“We argue all the time.” “We fight but we resolve it and stay together no matter what.” This is a tale as old as time, couples who love each other very much but can’t seem to figure out how to stop the cycle of fighting in a relationship. They keep on slipping into this circle of heated arguments, back and forth. Well, if you relate to this, you are in the right place.
In this article, trauma-informed counseling psychologist Anushtha Mishra (MSc., Counseling Psychology), who specializes in providing therapy for concerns such as trauma, relationship issues, depression, anxiety, grief, and loneliness among others, writes to help you better understand why couple’s fight and how to break the cycle of fighting in a relationship.
Why Do Couples Fight Constantly? (5 main reasons)
Every couple has arguments and conflicts. Why do you fight with someone you love? Because it is the person who is closest to you that triggers you the most emotionally. In a relationship, we usually pick a fight over surface issues but what we are really fighting about is our unmet needs. Below are a few of those unmet needs or reasons that make couples fight, almost, on a loop:
1. Poor communication can lead to fights among couples
Lack of communication can lead to confusion and uncertainty in a relationship in terms of where both of you stand. It also makes it hard to know how to stop the cycle of fighting in a relationship. Couples who fail to intentionally communicate with one another often struggle with issues related to growth and intimacy. While many feel that it is not something to pay much attention to, the truth is that it’s one of the only things that truly holds importance in happy and healthy relationships.
One out of many pieces of research done to study the causes and effects of communication breakdown among couples in marriages found that lack of effective communication is the bane of breakdown in marriage. The study implied that how a couple communicates can make or break their relationship and is the number one reason for couples who argue all the time.
2. Conflicts arise due to criticisms or finger pointing
Dr. John Gottman states, “Criticisms have the power to take peace from the relationship.” Criticism is the most annoying thing to be surrounded by especially if it is coming from your romantic partner. It has the power to cut through a relationship. It is mostly spilled out through “you always” or “you never” statements. Often it leaves you thinking, “We always fight but we love each other”, which is a very natural thought to have in such circumstances.
A lot of conflicts arise due to the wish that is disguised behind the criticisms. It’s a bleak take on a real need that you might have from your partner and pulls you both farther apart. Owning up to that need and articulating it positively can help reduce those fights that you constantly find yourself in and is a great conflict resolution strategy.
3. Management of finances can stir fights
Financial concerns are among the most common sources of disagreement for couples. According to the 2014 APA Stress in America survey, almost a third of adults with partners (31%) reported that money is a major source of conflict in their relationship. Another study shows that compared to other topics, couples’ arguments about money tend to be more intense, more problematic, and more likely to remain unresolved. Conflicts surrounding money can be frustrating enough to make you think, “Every time we fight, I want to break up.”
Fights about money are so closely tied to feelings of personal power and autonomy, which is a deeper issue at play whenever such conflicts arise. How to stop the cycle of fighting in a relationship? By sitting down together and discussing the household finances, assessing how much you are spending, and coming to a compromise. Try being transparent and there will be less to argue about being a good strategy to stop fighting in a relationship.
4. Habits of partners can ignite fights among the couple
Over time, the person you are in a relationship with will most likely irritate you with some of their habits that you don’t approve of. A study done in 2009 showed that partners’ habits, such as leaving dishes on the counter, not picking up after yourself, or chewing with mouth open, came up in fights 17% of the time, making it one of the most common reasons for conflict.
More often than not, these small silly habits of your partner get on your nerves. Now how you deal with them will determine if the cycle of the fights will roll on and on or stop. Your conversations with your partner about these habits need to be delicate and not defensive or accusatory. These habits can ruin a relationship.
5. Differences in expectations around intimacy can cause conflicts
The above-mentioned study also showed that reportedly 8% of fights between a couple are about closeness, sex, and displays of affection, including how often or the way intimacy is shown.
If something is bothering you about your sex life, bring it up with your partner in a sensitive manner. If something they do in bed or the way they display their affection is not to your liking, gently have an open conversation about it where you are not blaming your partner but discussing the issue with them.
Related Reading: 13 Non-Sexual Touches To Feel Intimate And Close
How To Stop The Cycle Of Fighting In A Relationship – Expert-Recommended Tips
Now that you are aware of why do you fight with someone you love in marriage or a relationship and stay caught in that cycle, it is also important to know how to stop that cycle of fighting in a relationship. Knowing this can help both you and your partner in restoring peace in the relationship and interrupt the pattern of fighting.
The key to resolving this is through effective communication. I can’t stress enough how important it is to communicate effectively. Below are just a few ways you can practice it to stop the bickering in a relationship.
1. Take time-outs but get back to the conversations
Time out means all the discussions about what each person wants from the other stop immediately until both the partners can return to a calm and rational state of mind. It’s important that you ask yourself if you are in a state where you could attend to this problem. If the calm of the situation is gone, a time-out is necessary so that a constructive conversation can happen once both partners have cooled off and so you can reach emotional attunement.
You can have an agreed-upon time that can last anywhere between an hour to a day after which the talks will resume. It’s not the same as walking out of annoyance, which can lead to your partner feeling rejected. It is a collaborative approach to working things out healthily and constructively and one of the most effective tips on how to break the cycle of fighting in a relationship.
2. Being a good listener is important
You don’t always have to make a point or be hell-bent on making the other person see your point of view. In order to know how to stop the cycle of fighting in a relationship, take a moment to just listen, without judgments or biases, with empathy. Ask questions and then listen to the answers without needing to know what to say next, even when it’s difficult to do so. This is necessary to be a good listener.
