I get the privilege of meeting with a lot of couples. Some of them are in the process of receiving pre-marital counseling. Others are friends that we're spending some time with. A few of them attend a marriage class that my wife and I teach. While others are in the midst of crisis. All of these meetings have a different flavor and feel to them, but there are some commonalities that exist across all of these different conversations.

Recently, I was meeting with a couple and they shared that they had had a fight recently. I was expecting, as the story unfolded, that this was going to be the kind of fight that would end their relationship. This was it. Unreconcilable differences.

As I listened on, I was surprised to find out that the fight was about cookies! Cookies! More specifically was that he ate the last cookie and didn't save any for her.

Now, as much as I can relate to someone eating the last cookie and that leading to a massive problem in a marriage that only years of counseling can fix, my first reaction was to tell the couple "If cookies are the worst of your issues, you'll have a long, happy marriage." I mean, really - cookies?!?!? I've interacted with couples that are dealing with unfaithfulness, alcoholism, and intimacy issues. But, cookies? That's a new one"

Instead of downplaying their issue, I found myself reflecting on my own marriage. Would my wife and I fight over cookies? Would it have to be a snickerdoodle or sugar cookie before it would start a fight? Would it matter if they were store-bought or homemade?

And then it hit me "¦

We DO fight over cookies! A lot. In fact, MOST of the fights we have are over cookies

Confused yet? Let me define "cookies" for you:

Cookies = Picking where we'll eat for dinner

Cookies = Changing diapers

Cookies = Doing the dishes, taking out the trash, running the vacuum

Cookies = Money, Children, Sex

Cookies = Anything that causes a fight but isn't the root cause of the argument

What was true about this couple's fight and what is true about most of the fights that me and my wife have is that what we're fighting about or what starts the fight isn't usually the cause of the fight. I would say that there are a few real reasons that couples fight and if we're able to identify this before a fight starts or gets out of control, we can have a happier marriage. These reasons include:

I'm being selfish

This is true for husbands and wives alike. We are naturally selfish and we really have to be intentional in our marriage about fight against our selfish tendencies. "Those cookies are MINE." "I baked those cookies so I get to eat more than you." "I have needs, I'm hungry, I haven't eaten all day"¦" I think you get the idea. If we are faced with an offense, we should first pause and check our motives. Am I upset because the other person did something worthy of my anger or is it simply a case of where our own selfish wants are not being met?

My love tank is empty

We've written on the subject of love languages before. But, most fights happen because of empty love tanks. I haven't had any quality time with my spouse. I've not heard any words of affirmation for weeks. My spouse hasn't served me. I've not received any gifts from him/her. We haven't touched one another for too long. You see, when we aren't being "loved," it's much easier for the small things (and big things too) to impact us at a much deeper level. So, it's not actually cookies that are causing the fights, but rather my need for an encouraging word from my wife about my work or parenting, etc.

Unmet expectations

Unmet expectations are a real "fight starter" in marriage. When we expect that our spouse will behave in a certain way (thoughtful, caring, etc.), we can be regularly disappointed. When we expect that our spouse will make a certain decision when faced with particular circumstances (disciplining our children, spending money, eating the last cookie, etc.), we can be hurt by their actual decision. When we expect that a moment (date night, vacation, etc.) will happen in a specific way, we can become disillusioned. Communicating about our expectations can alleviate the need for them to become unmet.

At the end of the day, most of the fights we have could be avoided. If we examine our motives, work diligently on filling each other's love tanks, and communicate regularly about our expectations, we can greatly reduce the impact that eating the last cookie can have on our marriage and our relationship.

Editor's note: This article was originally published on Tim Parsons' blog. It has been republished here with permission.

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