Five days before I met my now-boyfriend, I celebrated my birthday with two of my best friends – bloody meat and barbeque sauce. My non-food friends also made an appearance, just like they would a week later when I needed to dish about my first of many dates with a militant vegetarian.
In the past, I’d dabbled in pescetarianism, so I wasn’t against the idea, I just wasn’t so good at committing. I’d stock my fridge with veggies and protein alternatives, only to find myself knee-deep in a chicken burrito bowl two weeks later. My reasons for going meat-free were less altruistic than I’d like to admit, but that wasn’t the case for my boyfriend.
Suddenly I found myself between a steak and a hard place – was I willing to change my lifestyle for a guy? Something about that felt like a betrayal to my feminist street cred. Desperate for answers, I looked to the relationships around me and quickly realized I wasn’t alone in my struggle to compromise with a polar-opposite partner. Not everyone was having an identity crisis about the contents of their refrigerator, but they were all tackling something.
The Party Animal and The Homebody
It’s Friday night – you want to go out and your better half is snuggled up on the couch ready for a Walking Dead marathon. Wherever the evening takes you, it looks like someone’s going to be disappointed. For couples who have different ideas of the perfect date, unmet expectations can really bring down the mood. “For Jace Venters and his boyfriend, it’s all about meeting in the middle. “[He] likes to have things planned out and I’m more of the play-it-by-ear type,” he says. “We were both pretty open and self-aware about those qualities when we first started dating, so we had to learn, and still are learning, to accommodate. But I think we would both agree that it’s healthy for us to get out of our comfort zones.”
Protip: Scheduling. Sure it sounds boring, but planning a date night can bring you back to the early days of your relationships as well as allowing both parties to mentally prepare for that wild night out or cozy night in – no guilt, no pressure, no disapointment.
Big Spenders and Penny Pinchers
According to research from Kansas Sate University, financial disagreements are the leading cause of divorce in the U.S., regardless of a couple’s income. That fight you had last week about your joint budget? Not something to sweep under the rug. When it comes to money, communication is key. Though it’s not unheard of for couples to go Dutch from the get-go, many of us choose to join forces in the money department once we’ve settled down for the long haul – and that kind of decision requires an ongoing dialogue about your habits, expectations, and goals. Between student debt, credit cards, secret shopping habits, and the fact that your special someone likes the air conditioner set to 68 degrees year-round, there are a hundred financial potholes a relationship can fall into. Ultimately, money really does matter, so why not have that first conversation sooner rather than later?
Protip: Once you’ve decided on a financial game plan, downloading apps like Mint and Grocery Gadget can help you take the first baby steps towards being more mindful of your expenses by tracking everything from gas and rent to lattes and fast food.
The Politically Divided
So maybe you only fight with your significant other every four years – but when those gloves come off in November, man do they fly. Sometimes political differences are worth leaving out of a relationship entirely if they don’t conflict with your joint values as a couple. For Erin Gordon, growing up in a politically divided household didn’t cause conflict between her parents, so much as it fueled the fire once a match had been lit.
“Honestly, my parents aren’t greatly affected by their Democratic [and] Republican beliefs in that they argue specifically about them, but it definitely shows in their general arguments,” he says. “I don’t think the political party system matters as much as other issues, such as health care. Politics are probably the underlying source of issues, but not necessarily the defining factor.”
It’s rare for a couple to align completely in their political beliefs, so don’t sweat the small stuff – but if you celebrated the fall of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell while your sweetie picketed with the Westboro Baptists, you might consider throwing in the towel.
Protip: Know your own values. It’s not always easy to know when something is right, but definitely trust your gut when it feels wrong. Even if you agree on important issues like civil rights and taxation, disagreements in the contraception and abortion arenas can have a major impact on a couple’s future if they can’t see eye to eye.
Night Owls and Early Birds
As we can see, there are always two types of people, but no matter which odd couple we choose to scrutinize, everybody loves sleep – it’s just a matter of when. More often than not, differing sleep cycles stem from misaligned work schedules. And though it may not be the biggest issue during your 40 hour work week, night owls and early birds have trouble warding off their differences when it comes to syncing up for the weekend. For Lindsey Honeycutt, the need to sleep in late on Saturday never fails to conflict with her girlfriend’s need for an early breakfast. “I wish she would just stay in bed and read or something while I’m still asleep on a weekend morning- but no- she’s up milling around waiting for me when she knows my ass isn’t getting out of bed until noon,” she says.
Protip: Though it may not be possible to adjust your internal clock, do try to meet your partner in bed before they go to sleep or sneak back into the room as they’re waking. They’ll appreciate the effort you put into a goodnight kiss or breakfast in bed – and who knows, sometimes pillow talk turns into body talk and you’ll both need a nap anyway.