The honeymoon phase was well and truly over. While in the first two years of Jenny and Richard’s marriage, the fights were small and infrequent and makeup sex made resentment vanish, it was not so these days. Now, fights were over larger issues.
For instance, Richard wanted a child while Jenny felt she was not ready to handle a career disruption at the moment. It did not help that she was constantly told by her partner that her biological clock was ticking! That just made her fume all the more. How could they learn to just stop fighting in a relationship?
To address this issue we have inputs from two experts – Kashish Vyas, counselor and EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) practitioner, and Riddhi Doshi Patel, child psychologist and founder-director of Rhhyns Academy in Mumbai.
Arguing and fighting are part of any romantic relationship. Fights are sometimes needed to express strong emotions or opinions to your partner. However, if the fights are too frequent and explosive, it can cause great distress. It may make it difficult for a couple to reconnect at an intimate level. It may have an adverse impact on other aspects of their lives.
Underlying hostility in a relationship can cause a toxic atmosphere in the home. If there are children, they may be traumatized to witness frequent, intense fights between their parents. Constant fighting in a relationship can also lead to separation or divorce. How can you stop fighting with your spouse? Before we explore this, let’s look at the issues couples frequently fight over.
What Do Couples Fight Over
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A 2020 study published in the journal Personality and Individual Differences titled ‘Individual differences and disagreement in romantic relationships’ throws light on this matter. The study developed a scale called the Reasons for Disagreement in Romantic Relationships Scale (RDRRS). The scale contains 30 items organized into six categories:
Inadequate attention/affection: This is a serious problem as most people understand love as attention and gestures of affection. At times, there may a communication problem or preoccupation may be the culprit. To avoid arguments in a relationship, focus on your partner when she is speaking or sharing her emotions
Jealousy/infidelity: Fights can be triggered if you are in touch with your ex, if you tend to compare your partner to other men/women unfavorably, or if you have a tendency to flirt. Stop fighting with your girlfriend by making her feel special and secure
Chores/responsibilities: This can be a sticky issue. If both individuals are working professionals, the person who does more work around the house is bound to feel that things are not fair. Avoid arguments in a relationship by preparing a chore schedule for all family members, including children
Sex: Different sexual drives, infrequent sex and unsatisfactory sex are all thorny areas. Stop fighting with your spouse and try to discuss the issue openly. Visiting a marriage therapist or sexologist could help
Control/dominance: When a relationship is not built around equality, one partner may dominate over the other. Major and minor decisions may be taken by the dominant partner, making the submissive partner feel frustrated. One way to stop fighting with your girlfriend is giving her an equal say in all decisions, however small
Future plans/money: Here a major issue is whether individual goals are in sync with couple goals. Children – whether to have children and when, is often a contentious issue. If you already have children, different parenting styles can create conflict. Partners living apart due to professional compulsions are bound to face tensions. You can stop fighting in a long distance relationship by staying in constant touch and expressing your love and appreciation for each other
Money is considered by some experts to be a significant cause of couple conflict. Who brings in more money, who takes money-related decisions, who should pay for something, different spending styles – these are all issues where money fighting in a relationship takes place.
After 40 years of experience, noted marriage counselor Dr. John Gottman came to the conclusion that 69% of marital conflicts are never solved. That means couples tend to have the same fight over and over again. It could be over money, intimacy or family. And sometimes, seeing a therapist or a sexologist is helpful.
Constant Fighting In A Relationship Because Of Unmet Needs
While we have a gamut of reasons why couples fight, there is one common thread across these reasons. According to a 2018 study published in the Journal of Family Therapy titled ‘Why are couples fighting? A need frustration perspective on relationship conflict and dissatisfaction’, fights may erupt as partners are unable to satisfy each other’s needs.
People have three psychological needs – the need for autonomy, competence and relatedness. The need for autonomy is frustrated when individuals feel controlled by their partner. One’s competence need is frustrated when the partner provokes feelings of failure.
However, the most significant is ‘relatedness need frustration’ when partners are cold, rejecting and distant towards each other, causing tension and loneliness in the relationship. This type of frustration leads more often to both initiation of conflict and the use of less constructive patterns of communication during conflict, reveals the study.
How To Stop Fighting In A Relationship – 7 Strategies That Work
We’ll reiterate: Fighting to some extent is healthy for a relationship. But when it’s moving towards ugliness or abuse, or if it’s causing major unhappiness for you, your partner and your entire family, it’s time to put an end to it. That doesn’t mean you always have to back down, sometimes you just need a change of perspective. Here’s are 7 strategies that work.
1. Take a break
- When a fight gets too heated, it is best if you leave the room till things calm down a bit. This way, you won’t say hurtful things you will regret later
- Sometimes, a couple may need to spend some time apart to get a clearer perspective on the contentious issue and their relationship. Visit family you are close to and feel comfortable with, but avoid discussing the intimate details of your relationship with a third person, unless it is your therapist
- Getting out of the house and going for a walk together to discuss the issue is also a good idea
2. Accept when you are wrong
- When your partner criticizes or blames you for something, it is natural to get defensive. However, this is counterproductive. It is better to think calmly, swallow your pride, and accept when you are in the wrong
- Better still, apologize. This is a great way to stop the cycle of fighting in a relationship. An apology is like music to the ears of an enraged partner. However, the apology must be sincere and warranted. Don’t apologize just to calm things down when you actually feel your partner is wrong
- It is much easier to blame your partner than admit you are wrong. But who said romantic relationships are easy?
