Couples in both samples similarly ranked their most and least serious issues. Intimacy, leisure, household, communication, and money were the most serious, as well as health for the older couples; couples in both samples ranked jealousy, religion, and family as the least serious.
“Re-balancing chores may not be easy, but it lends itself to more concrete solutions than other issues,” Rauer said. “One spouse could do more of certain chores to balance the scales.”
The couples rarely chose to argue about issues that are more difficult to resolve. And Rauer suggests that this strategic decision may be one of the keys to their marital success.
“Focusing on the perpetual, more-difficult-to-solve problems may undermine partners’ confidence in the relationship,” Rauer said.
Instead, to the extent it is possible, focusing first on more solvable problems may be an effective way to build up both partners’ sense of security in the relationship.
“If couples feel that they can work together to resolve their issues, it may give them the confidence to move on to tackling the more difficult issues,” Rauer said.
As to which issues may be more difficult to resolve, couples avoided discussing challenges regarding their spouse’s health and physical intimacy. These issues may be more difficult to address without challenging their partner’s sense of competence or making the partner feel vulnerable or embarrassed, resulting in more conflict.