Disagreements in our relationships are very common, and yet there are some arguments it seems like almost all couples are having. Here are 4 fights that you and your spouse may have and some of the research behind why we might be so offended when they happen.

“I Just Want It All To be “Fair”

  • Ever had your children complaining that the older kids are treated better than they are? Ever felt angry that your spouse doesn’t do their “fair” share of cleaning around the house? Or have you ever felt like it’s not “fair” that you are the only one initiating intimacy in the marriage?
  • Fairness is a deeply wired and charged emotional need in humans.
  • CRAZY STUDY- Researchers found that simply walking through first class on a plane can make economy passengers really, really angry. Susan Fisk- Princeton Prof., cited the study from May 2016 — Researchers found that fliers who were reminded of social inequality were more likely to get angry and start “air-rage” incidents, becoming abusive or unruly toward crewmembers and other passengers. Air-rage incidents in the economy class were nearly four times more common in planes with a first-class cabin. And those incidents were more than twice as common in planes that required passengers to board from the front, meaning everyone had to walk through the first-class cabin.
  • TAKEAWAY- No one likes being reminded that another is getting better treatment than they are. So instead of spending hours about what is fair or not, open up the discussion, and know that the need for fairness is normal and frustrating. Use your talks to find a way to truly equalize outcomes.

“I Was Only Mean Because You Were Mean First”

  • Have you ever tried to blame your spouse for why you said something that was rude to them, because they were rude to you first? Or justified your “Yelling at the kids because your spouse was yelling at the kids first?” Well we may have a reason why your blaming of your spouse for your immoral behaviors might be right on.
  • Blaming others for our own failures, character flaws and lack of follow through may be more than just a form of scapegoating, and instead may be based in the research in getting better results.
  • CRAZY RESEARCH – Nicholas Epley, a professor at the Chicago University business professor, wanted to know what makes someone act more unethically when someone else is involved. In a 2015 study, participants worked in pairs: Player A would roll a die and report the number and then player B would do the same. If the players rolled the same number, they would each get that number of Euros as a reward. Each pair rolled the dice 20 times, meaning they should have rolled the same number about three times. Instead, the average pair said they rolled the same number a whopping 16 times. Even more interesting was that people seemed to egg each other on. Player B was more likely to lie when player A lied, meaning when player A kept saying they’d rolled a high number.
  • TAKEAWAY- When your partner says or does something that is against their value system, it seemingly allows you to do the same. The problem is, that will only create problems for you and will give your partner reasons to keep treating you inappropriately. So truly, immorality is contagious. So instead of using that old argument to justify why you’re both immoral, it might be best to decide if you want to quit justifying your immorality and instead just change it.

 “You Always Exaggerate What I’m Saying”

  • Have you ever felt like your partner opts for really extreme examples or arguments when you have a disagreement? Perhaps you said, “Well everyone once in a while it really works when I raise my voice at the kids. They seem to finally hear what I’m saying.” Then your spouse comes back with some argument like, “So I guess it’s ok to yell at our kids 24/7, every day of the year?” Perhaps there is something really at play in such extreme arguing that none of us really knew was going on.
  • CRAZY RESEARCH – Dr. Dan Ariely, a professor at Duke University, mentioned research that found Israeli rightists were inclined to change their political views when they saw the extreme version of their political opinions. The study, published in 2014, discussed how researchers showed a pro-Israeli group a tourism video clip that was designed to present the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a positive experience that underlied Israeli Jewish identity. The second video ended with the message, “We need the conflict in order to have the strongest army in the world.” Participants watched these videos multiple times over the course of the months leading up to the 2013 Israeli elections. Results showed that participants who’d seen the political videos were more likely to vote for a moderate party. Even one year after the study ended, the participants who’d seen the political videos showed a shift in their attitudes.
  • TAKEAWAY- Researchers found that when people are given an extreme example of the behavior that they are trying to change, or an “absurd” example, then the participant is less like to activate the other persons defense mechanisms. Which means there will be less of a fight and over time, more likelihood to change. So instead of arguing that the “absurd” examples are stupid, just recognize that in time they may actually create more change than serious examples.

“If You Don’t Want My Opinion, Then Don’t Ask For It!”

  • Have you ever noticed that sometimes you ask your spouse for their opinion, only to end up fighting or being hurt by what they said or how they said it? Interestingly, it might be just as easy to ask for someone’s advice, and advice is given in a different way than an opinion is given.
  • CRAZY RESEARCH – Asking for someone’s opinion isn’t always the best way to get help according to Robert Cialdini, a professor emeritus at Arizona State University, and CEO and president of Influence at Work. While we typically ask for our boss’ input or feedback on a project, studies suggest that’s a mistake. Instead, we should ask for their advice. When you ask for someone’s opinion, they take a step or disconnect from you and your ideas in an effort to be objective. But when you ask for their advice, they stay connected to you and feel like they’re helping and collaborating more with you and they can be more subjective.
  • TAKEWAY- Asking for you partner’s ADVICE is a much better option than just hearing their OPINION on what you’re doing. By asking for their advice, you put them on a pedestal, elevating their point of view and you keep them closer to you and make them feel more like your partner. Go for advice, more than opinions.