The fight is not about the issue. It is about respect, affection or power.

The fight is not about toilet paper, money or commitment or who does the housework. What you’re really fighting about is feeling a lack of affection, respect, power…or some combination of three.

Reflect on what is really going on for you when you bring up an issue. Is it really the toilet paper, or is it perhaps a feeling that no one else cares enough to replace the toilet paper roll? It only takes a few seconds to replace it, so it is not the work that is really upsetting you.

Too often we think “If I feel it, then it must be a fact. If I feel you don’t care about me, then you don’t care about me.” That isn’t usually the case. It could simply be that they couldn’t find a replacement roll.

Be honest with yourself and your spouse and recognize the feelings in the fight, not the action (or inaction). And share those.

It’s helpful to use a method developed by relationship scholar John Gottman and colleagues called an XYZ statement: When you do X in situation Y, I feel Z. “When you finish the roll and don’t replace it, I feel that you don’t care enough about me to simply replace the roll.” You are not telling your spouse what they are doing (or not doing), but rather you are telling them how you are feeling about it. And no one can argue with your feelings.

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