Money, Sex and Kids
Stop Fighting About the 3 Things that Can Ruin Your Marriage
By Tina B. Tessina, Ph.D.
How often have you heard yourself and your spouse make these complaints about each other?
You don’t listen.
You spend too much money.
You never want to have sex.
You’re always at work; and you never come home to spend time with your family.
You’re too harsh with the kids.
You let the kids do whatever they want.
If you and your spouse are fighting about or struggling with these issues, you are not alone. In my counseling practice, I see many couples much like you, voicing these complaints over and over.
In every marriage, the main struggles are similar. Like you, other couples also fight about money, sex and kids, with fights about territory, power and other people following close behind.
If you’re feeling tense, worried, stressed, upset, at your wit’s end, and wanting to help because you and your partner are fighting about these issues you’ll find help my book, “Money, Sex and Kids,” featured here and on the Pro Sports Lives Radio Show.
Whether you’re newly married or have been married for a long time; in your first, second or even third marriage; with kids, planning on kids or with step-kids; and from any income level — from just getting by to wealthy — you’ll find the information and techniques you need.
The 3 Big Issues: Money, Sex and Kids
Certain kinds of problems are more emotion-charged than others. I often ask my clients to stop and think about what they’re doing in the middle of a fight, and ask them what they look like to themselves. Many times they realize they sound and look like children fighting, and they’re not making sense, even to themselves. The reason most people fight about money, sex, and kids is that these are the issues with the biggest emotional charge for most people, and they carry the most baggage from our early families.
Money represents power and even attractiveness in our society. Furthermore, it may be charged with meaning doesn’t actually possess. I’ve discovered in working through these issues with clients that sometimes a client who grew up poor may unconsciously believe that rich people are mean or evil. Others believe that enough money will bring prestige, success and happiness.
Here are some more money issues you and your partner may fight about:
Who pays for what?
Who keeps the records, pays bills and controls the budget?
When, how and why do we spend money?
One of you wants to save; the other wants to spend.
How do you make big financial decisions?
Or, perhaps you can’t talk about money at all without arguing. If you and your partner tend to think the business end of a relationship is not a romantic topic for courtship, you may not discuss it until you can’t avoid it, and then you fight about it.
You may not think of your marriage as a business deal, but a huge part of it is just that. Just like a business, a marriage takes in income, pays expenses, and is suppose to have a little profit (savings) left over.
Fights about sex usually appear to be about:
How often you have it
Who initiates it?
The way your sexual needs change as your relationship grows
Fidelity and betrayal
Losing interest in each other
Sex often involves a lot of anxiety, because everyone fears rejection and is trying to live up to the impossible standards set by media images. You and your partner are most vulnerable when it comes to sex, which is why sex is difficult to keep going in a relationship, because when you get scared, you shut down and turn off. If you reject your partner just once, he or she may stop initialing or responding for fear of further rejection, until the problem is cleared up.
Sex is an extension of your couple communication, in physical rather than verbal form, and you can learn how to make it work.
PARENTING AND KIDS
Having children creates extra pressure in your relationship because parenting is a demanding, exacting and stressful enterprise.
Parenting requires consistency and experience, and because extended families are often living far apart, help that used to be available for previous generations from parents and siblings may not be here for you.
Parenting fights are most likely about how your parents raised you, as opposed to the way your parents’ parents raised him or her. You wind up having a power struggle about who’s right and who’s wrong, and no one can win because ifs your family history against your partner’s. In these days of divorce and remarriage, blended and step-families fight about stepchildren: who disciplines, fairness, and different parenting rules.
You and your partner may make accusations like:
You don’t help enough (or the right way) with our children.
You treat your children (or our children) better/worse than my children.
You don’t love my children the way you love your children.
You and your spouse can struggle about children before they even exist: Do we want a baby? Should we adopt? Fertility treatments can cause a lot of frustrations, sexual problems, and disappointment too.
Perhaps you had children before you had a chance to solidify your couple relationship, and the changes were confusing and you never re-established your teamwork. Or perhaps you already had children when you met and have had problems becoming an authoritative team in the kids’ eyes. Or perhaps your disagreement is about whether or not to have children. No matter what your struggle, you are not alone.
While money, sex and kids may be the three most prevalent issues that cause couple dissension, there are some other issues such as the following:
You may not feel as if you’re competing for anything, but as a human you are a territorial animal — without realizing it. You can get just as protective of your personal space, physical and psychological, as the neighborhood cats do. You’re just not as obvious about it. You are fighting for territory when you argue about these questions:
How do you handle your living space (e.g., fights about “I’m neat and you’re sloppy” or styles of furnishing)? Who cleans house or does what chores, and who sets the standards for cleaning?
How do you use time (struggles over one of you being late. the other on time)?
How do you spend your recreational time? One of you may be more social and the other more physically active or one wants to watch TV and the other wants to go out, or what you can do together or separately?
How do you divide space? Your mess is invading my space; I need alone time, and you’re always here. Or do we move for my job or yours?
Privacy is another territorial issue. Can we open one another’s mail, listen in on phone calls, do we share everything, or keep secrets?
Whenever your arguments are about these issues, your territory instincts are getting in the way of your relationship. It is how you handle these situations that make the difference.
A frequent source of trouble in today’s relationships can be other people. Couples fight over whether friends can come over and when. Jealously, interference, or problems caused by relatives and in-laws, and which family can you spend holidays with are all popular subjects for fights.
In-law fights may be about, “my family is better than yours,” which is another version of, “I’m right and you’re wrong.”
It’s a power struggle.
Sometimes there’s no good reason why you’re fighting about money, sex or kids. It may be a symbolic argument. It definitely helps to let your partner know what the symbolic meaning is to you and for you to listen to your spouse’s feelings about it.
To discover what the fight is really about, you need to talk. You’ll learn techniques and discover guidelines designed to help you understand, and overcome old habits, and change the way you and your spouse relate to each other.
About the Author:
Tina B. Tessina, Ph.D. is a licensed psychotherapist in Southern. California since with over 30 years’ experience in counseling individuals and couples, and author of 13 books in 17 languages, including “It Ends With You: Grow Up and Out of Dysfunction,” “The Unofficial Guide to Dating Again,” “Money, Sex and Kids: Stop Fighting About the Three Things That Can Ruin Your Marriage,” “The Commuter Marriage,” and her latest, “Love Styles: How to Celebrate Your Differences.”
Dr. Tessina is known as “Dr. Romance” online for LoveForever.com, a website designed to strengthen relationships and guide couples through the various stages of their relationship with personalized tips, courses, and online couples counseling. Connect with Dr. Tessina online: http://www.tinatessina.com