow while the other maintains passionately particular views about how the sock drawer should be arranged — but you need to have an equal vote on the important issues otherwise resentment will bubble away. A serious power mismatch where one partner micro-manages every aspect of life sounds the alarm bells loud and clear — stand up to that manipulation, or evacuate the situation if those alarm bells start getting too loud to ignore.