When you’re in a relationship, small “things” can feel like a very big deal. Breathe. Center. And don’t sweat the small stuff.
When two people are in relationship, regardless of how much they adore each other, they quibble. The bickering can range from silly to absurd, but in the midst of all other stresses in life, whether or not the cap has been returned to the toothpaste can feel like a really big deal.
Maybe it’s the way he does laundry. Maybe it’s the fact that her hair is all over the bathroom floor. The truth is, couples argue about silly things. According to Psychology Today, “Unfortunately, as most relationships mature, couples can find themselves bickering over small things.”
“There’s a system for that.”
Davida in Massachusetts said, “We can disagree on how to load the dishwasher. Not a full blown argument, but I will put a dish in and he will promptly rearrange. I laugh about it really.”
Another cause for frustration in her home, says Davida, “We have a basement with shelves for shoes. Those shelves can get crowded and sometimes it’s easier to just take shoes off and run upstairs without putting the shoes on a shelf. The kids are horrible about putting shoes away. I am guilty now and then. It doesn’t bother me as much, even though I am a neat nick. But my husband gets quite annoyed.”
The dishwasher is a bone of contention for a lot of people. Some of us have systems, the system works, and we don’t want anyone else messing with it. The same is true for grocery shopping or Target runs.
Anything’s fine (but not really).
Couples go from dating to living together, which makes the everyday decisions, like what to eat, a little for challenging. Steve from Indiana has had this conversation with his wife several times in the decades they have been together.
“What do you want for dinner?”
“I don’t care, whatever is fine.”
“Cool… so want to go get some Chinese?”
“No, I’m not in the mood for that.”
“No, I don’t want that either.”
“What would you like then?”
“I don’t care, whatever is fine.”
I felt his pain. Being completely indecisive about where to eat causes a lot of bickering among couples. While we’re talking about food, who buys it and who cooks it are also bones of contention in many relationships.
“What’s for dinner?”
Sometimes significant others are just frustrating people to deal with. There have been plenty of nights when my husband has called on his way home from work and asked “What’s for dinner?” Normally, I have a plan, but on the days I don’t, that question really drives me over the edge.
The Second Shift
I’ve learned in my conversations with friends that many couples bicker over the frustrations and responsibilities of second shift duties. When both partners work full time, that leaves a small window of time for tending to the duties on the home front. Couples who own homes and have children have their daily life stresses at work compounded by chores at home, from taking out the trash to mowing the lawn and cleaning the toilets.
The division of labor can cause some hiccups in otherwise happy relationships because the feeling that I do everything around here can be the impetus for a lot of bickering.
Whether it’s the grocery shopping or the Target runs, one person is usually the designated shopper. When combined with cooking, cleaning, and laundry, it seems as though the daily duties are never ending.
One friend said, “I could send him with a list, but I know that he will get the wrong brands. Then he’ll call me from the store and ask which one. It’s just easier if I do it myself.”
Being in an intimate relationship means intertwining lives with someone. The more time couples spend together, the more their daily habits are exposed. Alissa from California says, “We fight over sand in the bed! My husband is a surfer and I hate it when he comes to bed after being at the beach without getting all the sand off.”
Sweating the Small Stuff
When other bigger deals—like finances or family planning—weigh heavily on someone’s mind, people more often than not start to sweat the small stuff.
Unfortunately, even the interests that bring people joy can be cause for bickering. When vacation time and budget put restraints on how much couples can do and where they can afford to go, agreeing on the type of getaway can sometimes cause more frustration than excitement. Even when money isn’t an issue, two people agreeing on where to go and what to do can be a challenge.
Vacation time is so precious that agreeing on where to go and what to do during the little time couples have to escape can cause a tussle. “We also fight over how many nights a year we sleep in tents vs. hotels,” says Alissa. “I like hotels but also like to camp, just not 30 days a year. He hates hotels and loves to camp. I sleep in a tent like 25 days a year. He sleeps in hotels like three. Totally unbalanced.”
The Root of it All
It’s that need for balance, that need to be heard, that need to feel appreciated for all that we do and bring to a relationship that needs to be honored. People can get caught up in feeling overwhelmed and frustrated by the little things when they aren’t happy or feeling fulfilled in their relationships.
Being happy as part of a couple demands making concessions and expressing appreciation for all that the other person does well. Focusing on the richness and rewards that the relationship brings to life rather than the disappointments and dissatisfactions can help couples avoid these pitfalls into displeasure.
Hopefully, when they take the time to step back and reflect, couples can enjoy a good chuckle in recognizing the sometimes very bizarre reasons why couples argue. Davida says, “After 20 years of marriage, you learn to NOT sweat the small stuff.”
[image: via shutterstock]