Many guys believe it—that harmony in relationships is the ideal, and conflict is to be avoided at all costs. Just take a look at all the happy, cuddly couples on Facebook.
Guess what? That’s not reality, and not what you should be aiming for. “Healthy relationships have conflict,” says psychologist Audrey Nelson, Ph.D. “Conflict should not throw up red flags. Both people expressing themselves and putting things on the table, rather than sweeping them under the rug, is a good thing. Conflict can intensify commitment.”
So the next time you’re feeling friction in your relationship, remind yourself that it is normal—and will make your relationship last. Read on for nine so-called problems, and the ways you can make sure your relationship benefits from them.
She gets angry when you come home and watch TV instead of helping around the house.
Your expectations about each other’s habits are out of sync. “This period of time for a man is actually crucial to him being a good partner,” says relationship expert Lauren Gray. Sitting and resting in front of a TV gives you a brief refresh and it lowers your stress levels, Gray says.
Strategy: She interprets your need for space as negative, but gently remind her that taking a few minutes to recharge and transition will make you a more engaged partner—and you will gladly help out after a little respite. The key: You can’t stay put. One program, two innings of a ballgame, and it’s go time.
She thinks the only time you touch her is when you want sex.
“For women, talking and sharing about their day is a form of intimacy. But men primarily experience intimacy by doing things for their woman and making her happy,” says Gray. For a man, physical intimacy and seeing her pleasure is the ultimate fulfillment of his need for intimacy.
Strategy: Ask her for opportunities to physically do things for her—helping her with a project, organizing her book collection—so she knows that’s your way of being intimate, Gray says. Also, make an effort to be in contact with her on a more regular basis. When you do touch her as your way for initiating sex, tell her this is how you like to connect. But remember—she can dictate how she’d like to connect back.
She takes a vacation alone or goes on a night out with the girls.
You might interpret this as boredom with the relationship, and question whether she still likes you, Nelson notes. This need for time apart might make you worried.
Strategy: Remember, absence does indeed make the heart grow fonder. “It is good to have a break, even a short one, because it revives your relationship,” says Nelson. Individual time separate from each other doesn’t necessarily mean she’s trying to get away from you; her life has many parts—work, family, friends—and so she may need a break from it all. Don’t take it personally. Encourage her to take time for herself, and you should book a little you-time, as well, Nelson advises.
You interrupt her with solutions when she’s trying to talk about problems.
You want to help, and you hate to see her unhappy. “Your primary source of happiness in a relationship is based in how much you can contribute to her happiness,” Gray says. “So when she has a problem, you try to come to her rescue. This is the way you show love to her.” The danger is she may interpret this as you not caring about what she is trying to tell you, and are instead focused on moving on quickly.
Strategy: She isn’t looking for you to solve the things she’s telling you. She wants your support by you listening patiently, making eye contact, and making little noises of agreement or nodding your head. This is the way you can help and show your love for her, Gray says. Here are 5 things you can do to show her you care.
She wants you to take your dates more seriously.
Guys tend to be casual about quality time, and this can rub her the wrong way. Your last-minute planning, or putting the ball in her court as to what you want to do or where you want to eat, can come off to her as you don’t care about her.
Strategy: Take control of date night. Tell her you would like to take her out this weekend, or within the next week. “Women have a need to anticipate time together,” Gray says. If your style is to wait until the last minute to plan a date, stop. You may think giving her the option of where to go or what to do shows that you care about what she wants, but it doesn’t. Pre-planning conveys that you care about her and want her to have a fun, stress-free experience, Gray says.
She wants you to say “I love you” more.
When a man doesn’t say it, the woman assumes that he loves her less, Gray says. Guys tend to think that they don’t need to say it if they show it.
Strategy: You won’t know how she feels unless you ask her. If she has said that she would like you to say it more, do it. She’s communicating that this is what she needs from you to feel secure in your relationship.
She thinks you’re “too in your head.”
Basically, you’re not showing enough emotion. “To her, it might seem that you don’t love her as much, because you’re not willing to share how you’re feeling about things,” Gray says. “In reality, men tend to detach from their emotions in times of moderate stress. They go into analysis mode, whereas women are the opposite. They experience deeper emotional reactions in times of stress.”
Strategy: As long as you both are aware of your tendencies in these situations—and therefore, know what to expect from each other—you’ll be able to prepare for stressful times. Allow each other to cope the way as needed, not how you expect each other to.
She needs more attention than she once did to become aroused.
Men often misinterpret this as the woman being less interested in or attracted to them, but in fact that’s probably not the case. At the beginning of the relationship, the newness stimulates dopamine that creates arousal for her quickly from oxytocin, Gray says. As the newness fades, so do those hormonal surges. She needs more touch and affection to achieve similar levels of intensity.
Strategy: Foreplay. Women do need more than men to grow aroused, so help her out. Try these 7 things.
She says “I don’t know” when you ask if she wants to have sex.
“She really means ‘I don’t know,’ ” Gray says. Most likely, her mind is in a million places—and she is too overwhelmed to indulge or focus on pleasure at this moment. You may interpret this as she doesn’t have a desire for you, or may be losing attraction, Gray says.
Solution: “Ask if there’s a part of her that wants to,” Gray suggests. At this point, listen. This prompts her to talk out everything she may be processing or dealing with from her day. You can help her resolve the problems in her head that are preventing her from saying “yes.”