You know that couple so perfect for each other you’d swear they’ve never had a fight? Chances are good that they’ve battled it out before. The truth is, no matter how healthy your relationship is, fighting—or at least encountering conflict—is pretty much a guarantee, says Dr. Franklin Porter, a couples’ therapist in the US. Still, we have this notion that fighting is bad, which isn’t necessarily the case, says Porter.
“Fighting, when necessary, can be a good thing,” he says. And just because a couple seems entirely perfect, it doesn’t mean they don’t have conflict, he says. Rather than avoiding the arguments, people in healthy relationships handle them in a way that keeps their bond strong.
“A happy couple can generally keep things from escalating too far because they’ve learned how to communicate,” says Porter. If you’re secure in your relationship and show your partner love and respect, then these fights won’t get blown out of proportion, he says.
Here are the most common issues that even made-for-each-other couples face—and how they handle them successfully:
Issue #1: Money
Fights around this topic tend to be pretty deeply rooted in emotions, says Porter. For example, if your partner wasn’t happy with your splurge on the deluxe suite during your last holiday, it may be because they have a history of financial insecurity and likes to deliberate before spending. All of a sudden, your generous gesture becomes a blowup.
Handle it like a happy couple: Practise empathy. Seeing the whole picture—vulnerabilities and all—can help you have a more productive conversation, says Porter. So instead of defending your upgrade and calling your partner stingy, take the time to ask your partner why this upsets them so much. And be receptive to what they say.
Issue #2: Sex
“One of the issues I see come up most often is a mismatch in libido,” says Porter. And when you feel like your needs aren’t being met, it’s hard to talk about, he says. That’s why a lot of couples avoid touching on the issue until it becomes a major problem—which is a big mistake.
When you say what’s on your mind, you can get the conversation rolling and work towards a solution, says Porter.
Handle it like a happy couple: Couples that deal with this issue and emerge intact don’t use words like “always” and “never,” says Porter. Those words can be a roadblock to a productive conversation. For example, saying, “You never want to have sex!” totally shuts down the discussion and makes your partner feel defensive. Instead, say, “I feel really hurt when you turn me down for sex.” That gives them a chance to respond to how they’re making you feel.
Issue #3: Multitasking During Quality Time
You probably can’t remember the last time you were actually, totally offline—no work email, no texting. But scrolling through your phone while spending time with your partner can make them feel neglected, says Porter.
Handle it like a happy couple: The battle for a no-phone zone probably has been raging for a while now, and you’re likely getting nowhere. “If it gets to the point where you’re not having any constructive dialogue, one partner needs to express a willingness to take a break from the argument and revisit,” says Porter. That’s because couples tend to have recurring patterns for how they disagree, he says. And happy couples recognise that pattern and shut it down when the fight is going nowhere. So instead of beating a dead horse, take a breather, set a date to discuss it later, and call a truce in the meantime.