3. Don’t attack your partner
- Talk about the aggravating issue rather than attacking your partner. According to Dr Gottman, one of the predictors of divorce is when a person consistently attacks his or her partner’s character rather than isolating the specific issue that is upsetting them
- Communicate your feelings using ‘I’ statements. Rather than saying: “You never have time for me” you could say: “I feel lonely when we don’t have enough time together”
- Never exaggerate or make all-encompassing statements like: “You are such a lousy person”
- Attacking your partner for not caring enough may happen when you are living in separate cities because of the disconnect you both feel. Stop fighting in a long distance relationship by avoiding this pitfall
4. Keep the fight civilized
- No yelling, name-calling or bad language – such behavior can do grave harm to the relationship
- Watch your tone and body language. Avoid sarcasm, harsh expressions and ugly gestures
- Physical violence is an absolute no-no
- Don’t threaten to end the relationship. You might say it in anger but it will remain in your partner’s mind and cause insecurity for days to come
5. Think positive
- Remind yourself why you love your partner. Maria and Harry had this ritual in their 12-year-old marriage that had kept their fights from escalating. Whenever they launched into a heated argument, they would start holding hands. This loving connection stopped them from doing or saying hurtful things to their partner. It is hard to say: “You are so stupid” when you are holding hands. Instead, you might say: “I don’t agree with what you are saying”. Holding hands symbolizes that you are together in this struggle to figure out the problem and resolve it
- Lighten the mood with some humor. Make a funny face to express your frustration. Constant fighting in a relationship can get a respite in laughter and fun
- Some statements can cool the atmosphere immediately. For instance, ‘perhaps you are right’ or ‘I understand what you are saying’
- Try not to qualify your statements with ‘but’. For instance, saying: “I know you were tired yesterday, but so was I, and you did not help me with clearing the table”
- Listen empathetically – try to see things from your partner’s perspective. This is one way to stop daily fighting in a relationship
Related Reading: 6 Couples’ Experiences On How Talk Therapy Helped Their Relationship
6. Stay in the present
- Operate in the present – don’t let childhood hurts and patterns determine your behavior in the present. Also, don’t hold grudges against your partner – forgive past words and actions that had upset you
- But keep track of your arguments and identify underlying issues. Remember winning the argument is not important, resolving the issue is
7. Curb your stress levels
- Try to curb your stress levels with exercise, yoga, deep breathing and/or meditation
- Get sufficient sleep as lack of sleep can wreak havoc on you physically, mentally and emotionally
- Relax with your favorite music or treat yourself to a massage
- Learn to be happy in yourself – you will automatically have fewer fights with your partner as this will make you tone down expectations
How To Stop Fighting For The Sake Of Your Children
Since constant parental strife can traumatize children, we spoke to child psychologist and founder-director of Rhhyns Academy in Mumbai, Riddhi Doshi Patel. Her four mantras for how to stop fighting in a relationship are:
- Set family rules which apply to everybody. Involve the children in setting the rules. Divide household chores fairly
- When you are in the middle of a fight, take the initiative to hug your partner. It may seem impossible when you are angry with your partner. But it’s not. And, it works. Hugging cools down tempers and makes both partners relax
- Whenever you are fighting do not carry it over to the next day. Try to resolve the issue before you sleep
- Every fight is a learning experience. If you are getting into petty fights multiple times, talk about it before retiring for the day. Both partners could take a pen and paper and jot down their feelings. And, how they could have handled the situation better
We spoke to Kashish Vyas, counselor and EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) practitioner. These are his suggestions on how a couple could stop fighting:
Pause and hear each other out. This is to ensure that you do not jump to conclusions and create your own story. You should listen keenly and empathetically to your partner and try to understand his perspective. If you are going on and on about what’s happening to you, the fight is unlikely to be resolved
Related Reading: Here’s How You Can Improve Your Relationship By Listening Better
Give each other space and time. If a couple is in a heated exchange, it might be a good idea for one partner to leave the zone of conflict for some time. It might not be the right time to discuss the issue. So, don’t try to tackle the matter head-on. When either of you are not in the mood to listen to the other person it is pointless to try to resolve the conflict
Resolve relationship issues with parents. There is a connection between the relationship you had with your parent/s and what you have with your partner. You could be playing out old patterns. And, expecting your partner to understand your issues. In reality, you have to work on your issues and heal yourself
Respect your partner’s boundaries. At times, we get so overwhelmed in a relationship that we forget our partner has his or her relationship boundaries. Each partner is an individual in their own right. You cannot disrespect them. One partner may get possessive or throw his weight around while the other may become a pushover. This is an unhealthy pattern
Stopping fights and resolving conflicts go hand in hand. They are both long-term goals. With awareness and practice a couple can replace heated arguments with a constructive conversation. It should be mentioned here that just because couples fight it does not mean that they are unhappy in a relationship. If you fight fair and do not hurt each other unduly, fighting can resolve deep underlying issues and make the relationship healthier
However, all said and done, a couple must stop fighting all the time in a relationship. Or else, how are they to enjoy each other and the relationship? And isn’t that what we look forward to the most when in love? To be at peace with ourselves, and each other.