How to Deal with Stupid Fights in Your Relationship

By Derek Reimherr

I know I’m not the only one who has yelled at my spouse for leaving the french press full of coffee grounds on the counter for multiple days in a row without cleaning it.

Okay, maybe that was too specific.

“How is it that your clothes never end up in the laundry basket?”

“I thought we agreed not to use all of the hot water when we shower?”

“Do you have to watch Season 25 of Big Brother? It’s such a dumb show.”

“If you listened, you’d remember that I hate zoodles so PLEASE STOP COOKING THEM.” (This one hits particularly close to home for me.)

Stupid fights for Maggie and I almost always start with some element of criticism, whether about a habit, preference, tendency, or series of events. They didn’t do that thing the way that you do it or want them to do it. How brazen of them!

For me, loading the dishwasher is the adult version of tetris. For Maggie, it’s a race to the bottom of the sink - who gives a shit what the dishwasher looks like. Is my way technically right? Yes, a geometrically loaded dishwasher will outperform a sloppily loaded dishwasher in cleanliness metrics (#IWorkInAnalytics). But at the end of the day, we’re not shooting a cleaning commercial, we’re doing chores. So no, it doesn’t matter.

There are two sides in this battle: “the right way” or “it doesn’t really matter.” You decided that there was a right way to fold towels so your partner better make those creases sing. Or you realize that towels sit on shelves in your bathroom and no one really cares. So like chill out, bro.

At the heart of stupid fights is selfishness, which in and of itself could be a whole series of posts. You want things done your way. Or you don’t care about something, so your partner shouldn’t try to make you care. And when we’re pushed too far, a stupid fight emerges from the overflow of our irritation at our selfish ways being infringed upon.

You may have heard relationships take compromise. Wrong. When you compromise everyone loses. Relationships take sacrifice.

Don’t get me wrong -  no one is expecting you to give up your college football or Netflix habit. But when you agree to do life together, especially once you’re living under the same roof, you can’t keep doing everything the way you’ve always done them. That goes for both sides: you need to adapt and sacrifice “your way” of doing certain things.

There’s only one way to deal with stupid fights: humility. You may not be able to prevent yourself from getting irritated at little things, and I get that. But when you catch yourself yelling at your significant other about chores or planning social events or picking out a dinner spot, you need to rein it in. It’s time to acknowledge that you might be in the wrong and apologize. Your habits and rituals are not more precious than the person you care about.

That said, there are ways to mitigate, avoid, and accommodate life’s triggers for stupid fights. While the thing may differ (dishes, driving, snoring, etc), you can apply one of these strategies to any scenario:

  • Collaborate. Maybe you’re picky about the grocery budget but hate cleaning the floors. Why not offer to take on all the grocery shopping if your partner takes care of the sweeping?
  • Let it go. Sometimes, your way really doesn’t matter and you need to let it go. There is more than one way to plan a date night. There is more than one way to scrub a bathroom.
  • Step up. Basically the opposite of let it go. Sometimes, you just need to sacrifice the 15 minutes a day and pick up your shoes you’ve left lying around your home.
  • Make your pitch. It’s entirely possible that your significant other was never taught how to properly budget. Rather than fuming silently (or loudly) at them, why not have a teaching session?
  • Swallow your self-righteousness. If it really is that important for the fridge to be organized a certain way, then just do it and accept it. This does not give you an excuse to be condescending or be resentful. You’re choosing this.
  • Have a conversation. There may honestly be times when neither of you has a strong opinion or you’ve never previously discussed a specific situation. Pick a time, talk it out.

Stupid fights are stupid. So it’s stupid to keep having them, right? You’re reading this blog, so I’m choosing to believe you’re smart as hell. Get out there and have fewer stupid fights, you certified genius.