A lot of couples turn to each other for support when they have a challenging individual goal, only to end up arguing because either they aren't getting enough assistance or the assistance that they do get makes them feel like a bit of a failure. For example, a husband might say, "I want to stop eating a bag of cookies before bed, and I want your help." And the wife might say, "You're right, you do need to stop eating a bag of cookies before bed, and I'm ready to help." And then the husband might say, "What!?! You think I need to stop eating a bag of cookies before bed! You think I'm a fat piggy?"
It would be easy to think this conflict is simply about weight—and the sensitivities about diets that cloud the issue. But Benjamin Karney, co-director of UCLA's Relationship Institute, has a few more revealing insights: "We all want to support our partners unconditionally, just as they are, and help them change to become the people they want to be." There are plenty of ways to help without alienating your beloved. Take the above example. When a husband says, "I want to stop eating a bag of cookies before bed, and I want your help." The wife might say, "Great! I'm on board. What kind of help would work for you?" And then the husband might say, "Hmm...can we stop buying Oreos?" Or "Can you hide the Oreos?" Or "Can you tell me I'm handsome when I go to open a pack of Oreos?" All of which will make him feel more encouraged by your encouragement.
Next: How fighting can be good for a relationship