Whether it’s about who’s going to do the dishes or how much to spend on a vacation, in relationships and marriages, the same fights seem to happen again and again.
These persistent conflicts — known as “perpetual problems” — comprise 69% of the issues couples fight about, according to Michael McNulty, a Ph.D. at The Chicago Relationship Center and Master Trainer with The Gottman Institute.
“Only 31% [of marital problems] are really straightforward and solvable,” McNulty told Business Insider, citing research from The Gottman Institute. “The other ones tend to be more ongoing because partners have different personalities and fundamental needs and life experiences prior to the relationship.”
As one of these “perpetual problems,” money is something spouses should learn to talk about and work through from day one because it’s guaranteed to be a constant in their lives, well, forever. Not only that, but money is tied to other values, such as trust and honesty.
“If people can’t trust each other around money, more than likely, they can’t trust each other about a lot of things because money is such a basic thing in a relationship,” McNulty says.
While there’s no perfect, one-size-fits-all solution to eliminating fights about money for good, above all else, couples should start by creating an honest, continuous dialogue around it.
“Couples do best when they have ongoing dialogues about their perpetual issues,” McNulty says.
He explains that because money is a basic need, partners need to ensure that they stay on the same page, which involves opening up about their spending habits, their money philosophies, and their financial goals.
As soon as they get married — or ideally, before — successful couples show their entire hand to their partner: student loans, credit card debt, everything. From there, they can start developing a structure that allows for continual conversations about money, where they will learn to understand each other’s perspectives and develop solutions that work for both parties when conflicts arise.
“Partners have to be able to know themselves and relate to one another, and the more that they are able to do so, the more likely that they will come up with a compromise that both of them can live with,” McNulty says.
The bottom line: Communication is key. Learning how to talk through perpetual problems will serve couples well.
“Successful couples don’t hide things from one another,” McNulty says. “They’re transparent, they’re open, they’re honest. There’s an ongoing dialogue, people know what’s coming in, what’s going out. There’s a strong sense of trust.”