“We are the couples who argue all the time.” “We fight but we fix and stay together no matter what.” This is a tale as old as time about 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, not knowing when to fight for a relationship and when to give up. 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 gain a deeper understanding of why couples keep repeating the same argument and how to stop fighting in a relationship.
The Cycle of Fighting in Relationships
The fighting cycle is like a never-ending loop of negativity that couples can get caught up in when they have conflicts or disagreements. This pattern can take hold at any stage of a relationship. Fighting in early stages of relationship is also very common, contrary to the notion that it’s only a long-term relationship issue.
The only thought that goes through the couple’s mind is, “We argue all the time,” leaving them desperate for an answer to how to break the cycle of fighting in a relationship. It starts when one person gets upset or frustrated about something, and they might express their feelings with words or actions and then experience guilt because they feel it’s one of their bad habits in a relationship. This can lead to another person getting upset in return, and the conflict escalates. They might argue, yell, or even use physical force, and this keeps going back and forth. It’s like a cycle because it can repeat itself over and over.
Why do couples keep fighting constantly? 5 main reasons
To stop bickering in a relationship, it’s important to break the cycle by using communication and problem-solving skills to resolve issues peacefully and find a way to understand each other better. At the same time, it’s important to also understand where this need to fight is coming from. Here are 5 main reasons a couple may find themselves stuck in the cycle of conflict:
- Poor communication: Couples who fail to intentionally communicate with one another in the present moment often struggle with issues related to growth and intimacy and get stuck in the fight cycle. Research gives us a better understanding by revealing that a lack of effective communication is the cause of marriage breakdown
- Criticisms or finger-pointing: Dr. John Gottman states, “Criticisms have the power to take peace from the lives of the two people in a relationship.” Criticism is the most annoying thing to be surrounded by, especially if it comes from your romantic partner
- Management of finances: According to the 2014 APA Stress in America survey, money is a major source of conflict in their relationship. Another study shows couples’ constant arguing in relationship about money tends to be more intense, more problematic, and more likely to remain unresolved
- Habits of partners: A study showed that partners’ habits, such as leaving dishes on the counter, not picking up after themselves, chewing with their mouths open, or not contributing to household chores, came up in fights 17% of the time, making it one of the most common reasons for conflict
- Differences in expectations around intimacy: 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
Related Reading: 13 Non-Sexual Touches To Feel Intimate And Close
How To Stop The Cycle Of Fighting In A Relationship – 11 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 of “we fight but we fix and stay“, it is also important to know how to stop that cycle of fighting in a relationship altogether and not be one of the couples who argue all the time.
The key to finding an answer to how to stop arguing in a relationship is effective communication. Addressing how to fix a relationship after constant fighting requires a commitment to introspection and self-improvement, along with a mutual effort to identify the root causes of conflicts and work together on constructive solutions. Below are just a few ways you can practice it to stop the bickering in a relationship:
1. Hit the pause button but get back to the conversations later
This is me letting you in on a piece of relationship advice for couples I offer my clients in therapy — take time-outs. It essentially means all the discussions about what each person wants from the other stop immediately until both 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 you can reach emotional attunement. You can have an agreed-upon time that can last anywhere between an hour and 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 and can hit their self-esteem. 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. This is especially applicable if you keep fighting a lot in a relationship. 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.
It is necessary to be a good listener to know how to fix a relationship after constant fighting and come to a common ground. One of the other things is that we often tend to assess whether most of what we are listening to is true or not. Instead, 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, not get trapped in an endless fighting cycle that goes on and on or repeating the same argument over and over again.
Related Reading: 15 Ways To Solve Relationship Problems Without Breaking Up
4. Choose the right time
Choosing the right time to discuss important matters in a relationship is like finding the perfect moment when you and your partner can really connect and understand each other. Imagine you’re planning to talk about something significant, like your future together or a sensitive topic. It’s crucial to pick a moment when you’re both feeling calm and relaxed, just like finding the right weather to go on a picnic.
A study in the Journal of Family Psychology revealed that couples who engaged in important conversations during stressful or chaotic times were more likely to have negative outcomes. It’s like trying to have a deep conversation while a storm is raging outside — it’s hard to hear each other. Conversely, couples who chose the right time, like a quiet evening at home, reported more positive outcomes from their discussions. Being mindful of this fact is vital if you want to learn how to stop fighting in a relationship.
