We asked LGBTQ women in same-sex relationships to take our Lesbian Fight Club survey about the role fighting plays in your relationships, and over 3,500 of you answered the call! We’ve already released two hilarious listlings of some of your stupidest fights (The Gayest, Silly Household Things), and we’re ready to get into the rest of the data. The results were, honestly, fascinating. First, an infographic:
In the above infographic, the percentages indicated in the list of things you’re most likely to fight about come from your answer to “How often do you fight about the following topics?”. The answer options were Constantly, Often, Sometimes, Rarely, Never, and the percentages above represent those who chose Constantly, Often or Sometimes for that topic.
In the ensuing discussion, when I say “frequently” I am referring to the combined numbers of “constantly” and “often” only.
This Is What You Fight About
1. Relationship Expectations
What does this consist of, exactly? Well, a whole lot of things: how much time you spend together (an especially volatile topic for those in long-distance relationships or those with exhausting time-consuming jobs), the level of emotional support required by each partner, whether long-term goals and life plans line up, and who is putting more [time, energy, trust, care-taking] into the relationship. Sometimes you want such different things in the long-term that you’re not even sure if it’ll ever work. 71% of those who fought “constantly” about relationship expectations worried that their relationship might not last — a significantly larger percentage than those who fought constantly about other topics.
2. Pet Peeves or Annoying Habits
Although many picked this category, very few elaborated on it: but, interestingly enough, the overwhelming majority of people who picked this as something they fought about Often or Constantly used the comment boxes to explain that they don’t really “fight” so much as “bicker,” “disagree,” or have “briefly heated conversations.” This category for many people might just be serving as a stand-in for the various five-minute squabbles we have about the little things the other person does that annoy us: leaving drawers partially open on a dresser, exhibiting road rage, leaving the light on in the kitchen, talking too loudly, showing up late for things, losing their keys, checking e-mail too often, and so forth.
Sex is a huge issue in relationships and the most common conflict related to sex is frequency: mis-matched sex drives came up with almost every commenter who indicated fighting about sex constantly/often. Sub-complications of this genre included one partner’s sex drive being impacted by anti-depressants or stress/exhaustion, dealing with past sexual trauma, and feelings about who initiates more. As we learned in our Ultimate Lesbian Sex Survey, couples having more sex were more likely to report being “ecstatic” — the highest option offered on the relationship satisfaction matrix — in their relationship, but there wasn’t a huge correlation between couples who were “happy” (the second-highest option) and couples who had more sex. We’ve done a lot of work on this topic: on Moving Beyond Lesbian Bed Death and Bridging The Libido Gap, Surviving Lesbian Bed Death, what to do when Your Girlfriend Never Ever Ever Wants To Have Sex. We’ve talked about (Having More) Sex, when You Can’t Always Get What You Want(In Bed) and when a particular sex act gives you PTSD — and also, Here Is A Worksheet To Help You Talk To Partners About Sex.
Unsurprisingly, those who fought about sex constantly or often were the least likely to report always having makeup sex – only 4.3% do, compared to 38% of the whole.
Seriously if somehow none of us ever had to do the dishes, we’d all get along way better — and the household things we find to fight about are really truly special. Although housework doesn’t crack the top ten most contentious topics for relationships who’ve been together for a year or less, it debuts at #6 for relationships who’ve been together 1-2 years, and continues climbing the charts — by the 5+ year mark, it hits #3 and settles at #2 for 10+ year relationships. So, basically, as soon as you start living together, you start fighting about how to live together! Most of these arguments are of the “who does more” variety and are further complicated by couples with messy pets.
5. Friends or Socializing
So here’s how this goes: you don’t hang out with each other’s friends, or you don’t like each other’s friends, or you wish their friends didn’t include their exes. Maybe they’re an introvert and you’re an extrovert. Or there’s jealousy there — she doesn’t trust you to go out without her, or seems to have more fun with her friends than with you. Of those who fought frequently about friends/socializing, 48% also fought frequently about jealousy/other people and 28% about exes, compared to 13.8% and 8.6% of the entire group.
6. Other People/Jealousy
Not trusting your partner and worrying about them cheating on you or being suspicious of her friendships can really put a lot of stress on a relationship, which’s perhaps why 42% of people who frequently fought about this think the way they fight is unhealthy, compared to 17% of the entire group. This was a source of contention much more prevalent in newer relationships than older ones, though, and it seems to be a somewhat larger issue for bisexual women: 41-42% of lesbians dating bisexuals fought about this, compared to 39% of bisexuals dating bisexuals, 31%-35% of queers dating lesbians, 33.5% of lesbians dating lesbians and 29% of queers dating queers. Non-monogamous/open relationships struggled with this more than monogamous ones — 42% of folks in non-monogamous or open relationships fought about this, compared to 34% of the whole group.
45% of married folks fight about money, compared to 30% of the unmarried — combining finances isn’t easy! Money fights seem to fall into three main categories: one person makes more money than the other (or one is unemployed), there are disagreements about spending habits and saving, or tight finances overall cause general stress and tension. This issue is really stressful for lesbian relationships especially because women’s earning power is so much less than men’s — moreso for LGBTQ women — and we’re more likely to be cut off from family or social safety nets.
