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African American Couple Conflict

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This funny thing happened recently where my partner and I both admitted feeling a little…distant. Disenchanted. Deeply lonely. We’d both been having semi-existential thoughts and feelings. Why were we both feeling this way, at the same time? I started to work backwards and figure out what had been going on in our lives and I figured it out: we’re trying to get our finances in order to buy a home. That has triggered a huge uptick in conversations about finances—including some rather dark conversations surrounding inheritance and what happens if one of us passes away before the mortgage is paid off. That’s not the usual nature of conversation in our home. It’s naturally brought more stress into our lives. Buying a home should be fun and exciting, but before the fun can start, you have to dive into some heavy talks. As such, we haven’t been playful, sweet, or romantic with each other for a while. We let stress kill our romance. No wonder we’re both feeling lonely. Even if you aren’t going through such a major change as purchasing a home, regular life can cause this romance-killing stress. Here’s how it happens.


We see date night as a hindrance

When your partner suggests that you see a movie on Friday night, rather than think, “That’ll be a nice break from work,” you think, “I have so much work to do. I don’t have time for that. Don’t you know that?!” You treat quality time with your partner as something that gets in the way of your priority—rather than your priority.


Our partner’s needs are a burden

When your partner expresses that he’s feeling neglected—perhaps he says you seem distracted, you aren’t being affectionate enough, or you aren’t prioritizing him—rather than hear that and say, “Oh no. I’m so sorry you feel that way. You’re the most important thing to me” you say, “How can you bring this up right now when you know I have so much else on my plate?”


Including sexual needs

Should your partner try to revive your sex life, you might insist you’re too distracted to get in the mood. He tries a little more, attempting to romance and seduce you. Instead of appreciating his efforts, you accuse him of not being sympathetic to your situation—of not respecting how busy and stressed you are. You make him feel bad for wanting to have sex with you.


We choose sleep over sex

Let’s be real: when all is said and done, how long does sex take? You can bang out a quickie in ten minutes or less. And yet, you keep choosing those extra ten minutes of sleep over sex. Ten minutes won’t really make a difference in your energy levels. But keeping your sex life up makes all the difference in feeling connected.


And we’ll hold a sleep grudge for days

Should your partner dare to wake you up—either on purpose, to cuddle/have sex, or on accident, by turning on the sink—you don’t let that go for days. You’re under so much stress that you’re becoming militant about sleep. Anyone who gets in the way of it becomes your enemy.


We stop taking playful phone calls

Remember when you and your boo used to chat on the phone in the middle of the work day because it was fun? But when you’re stressed, and your partner calls just to say hi, you ask, “What do you need?” or “What’s this about?” You’ve killed the idea that you two can call each other, just because.


We stop using a loving tone

When you run a life together, it’s natural to have to talk about boring, logistical matters like the Internet bill and plane tickets. But try to watch your tone. When you’re stressed, you may only have these discussions in a very serious, business-like tone. And that’s not good for your romantic dynamic.


We aren’t listening to each other

When you and your partner are both stressed, nobody is listening to one another. You try to talk about the big stuff going on in your life, and your partner is only pretending to listen because he’s too busy stressing about his own stuff. And visa versa.


We don’t indulge playful riffs

Perhaps you used to engage in playful, meaningless riffs around the house. You’d gladly accept little interruptions so you could joke around for a minute. It brought you joy. Now, if your partner tries to start a little riff, you brush him off because you’re working.


Running late is the other’s fault

Your schedule is demanding. The truth is that, you’re always in a rush because you overscheduled yourself. But if your partner slows you down by even a minute—let’s say you need him to move his car and he dares to take three minutes to do so—you spend the rest of the day feeling it’s his fault you’re running late.


We talk budgets, even on a date

You’re on a budget, and that’s good. But there’s a time and place to discuss it. If you’re having a celebratory dinner, that isn’t time to pull up the calculator and see how this special bottle of wine will affect your entertainment budget for the month.


We talk finances when we should be chilling

The longer you’re together, the more your finances will become entwined. If you do start setting your sights on buying a home or preparing for retirement, you’ll have to talk about money a lot. You can start to obsess over it, and even discuss it when you’re supposed to be relaxing and watching a movie.


We won’t put work away

When work becomes overwhelming, you can believe that, so long as you respond to every call and email immediately you can get ahead of things. But, there are some matters that will just take time, and answering every work email that comes in at 9pm won’t fix that work issue—it will ruin your relationship.


We scrutinize fun ideas

Your partner suggests a fun idea, like a hike, and you just start picking it apart. There is too much traffic on the way to that hike, and you already spend so much time in the car going to work. Or, you will need to bring lunch and you don’t have a cooler so now you have to buy a cooler, which is an added expense. See how you quickly become negative about a fun idea your partner had?


We’re militant about cleanliness

When your responsibilities feel like they’re closing in on you, you’ll start to point to every little thing around you as the cause of your stress. So you’ll lose it over one dirty dish left out, claiming this messy space is interfering with your ability to focus.

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