5. 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 between one another.” Partners in healthy relationships repair very early and often in their relationships and have a lot of strategies on how to do so. This is one of the most efficient exercises to help couples stop fighting.
There are different ways you can repair a rupture (that is, rebuild a connection after emotional damage) or a conflict and learn how to avoid fights in relationship. You can start by using repair phrases that start with “I feel”, “Sorry”, or “I appreciate”. The best part about this is that you can get as creative as you like, coming up with your own personalized ways, which in the end fulfills the need to calm both of you down. This is one of the most effective answers to how to stop the cycle of fighting in a relationship.
6. 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 assume that your partner will automatically know. When you communicate what you need in a relationship, you are giving your partner a chance to be there for you, which will help you get through this fight cycle. 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
7. Make a shift from complaint to request
“We always fight but we love each other” is a common sentiment in many relationships. However, it’s essential to recognize that these conflicts often arise from unmet needs. A complaint, in essence, is an expression of an unmet need. When we don’t ask for what we need, we turn to complaints about our needs not being 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 lead you nowhere on how to stop the cycle of fighting in a relationship and might lead to an unhealthy relationship.
How to stop fighting in a relationship? Start by expressing how you feel first, being specific, and then saying what you need from your partner to avoid general complaints like “we argue all the time”. It is also important that you offer to make changes by asking if there is anything they would like you to change.
8. 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, leaving no room for a different perspective. While we may know this, most of us still use statements that imply that the other person has intentionally hurt us and is to be wholly blamed for making us angry in the relationship. We focus on the other person’s behavior without spending any time 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.
9. Maintain personal time
My friends, Ashley and Dennis, have been married for 14 long years. Ashley loves painting, and Dennis enjoys playing basketball. By pursuing their individual interests, they not only grow as individuals but also bring new stories and experiences to share with each other. Ashley might paint a beautiful sunset, and Dennis can tell her about the amazing shot he made on the basketball court.
If you have been wondering how to stop arguing in a relationship, know that having personal space can work wonders in dousing the fire of conflict or countering the undercurrent of resentment. It prevents you from feeling overwhelmed or tired of each other. Just like when you eat too much of your favorite food, you’re suddenly not as excited about it. It’s the same in a relationship. Taking breaks from each other and having your own hobbies can make your time together even more special and keep the love alive. So, remember, personal time is like a sprinkle of magic that keeps your relationship fresh and exciting.
Related Reading: The 7 Types Of Boundaries In Relationships For A Stronger Bond
10. Keep the love alive
Studies consistently show that couples who regularly express love and appreciation tend to have longer and more satisfying relationships and have cracked the code of how to avoid fights in relationship. In fact, in a study titled, Is Long-Term Love More than a Rare Phenomenon, the researchers found that couples who reported being “very in love” after five years were more likely to still be in love after 20 years.
Regularly expressing these feelings is how to stop fighting in a relationship. It not only strengthens the emotional connection but also leads to a longer-lasting and more satisfying relationship. By reminding yourself of the bond that initially brought both of you together, you can enjoy a more fulfilling and enduring relationship.
11. Consider couples therapy
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.
Knowing when to fight for a relationship and when to give up is a crucial skill. However, keep in mind, it’s important to discern when a challenge can be overcome through communication and effort and when it may be better to break free for the well-being of both partners.
- Most couples have arguments and conflicts and have, at one point in their relationship, had the thought, “Every time we fight I want to break up.”
- 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
- Couples therapy can help with managing conflicts in a relationship
Why do you fight with someone you love? Or why do you fight but at the end of the day, you still love them with all your heart? These are questions all of us have asked when dealing with conflict in marriage or any kind of relationship. 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 a mental health professional. I hope this piece gave you some insight on why as well as how to stop the cycle of fighting in a relationship.
While fighting is very normal in a relationship, constant arguing in relationship is 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 way of relationship from an 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, especially fighting in the early stages of relationship. 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 and might have thought, “Every time we fight I want to break up”. 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 and can be resolved only by having effective communication skills. But yes, it is completely normal to have arguments and conflicts with someone you love.