Often, we tend to assess whether most of what we are listening to is true or not. We are not really listening to our partners to understand their feelings and thoughts. Try listening to your partner’s experience just as it is, an experience, without concentrating or worrying about whether it is objectively true. “We always fight but we love each other” – if this is you, then learning how to be a good listener can help.
3. Focus on what can be solved
Research shows that happy couples tend to take a solution-oriented approach to conflict, and this is clear even in the topics that they choose to discuss. They found that such couples chose to focus on issues with clearer solutions, such as the distribution of household labor and how to spend leisure time.
What they are essentially saying is that couples that stay together happily seem to pick up their battles wisely and focus on only the ones that can be solved and not get trapped in an endless cycle of fighting that goes on and on.
4. Learn the repair attempts
Dr. John Gottman describes a repair attempt as “any statement or action, silly or otherwise, that prevents negativity from escalating out of control.” Partners in healthy relationships repair very early and often in their relationships and have a lot of strategies on how to. This is one of the most efficient exercises to help couples stop fighting.
There are different ways you can repair a rupture or a conflict. You can start by using repair phrases that start with “I feel”, “Sorry”, or “I appreciate”. The best part about this is you can get as creative as you like, coming up with your own personalized ways, which in the end fulfills the need of calming both of you down. This is one of the most effective answers to how to stop the cycle of fighting in a relationship.
5. Ask for what you need
Your partner can’t intuitively know what you need to be content or happy. A healthy relationship is when you ask for what you need rather than assuming that your partner would automatically know.
When you are communicating what you need in a relationship, you are giving a chance to your partner to be there for you. Stay vulnerable and focus on ‘your’ feelings and thoughts while communicating these needs to your partner.
Related Reading: 10 Critical Emotional Needs In A Relationship
6. Make a shift from complaint to request
What is a complaint but an unmet need? When we don’t ask for what we need, we turn to complaints about our needs not getting met. People often use sentences like, “Why did you…?” or “You know I didn’t like it when you…” to tell their partner that they are dissatisfied with their words or actions. However, the number one problem with these critiques and complaints is that they are harmful to your relationship and would lead you nowhere on how to stop the cycle of fighting in a relationship and might lead to an unhealthy relationship.
Instead, start by expressing how you feel first, be specific and then say what you need from your partner. It is also important that you offer to make changes by asking if there is anything they would like you to change.
7. Use ‘I’ statements
Accusatory tones or words can also get in the way of a constructive discussion about your issues. As soon as either of you feels attacked, the defensive walls come up and constructive communication becomes impossible. While you may know this, most of us still use statements that imply that the other person has intentionally hurt us and are to be wholly blamed to making you angry in the relationship. We focus on the other person’s behavior without any time spent thinking about why we’re feeling hurt.
Starting your sentence with ‘I’ helps you talk about difficult feelings, say how the problem is affecting you, and prevent your partner from feeling blamed. It leads us to take responsibility for our feelings while also stating what bothers us. This opens up the path of conversation between couples and is one of the most effective exercises to help couples stop fighting.
8. Consider couple’s counseling
If you find it hard to get through the fights you and your partner have been having and would like to do the inner work to understand the deeper issues beneath the conflicts, counseling can lead to extraordinary breakthroughs. With the help of Bonobology’s panel of experienced therapists, you can move one step closer to a harmonious relationship.
- Every couple has arguments and conflicts
- Poor communication, criticism, mismanagement of finances, habits of your partner, and differences in expectations around intimacy can be a few reasons why couples fight
- Communication is the key to conflict resolution in a relationship
- Taking time outs, being a good listener, focusing on what can be solved, learning repair attempts, requesting rather than complaining, using ‘I’ statements, and asking for what you need are a few ways how you can stop the cycle of fighting in a relationship
- Couple counseling can help with managing conflicts in a relationship
Why you fight with someone you love is a question all of us have asked when dealing with conflict in any kind of relationship, be it romantic or platonic. Understanding the why is important to acknowledge and accept that this is something you’d like to change.
As important as the ‘why’ of it is, knowing the ‘how’ of dealing with conflict when it arises is even more important for preventing it from turning into a vicious cycle. You should discuss it with your partner or explore it together with the help of mental health professional. I hope this piece gave you some insight on the why as well as how to stop the cycle of fighting in a relationship.
While fighting is very normal in a relationship, it’s not necessarily a sign of love. We indeed fight with people we care for but we also fight with people we don’t care for or love. Constant fights can get really toxic after a while and it could shift the whole mood of the relationship. Fighting with a purpose is what differentiates a healthy and unhealthy relationship which is made up of so much more than just love.
Yes, it is possible that you argue a lot with someone you love. However, it’s important to make it a point that these arguments stay constructive. If not, they can become toxic way too fast way too soon.
If you find yourself not being able to stop bickering in a relationship, do have an honest conversation with your partner or reach out to a relationship counselor who can help both of you navigate through the constant fights and arguments.
Of course, we are only humans and all of us, at some point, have had arguments with people we love the most. With them, we fight but at the end of the day, we long to hug them. The key, however, is to have constructive arguments rather than destructive ones where there are fingers pointed at each other with contempt or criticism. That’s when it gets problematic. But yes, It is completely normal to have arguments and conflicts with someone you love.
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