1. When one person suddenly becomes the breadwinner.
More money is always awesome, right? Wrong. We assume that couples fight about money because they don’t have enough of it, or they disagree about how to spend it. But there’s another potent source of fiscal resentment to consider: A sudden change in who’s earning more. We’d like to believe we’re capable of celebrating our partner’s success, especially when it means we’re richer as a duo, but our egos are fragile.
No one likes to be unseated as the breadwinner. When one person suddenly starts earning more than their partner, especially after years of ranking second, it can be a major blow to their boyfriend or girlfriend’s self-confidence. As a safeguard, it’s probably best not to underestimate your partner’s earning potential at any point, no matter what industry the work in. And while you’re at it, maybe stop pretending that money doesn’t matter.
2. When one person goes on a serious exercise kick.
When someone develops the urge to ramp up their exercise routine—because it’s almost bikini season, or they’re actually concerned about their health—hopefully their boyfriend or girlfriend contracts the bug to hit the gym more often too. But you can’t assume that your physical fitness goals will always jive with your partner’s. Maybe one person is overworked and they can’t imagine fitting an hour of exercise into their already packed schedule, so as much as they’d like to support you, they secretly hate you for waking up at 5AM to jog while they prepare for another soul sucking day at the office. If you’re the one committed to the life enhancing health kick, try not to get self-righteous about it. If you want to do calisthenics before bed, that’s fine—just don’t guilt anyone else into joining you for a round of late-night high-knee kicks. What’s good for one person’s mind and body isn’t necessarily right for another’s.
3. When one person decides to overhaul their diet.
It’s one thing to enter into a relationship as a diehard carnivore knowing that your partner is vegan, and quite another to tolerate a sudden overhaul in your boyfriend or girlfriend’s diet. When one person decides to start following a strict eating regimen, it’s an adjustment for the couple as a whole, especially if the dieter cleanses the cupboards of all junky snacks because they don’t want to be tempted. The only thing less fun than going out to dinner with someone who can only eat one dish on a menu after requesting five specific substitutions is indulging in a bag of Cheetos you had to pick up on the way home while someone judges you from across the room. You never know when the urge to go Paleo, pescatarian, or gluten free might strike your lover, so don’t rely on food as your go-to method of bonding. There are things to do other than eat dinner together.
4. When one person latches onto a new hobby.
Hobbies can be wonderful for a person’s mental health. It’s nice to focus on something aside from the mundane duties that define our daily existences. But when a person starts collecting graphic novels, insects, stamps, or Harry Potter paraphernalia, or decides to start building model airplanes or flying tiny helicopters, their newfound hobby will take up a certain percentage of their time and attention—commodities important to the person they’re dating. If your partner doesn’t share your enthusiasm for your chosen interest, they’re bound to feel excluded. In this case, you can either avoid conveying just how psyched you are to win an eBay auction for a replica wand, or help your significant other pursue a hobby of their own.
5. When one person nurtures a close friendship outside of the relationship.
By high school, most of us have learned that friendship triangles don’t work. One person is destined to feel left out, and you simply can’t have two “best” friends. For the same reason, threesomes are tricky to navigate without making one person feel like the third wheel in bed. It’s even more difficult when one person in a relationship develops a really close friendship with someone else, male or female. No matter how platonic your outside bond is, it’s bound to make your partner jealous, which can be healthy, or ruinous. In a relationship, both parties need to feel as if they’re more special to their partner than any other human, so tread carefully.
6. When one person gets injured.
There are few things more frustrating than being injured. Whether you break an arm or sprain an ankle or slip a disc, suddenly you’re incapable of functioning in the world as you once did. You’re also forced to lean on others, including your partner, more than you’d like just to accomplish simple tasks. This puts you in a bad mood, which only makes the whole situation more depressing. The pain of one person’s injury is usually felt by both people in a relationship and it can make things pretty unbearable. Keep in mind that most injuries are only disruptive temporarily, and that next time you might be the one in the cast.
7. When one person becomes a staunch supporter of a certain cause.
One morning, your partner might wake up and decide that they care deeply about the environment, and that all of your charitable donations as a couple should go to green organizations. Or maybe they’ll decide that animal cruelty must stop, and begin spending all of their free time volunteering at PETA’s headquarters after lighting your fur coat and leather shoes on fire. Sudden allegiance to a cause isn’t uncommon, especially in middle age and beyond. People like to have a sense of purpose, and it’s impossible to predict how anyone’s social conscience will or will not evolve. You can’t assume that your partner will always mock PETA’s gratuitous celebrity nude campaigns right alongside you.
8. When one person decides to get political.
Perhaps you’ve never voted in a presidential election, and you can’t even name your state’s Senators. It doesn’t matter. As we get older, the options for entering the political sphere on a local level open up, and there’s something intoxicating about power. The mere mention that you’d make a great Mayor or member of the Board of Education or City Councilman might infect you with the desire to run for election. Your partner may or may not be down to support your campaign, so don’t expect them to jump at the opportunity to hand out buttons and fliers with your face on them.