Jack Knows: 10 Potentially Deadly Conflicts in any Relationship.

My good friend Eileen confided in me once, “my husband and I fought for years about whether the toilet paper went ‘over’ or “under.’ He insisted that the roll pull from underneath, and I believed it should always come from the top. The reality is, he cares a lot about this issue, and I don’t. So, after 15 years of marriage, I learned to let my husband be ‘right’ about the issues he cares about, and that matter to me less. It makes for a far happier life.” 

There are big things to care about in a relationship—like whether to have kids, whether to be monogamous or polyamorous, whether to invest in real estate or the stock market. Then there are the little things—like the toilet paper pulling under or over (over’s the right way—right?) that really don’t matter much but can still create deep divisions in relationships if not handled appropriately.

Here are 10 potentially deadly conflicts of couples in any relationship. Don’t let any of these be the unraveling of an otherwise healthy coupling. Pick your battles, and know when to see “yes honey, if it matters that much to you, I’d be happy to…”

Texting while talking.

I’ve seen yelling matches between couples where one-partner texts while the other is talking to them. We live in a multi-tasking technologically tethered society. Some people see no problem with responding to texts and emails on their iPhone while carrying on a conversation. Others feel that if you’re busy texting, you are not completely focused on what the other is saying. Which, if either do you feel passionate about? If you don’t care, let the texting go on, if you do, let your partner know and see if they’d put the phone down when you are deep in conversation.

Dogs on the furniture.

My dog Bruiser gets the run of the house. I have a pet for a reason—to have them be part of my life. Bruiser sleeps on the pillow next to me on the bed, and snuggles up with me on the sofa. I’m passionate about letting her do what she pleases—happy dog, happy Jack. But what if you were raised tat dogs were dirty, diseased and smelly—and should be kept outside and off the furniture. This may be a deal breaker for some, and a negotiated item for others.

Used vs. new car.

I’ve bought me fair share of used and new cars. I love the new car smell, and the idea that you’re not buying someone else’s hand-me-down problems. Some think buying used is great—because you can get the same car for less money. Others could care less. Is this a deal breaker for you, or something you could give-in-to given the right relationship. 

Cleaning dishes before you put them in the dishwasher.

This is another item that is not a deal-breaker for me, but it is for others. Some people INSIST on cleaning the dishes before putting them in the dishwasher.  The rational is usually that it helps ensure the dishes come out clean, and it helps avoid a smelly dishwasher if food is left on for too long before the next wash. Others say the dishwasher if there to clean the dishes, so why do it manually?

Talking during a movie.

OK, here’s one thing I can’t stand. When watching a movie I hate when my partner asks questions, or comments endlessly at the action on the screen. Laughing and crying are fine, but a constant “did you see that,” or “what’s that actors name” or, “why did they shoot her,” is just damn annoying. How does it make you feel? 

The toilet seat: up or down.

Most women I know like guys to put down the toilet seat when leaving the bathroom. It is a particularly male thing to raise the seat (for obvious reasons), so many guys think it is discriminatory to make them put the seat down. Some women say it isn’t fair that they have to touch the dirty seat every time a guy leaves it up—but isn’t that the same issue for guys who have to put it down? 

Bath or Shower.

Some guys think taking a bath is a waste of water, and a slap to their masculinity. Some women think a bath allows them to calm after a long day, and be a better spouse because of it.

Driver or Passenger.

Should couples share the responsibility to drive or be a passenger on a road trip? Is one work (the driving) and the other play (the passenger)? Some people like to drive, others don’t. Don’t let this be a pissing contest in a relationship.

Eating Dinner at the Dinner table.

Many people were brought up that food is to be eaten only at the dinner table. Others don’t mind having a plate at a coffee table while watching TV. Even if you were raised one way, keep your mind open to the beliefs of your partner.

How to squeeze the toothpaste.

Do you squeeze from the back? Grab from the center? Toothpaste is toothpaste regardless how it is dispensed. But many have particular rules around best practices. If conflict arises, I suggest separate tubes, of buying a stand-up toothpaste dispenser, rather than couples therapy.


Author Jack Reid is a relationship expert and author of the “Jack Knows” column on FIVE THôT.

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