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Your Biggest Relationship Disputes, Settled

We pick a winner in marriage’s most unwinnable fights

Couple fighting and seated separately on couch
Getty Images

Most couples have that one disagreement that doesn’t seem to go away. In fact, research by marriage therapist John Gottman shows that 69 percent of marital conflicts are never resolved. Yes, we all know that communication is key, but some couples can communicate the heck out of a situation and still find themselves fighting the same battle over and over. 

So we assembled a panel of marriage professionals to weigh in on some common relationship disputes and settle them once and for all. They include Ava Cadell, a clinical sexologist and founder of Loveology University; Samantha Rodman Whiten, a clinical psychologist and the host of “The Dr. Psych Mom Show” podcast; and New Yorker cartoonist Emily Flake, whose work often focuses on married life.

Three Makes a Crowd

HER SIDE: “He wants to let the dog sleep with us on our bed, but I’m just not comfortable with that. It’s a Golden Lab and almost as big as we are.” —Holly, 45

HIS SIDE: “Franklin (the dog’s name) is a member of our family. Sleeping on the floor — or even worse, outside our bedroom — would give him anxiety. I love him too much for that.” —Ethan, 44

THE WINNER: Holly. Co-sleeping with a pet when you’re in a relationship “is a huge passion killer,” Cadell says. “The solution is to create a special place for your dog to sleep every night and give the dog plenty of love before bedtime.” Flake also recommends changing the dog’s name. “Giving pets a human name is a bad policy,” she says. “‘Franklin’ may have a claim on their bed; ‘Noodles’ would not.”

Thanksgiving With (or Without) the In-Laws

HIS SIDE: “I’m sick of her family spending every holiday with us. Just once, I’d like to have a Thanksgiving without making awkward conversation with her Grammy.” –Chad, 43

HER SIDE: “Family is important. My mom turned 70 this year. I don’t know how much time she has left! He can suck it up while we host a few holiday meals.” –Allison, 45

THE WINNER: Chad. “This likely isn’t about Grammy at all,” Whiten says. “The husband likely feels that his wife is completely stressed and overwhelmed by the pressure of hosting.” With a little attention from Allison during these chaotic visits, even if it’s just touching his arm during the meal, “this issue would probably evaporate,” she says.

He Wants To Save Money, and I Want to Spend It

HER SIDE: "He wants to save every penny, so much that he won't even agree to eat out a few times a month. I’m all for having a nest egg, but there's a fine line between saving for the future and taking all the fun out of life." —Nicole, 52

HIS SIDE: “I’d much rather have enough for retirement than spend it on fancy meals or extravagances that we don’t need. It’s not that I never want to go out, but it doesn’t have to be every week.” —Jason, 55

THE WINNER: Nicole. While Jason’s stance is more adult and practical, “Nicole knows how to live,” Flake says. “Jason, if you want to be a penny-pincher, you’re going to have to come up with free, fun activities so that Nicole doesn’t take the money and run.”

What Did I Do Wrong?

HIS SIDE: "I feel like she’s mad at me all the time. And when I ask her, she’s like, ‘It’s nothing.’ But I know it’s something. I can smell the mad pheromones." —Paul, 55

HER SIDE: “Oh my god, he needs to just stop! Not everything is about him!” —Kerri, 51

THE WINNER: Kerri. “He needs to understand that it's not personal,” Whiten says. “At this age, there are biological and hormonal changes that the wife is experiencing that don't have to do with the marriage at all.” Or as Flake explains, “Midlife is a cement mixer of bodily degradation, mental decline and regret, so maybe this truly does not have a thing to do with you and your inability to load a dishwasher correctly.”

Unfair Distribution of Chores

HIS SIDE: "We divide the chores: She does the laundry, and I do the dishes. Well, the dishes get done every night, but there's a wet load of laundry in our washer that’s been there for a week. That’s just unfair." —Dave, 49

HER SIDE: “I know I’m not very good at follow-through, but I get to it eventually. He’s just mad because I don’t work at the same pace as he does.” —Nancy, 50

THE WINNER: Dave. “Mold doesn’t recognize ‘eventually,’ Nancy,” Flake says. “I’m 100% Team Dave here. Wet clothes get mildew, and honestly, washing dishes is much more labor-intensive than dumping the washed laundry into the dryer — the machines are doing the work for you! You have the good end of the stick here, Nancy, don’t screw it up!”