8. Work or School
A lot of you fight about work and school schedules — one partner working/studying too much or not enough, prioritizing work over the relationship or residual stress from work/school. And, of course, a lot of you are doing that super complicated thing where we work with each other (I’m guilty of this too — I co-own this website with an ex-girlfriend and run A-Camp with another ex-girlfriend!), which offers so many more opportunities for high-charged disagreements. Whereas only 26% of the entire group said they currently fight more than usual due to a temporary situation, 43% of those who fight frequently about work/school do. School, of course, is temporary, and all of us tend to imagine a time in our lives when we’ll be working less.
This is another category highly impacted by length of relationship — it barely comes up for newbies and climbs the charts the longer a couple is together. In fact, by the time we reach the 10-year mark, you’re fighting more often about relatives than about sex! Heterosexual couples certainly deal with a lot of family-related conflicts, but queer couples are more prone to them: a lot of y’all are dealing with family who are homophobic, unsupportive or otherwise insufferable to be around due to their feelings about your sexual orientation. There were a lot of unrelated-to-being-gay family conflicts, too: disagreements on how to handle toxic family members, cultural conflicts, “her mom/dad hates me,” living with relatives and different attitudes towards family in general.
LGBTQ women are more likely than straight people to have mental and physical health issues — something I recently dug into in depth using results from our Grown-Ups survey. On this survey, mental health issues came up a lot amongst people who fought frequently about health, as well as disagreements over how one partner is handling their physical or mental health — how often they exercise, what they eat, how often they drink or use drugs or smoke or how they manage a physical or mental health problem. Speaking from personal experience on all sides, relationships in which one or both partners have depression, anxiety, BPD, PTSD or any number of psychiatric diagnoses require a lot of understanding, patience and communication, and mental health is something we talk about a lot around here.
Exes, along with the next two items on this list, are a topic that only makes the top nine for couples who’ve been together for less than a year — and of those who fight frequently about exes, 96% also fight frequently about other people/jealousy. “Exes” is probably seen more as a sub-topic of “other people/jealousy” than its own thing and perhaps should’ve been treated as such on the survey.
The most cited conflict for this category was discomfort with somebody still being friends with their ex, but difficulties with ex-husbands came up, too. Another interesting tidbit: only 17% of queer/queer couples fight about exes, but between 21% and 26% of lesbian/lesbian, lesbian/bisexual and bisexual/bisexual couples do.
Also, one of you wrote: “She’s convinced I’m secretly sleeping with a man. I’m not. But she is.” YOU GUYS!! Y’all need to break up. Speaking of breaking up, those who fight frequently about exes were the most likely to agree with the statement “the amount of fighting we do makes me worry that our relationship won’t last.” This might be why longer-term couples fight less often about exes — although it’s also due to the fact that exes are farther in the past the longer you’re together, it’s also possible that couples who fought a lot about exes didn’t last as long as those who didn’t.
12. Drinking, Smoking or Drugs
This is our second topic that made the top ten most-fought-about topics for brand new couples but not for any couples together for one year or more — however, it’s not that more lengthy relationships fought about it way less often than newer ones, simply that topics that weren’t issues for new relationships overtook it (e.g., housework, relatives, health.) However, radically different substance habits be an insurmountable issue for many couples, especially for queer women who may socialize in all-female groups containing mostly mutual friends — as opposed to a boyfriend/husband who might go out “with the guys” to get hammered.
What’s happening with the couples who fight about this a lot? Well, they smoke and you hate it. They like to party and you don’t. You think she drinks too much or she thinks you drink too much or you think she smokes too much pot. Addiction issues, relapses or even scarier stuff — like she steals your prescription drugs or has ended up hospitalized for drinking.
Those who fight about drinking/smoking/drugs frequently were also the most likely to report fights that always, often or sometimes involved physical abuse — 6%-12.9% of them did, compared to 1.6-2.6% of the entire group. This topic was the third most likely, after “exes” and “other people/jealousy,” to report fights that always, often or sometimes involved emotional abuse.
13. Politics and Social Justice Issues
Sometimes these arguments deeply reflected that “the personal is political” — a white partner not understanding a non-white partner‘s experiences of racism or differences in background (red state vs. blue state) leading to present-tense conflicts. Those who fought frequently about politics/social issues were the least likely to worry that their relationship won’t last because of fighting, despite also being the second-most-likely to fight every day. They were also the most likely to agree that fighting can be productive (56%) and the least likely to agree that the way they fight is unhealthy (27%). This ranked higher for new couples, perhaps because politics/social justice issues are often deeply tied to personality moreso than relationship dynamics, and it makes sense that they’re controversial mostly during the first year, when you’re still evaluating the compatibility of your partnership.
The reason “children” fall so low on this list is probably because most of the survey-takers don’t have any — although quite a few people did report fighting about whether or not to have kids or tension around trying to get pregnant. Of those who had kids, many seem to have come into the relationship with kids from prior relationships. “Children” comes in at 14 out of 14 issues for all relationship lengths until we hit the 5+ year mark, at which point it crawls to #13, and then leaps to #9 at the 10+ year mark. The main thing worth mentioning about couples with children is that y’all are tired. Y’ALL ARE SO TIRED. You have fights about parenting styles but also a lot of you are just so incredibly tired and so you bicker every now and then but it’s usually fine. This is likely why those who fought frequently about children were the most likely to fight every day.