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Power Coupling: From Fighting Against to Fighting For Your Relationship

Sit down to coffee with one of your girlfriends and chances are it won’t be long before you are describing in detail the latest argument you had with your significant other. You’re not alone. It seems that the conversations about the difficulties that arise in our intimate relationships can quickly become all consuming.

Though the numbers vary, research has shown that couples can argue on average anywhere between 40 minutes each day to 7 times a day.  And for every minute we spend arguing with our actual partner, many of us manage to spend even more time having it out with the partner-in-our-head, mumbling with frustration to “ourselves” as we find twenty different ways to make our point to our internal partner who, it turns out, is just as argumentative as the partner in real life!

An immense amount of time and energy that could be spent whipping up a dollop of crème fraiche to garnish the tuna tartare, mapping out the plans for that Italian vacation, or hitting the gym is instead spent stewing angrily about what, why and how he dismissed your wishes yet again.

This, my friends, is why the Power Couple is so appealing. These partners find ways to work together for a greater good, knowing that together they can accomplish more than either individual could ever accomplish alone. They need to get out of the house by 5:30? Both partners are working swiftly and efficiently to make sure this happens. Dishes in the sink? Not for long! Each member of this couple is quickly surveying the scene and operating like a world-class sports team to get this and other chores completed.

The Power Couple rarely gets mired in petty arguments in which they are pitted against one another. More often than not, each is competing to see which of them can knock out the mundane tasks, thus ensuring that her partner can operate at his best. The Power Couple understands that together they can reach the moon and that it behooves both of them to keep the other happy, healthy and loved in order to make this happen.

If you find yourself spending inordinate amounts of time reminding your hubby that “it makes more sense to make the bed first thing in the morning” or encouraging your wifey to “please keep the clutter off of the counter” again, then you’ll be happy to learn that there are steps that you can do to achieve Power Couple status.


  1. Do not argue about the dishes.

Or the trash. Or the laundry. Or the finances. Spending your time trying to get your partner to do something that you think he should be doing is a waste of your time. Think about how many times you have told a friend, “I don’t even remember what it was we were fighting about.” So, stop. If you notice there is something that you want done, suck it up and do it. Trust that your partner is doing his best to contribute to the household and spend your energy making sure that you are doing the same thing.


  1. Identify one goal that you can accomplish together.

Step one is difficult, but it becomes easier if the two of you are in it together as a team. Nothing accomplishes a sense of teamwork more than having a goal that both of you are invested in.

Ask your dude to sit down with you for two hours each week and decide upon what you both need – as individuals and together – to feel secure. You may be driving this meeting at first. But if you make it clear that you are here to figure out how you can be a better partner, to understand what you can do to make his life easier, you’ll find he’ll be much more willing to carve out this time.

Then find a goal that feels big enough that it trumps petty squabbles, be it a well-designed living space, a sexy bod, hobnobbing with respected mentors, or lucrative financial investments.


  1. Own Your Shit.

Notice I didn’t say, “Own your partner’s shit.” This is one of the most effective secrets of the Power Couple. Each knows that by choosing their partner, they have invested in someone whose judgment is sound. They know that it takes a lot of energy to monitor their own behavior, let alone someone else’s. You must take responsibility for your actions and trust that you’ve chosen a partner who does the same.

Here are some questions that individuals in Power Couples ask:

  • “I notice the laundry didn’t get done this week, any feedback about what I can do to change that?
  • “Hey, I notice that we keep griping about the budget. You got any ideas about how I can be less irritating when we talk?”

Try it for yourself. Notice what comes up. Are you defensive? Frustrated? Curious? Are you willing to take his suggestions to heart and give them a go?


  1. Get an Expert!

If these steps feel impossible, it is time for you to enlist an expert. If, despite your best efforts, you find yourself saying “Yeah, but he…” or “If only she wouldn’t…,” then a couples therapist is in order. It behooves you to hire a professional who can step back and help you see the ways in which you, yes you, need to change. A therapist can help you notice behaviors that, were you partner to bring them up, might leave you feeling hostile, but, with a little finesse can allow you to see more plainly your growth areas.

If your relationship is out of whack, then every aspect of your life will be impacted. Shifting the focus from his behavior to your own will be difficult, but the rewards are immense. You’ll have more energy, freedom and excitement to put towards creative activities that bring you joy. The strength of two working together is exponentially more powerful than two struggling alone.

Tiffany McLain

Tiffany McLain

Tiffany McLain has a psychotherapy practice in San Francisco where she specializes in working with young professionals who straddle multiple identities, be this professionally, ethnically or economically.

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