9 Types of Tension that Can Improve Your Marriage

Discover how discord in your relationship can actually bring you closerBy Jenna Birch

While "tension" sounds negative, it's really a sign your relationship is changing-possibly for the better. Even when all is status quo, infusing certain kinds of tension into your marriage can shake things up in a good way. Here, experts share how to use different types of tumult to get closer with your husband. Photo by Getty Images

1. Sexual Tension
When you're longing for your hubby, and vice versa, that natural, physical tension signals a need to be met. "We tend to think of sexuality as romantic, but sexual release is a human necessity," says clinical psychologist Andra Brosh, PhD. So occasionally, be a tease; holding out can turn up the heat between the sheets. "This could position you in a healthy place of power over him." Just don't withhold sex to get your way or because you're upset with him. Driving him crazy is only fun when it's playful, not punishment.

Related: Discover 8 secrets of sexually satisfied couples.

2. Conflict Tension
If you finally argue about how he still hasn't fixed the pantry door he broke-good. "Conflict doesn't necessarily mean bad," says licensed marriage and family therapist Carin Goldstein, founder of BeTheSmartWife.com. "Know how to argue well, laying out your feelings so your partner understands. Letting it endlessly fester is what's toxic." Dr. Brosh adds that butting heads can lead to make-up sex. "After, couples can be more patient and have more meaningful conversations than when tension is high," she says.

3. Parenting Tension
In parenting, you have to be on the same page. If you're standing your ground with your kids, and not against each other's parenting styles, the challenge is shared. "Surviving something hard, like taking care of babies, could bring you closer," says Dr. Brosh. "Working as a team through stress promotes a 'we're-in-this-together' attitude." And gathering for a glass of wine or a romantic meal after having a tough time putting the kids to bed can deepen your connection, Dr. Brosh says.

4. Competitive Tension
Game night? Get spirited about who's winning Monopoly. Rooting for different teams in the NBA finals? Go ahead and razz each other. "A known competition is fun," says Goldstein. "It's an issue only if the competition is unspoken." If you're secretly trying to one-up him instead of understanding his side of an argument, you'll lose, says Goldstein. Make sure your rivalry is friendly and out in the open.

5. Social Tension
You're a social butterfly, he's a bit of a recluse-and you don't agree about how often to see friends. An introvert and extrovert pairing up is a common example of opposites attracting, says Goldstein, "but even magnets can repel at a certain point." Find balance by making plans in equal measure. "Extroverts have trouble letting go of the reins," Goldstein says. "Let the introvert take the lead and have a quiet night in half the time. You achieve a deeper sense of intimacy if you can get past what feels uncomfortable at first."

Related: Learn about the best body language for any situation.

6. Communication Tension
You can't stand how he leaves his plates in the sink-and since he isn't getting the message when you gently bring it up, you're torn between biting your tongue and telling him off. Turn tension from what you don't say into a lesson in choosing your battles. "A lot of couples think you have to talk everything out to move forward, but some things need to fizzle out," says Match.com relationship expert Whitney Casey. "Tabling issues gives you a chance to step back and give them the perspective they need in your relationship." If it's going to cause a wedge between you long-term, then speak up. But if it's ultimately inconsequential (those dishes get washed eventually), blowing up won't make it better. Besides, you probably do a few small things that bother him, too!

7. Familial Tension
Talking about irritating comments from the in-laws is navigating a minefield, especially if you get defensive about your families. But it's a chance to stand together as a new family-which means going to bat for your man when your brother says something out of line. "As long as there's a unified front, familial tensions can bring a couple together in a glorious way," says Casey. "This can also go wrong when two standards are used." So deal with both sets of in-laws in the same manner, and recognize everyone's family is a bit crazy.

Related: Find out 10 things husbands should never do.

8. Separation Tension
When one of you is away, you may feel frustrated-you can't vent after work or ask your husband to pop the lid on a jar. Your man's worth the wait, though. "This is one of the best tensions you can create," says Casey, who advises couples to spend time apart traveling and with friends so they can return to the relationship with new experiences and information to share. "Novelty is a wonderful aphrodisiac," she explains. "When you reconnect, plan a real date night-no kids, no to-do lists." But remember: Spending more days away than together means you'll be growing in different directions.

9. Financial Tension
Goldstein says couples have a tougher time talking finances than sex. When one person's a spender and the other's a saver, use financial tension to create better balance between enjoying life now and planning for the future and rainy days. "Say to your partner, 'Let's feel like we're on top of this,' and look at your budget so you can plan spending for that month or year," suggests Goldstein. If you set goals and work together to meet them, you'll feel accomplished and more connected.

You Might Also Like:
9 Fights to Have with Your Husband
10 Marriage Rules You Should Break
9 Ways to Initiate Sex