From sex to family issues, here are the 7 biggest problems a couples therapist sees again and again.

Every couple on the planet has arguments

But it's how a couple argues that can turn a standard and constructive conversation over a disagreement into an unhelpful and harmful pattern.

For over 10 years, Helen Sorekli-Robertson has worked in this very field as a clinical psychologist and couples therapist.

And from working with countless clients and talking through their issues all day every day, she says there are seven main problems that all couples fight about the most. 

Watch: Mamamia Confessions: The silliest thing I've had a fight over. Post continues below.

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"Everyone is human, everyone has emotions and everyone struggles. We seem to find tension with how we communicate or our communication style and how that heavily influences how we navigate certain problems. But as long as we express our feelings in a clear and calm way, they are resolvable issues," Helen explained to Mamamia

1. Money and finances. 

This one will not be a surprise to anyone who has been in a relationship because it's a near-universal source of disagreement. 


"With couples, the money issues are often centred on budgets, and reaching significant life goals, like travel or house ownership," Helen said to Mamamia 

"One might have a differing 'big spendy' life goal to the other, or a mismatch in financial savviness. And that's often where the disagreements begin." 

2. An interfering habit.

According to Helen, this has been one of the most common issues she has seen recently among clients of hers. It's an issue that often we struggle to put words around. Although it's subtle, it can certainly have a chunky impact!

"An interfering habit influences how much a couple will spend time together or not, which affects quality time. There may be a habit one person in the relationship loves to do or does avidly, that begins to impact on the other. It can be innocuous things like someone who obsessively watches sport, loves video games or Netflix binging all the time. It can also be more serious issues like drinking too much, wanting to go out partying all the time, gambling or shopping," Helen said.

Of course, there's nothing wrong with having different interests, and often it's considered completely healthy for a relationship for each person to have their own passion or hobby. But when the habit leads to resentment for the other partner, it can interfere with the couple's dynamic and connection.

3. Domestic duties.

Ahhh the mental load. 

"This is a super common one with my clients, where one person feels pretty upset about who is doing what in the house. They often feel as though all the duties are lumped onto them, such as the dishes, laundry, cooking and cleaning. Add kids to the mix and it can feel like a perceived inequality in the relationship," Helen explained.


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4. Sex.

"The predominant issue with sex is there's a mismatch in desire. One feels there's not enough sex, and the other can feel hurt and defensive as a result, which can cause a lot of arguments."

5. Family issues. 

This one is broad because family issues are massively complex, often ranging from parenting dramas, wider familial stoushes, to tension with the in-laws.

"What usually happens with a family issue is a partner takes the side of someone outside of their relationship. It could be their mother, father, sibling, child or anyone familial really. In turn, that can often make the other partner feel kind of left out and abandoned or neglected."

6. Past hurts. 

Helen said this issue is one that often doesn't get the attention it deserves. 

"Sometimes with clients, there's a situation that happened in the past that can continue to rear its head. It could be something obvious like infidelity that was never properly resolved. 

"Another common one is when the couple had a child — one partner rushed back to work to provide for the household and the other was left to deal with everything at home and, in turn, felt a lack of emotional support and tenderness. Interestingly, past hurts often get revealed in couples therapy."


7. A blowout.

"This is when one partner goes out and 'blows out' in some way or another," Helen said. 

"So, that could be one partner went out and partied too hard or didn't come home when they were meant to be coming home. It's usually a one-off, but a situation that is really dramatic and can leave the other partner feeling really unsure and not cared for."

How to tackle these 7 problems.

The good news is that none of these issues are considered deal-breakers in a relationship, nor do many couples therapists believe them to be. 

It's how they're handled and addressed that makes all the difference, as poor communication accounts for "90 per cent of the issue being blown out of proportion". 

"It's the unsaid tension and avoided conversation that is really dangerous," Helen noted. "Because that approach and the complacency can lead to big fiery arguments. It's best to address problems constructively, with kindness and head-on rather than this kind of cold, silent disagreement."

One of the ways to deal with things head-on, Helen said, is by looking at the two layers of emotion.

The first is often anger and frustration, which is felt in the heat of the moment. The secondary layer, which is where couples counsellors delve into most, is the emotion and what the other person feels deep down.

"Say, a couple is fighting over money issues. The partner may be really upset that their significant other isn't prioritising saving money. But it's the emotion behind it that tells a deeper story — a fear of failure, a sense of anxiety, not feeling valued."


It's acknowledging the other person's vulnerabilities that often makes all the difference. This is something Helen says she always focuses on in couple's counselling sessions. And for those who can't afford or don't have access to a couples therapist, there are now other avenues available as well, including an app that Helen co-founded called the My Love Your Love couples therapy app.

"The best thing couples can do is learn how to validate one another's feelings. It doesn't mean you have to agree with their position. Just know that feelings can't be wrong," Helen explained. "At the end of the day, all any of us want is to feel seen and heard."

Ultimately, if there's anything that couples therapists want people to know, it's this: arguments and disagreements happen in all relationships. 

"Relationships will have tension from time to time and it's good to talk about these things more openly," Helen said.

"The less stigma around this conversation the better. It's always helpful for couples to know their issues aren't dissimilar to what countless others are facing too."

Feature Image: Canva/Mamamia.

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