Stuck in a loop
“It’s like we are stuck in a loop,” my friend said. She and her husband had the same fight for the seventh time in a month, and she seemed to be at her wit’s end. Previous experience had taught me not to try to play devil’s advocate so I just let her rant. She and her husband had been fighting about his tendency to be late for as long as I can remember. She loved him but it was getting difficult for her to wait for him every day. She hated it when she got late because of him and it seemed like they were really going through some trouble.
It bothered me though. Why is it that they kept fighting over the same thing for so long? It was like lather-rinse-repeat. It never seemed to be resolved and we weren’t sure whether it was getting better or worse. I decided to put my researcher hat on and found the following information.
Dig a little deeper
The prime reason behind arguments that reoccur is that people tend to keep missing the point. This might seem obvious, but it’s a necessary truth. We all seem to think that arguments are about facts and ‘what happened’. They are not. They aren’t even about emotions completely. They are about values. What we hold dear, what matters to us. Since we keep talking about the peripherals and never dig deeper, we tend to stay away from the point.
For example, my friend felt that her husband didn’t respect her time because he was always late. For him, her complaints of lateness ruined the time that they did get to spend together. They valued two different things but kept talking about why he was late and the argument kept going on. This is not to say that the arguments would be resolved magically, but knowing what exactly is the difference that you both are coming from can help in starting a more constructive dialogue.
What we are taught
Our parents taught us to stand up for ourselves and that was good advice. However, we didn’t always see healthy conflict resolution at home. We saw arguments and feelings swept under the carpet. We saw them bottle emotions up and then have irruptions. They were doing the best they knew, but you can do better. By not bottling up our emotions and letting ego rule your communication, you can have an argument. Clear communication is important. We tend to use our parents as templates and aren’t aware of the faults in their ways. Becoming aware might help us mould our own behaviour better. Our parents protected their egos because admitting our emotions requires vulnerability.
The vulnerability can be a great gift if you allow it to come through. You start having real, truthful conversations which can seem extremely uncomfortable but are worth it in the end. Think about it this way, would you rather keep fighting because you don’t want to be vulnerable or do you want to actually reach a conclusion? The vulnerability isn’t easy. But we are tough, we can do hard things. And the rewards are great.
The inherent differences
Some things that you and your partner argue about might not be resolvable. I’m not talking about mistakes and situations that can be changed if you let go of your ego. I’m talking about attitudes and ways of being. This includes religious beliefs, political ideologies and other things. You know who your partner is when you get into a relationship. If you don’t, you need to make sure talk about these things before. Expecting them to change after some time is unfair on both your parts. You have to sometimes accept your differences and make way through them. Your partner might not be a fan of going out all the time, so you need to create space in your life where you going out without them doesn’t cause problems. Forcing each other to do things which they don’t like doesn’t work when you’re in it for the long run. A healthy respect for these differences can help you navigate the problems that come up.
Having the same fight, again and again, can be exhausting. You may end up feeling like your partner and you speak two different languages. Funnily enough, the language of the ego is the same. It clouds you and makes you dig in your heels and refuse to see the other person’s point of view. Getting over it and looking deeper into your own heart can be helpful in navigating this confusing path.