marriage conselling

Three things couples really fight about and how to solve them

Conflict is not only an inherent part of any relationship, it’s also quite vital for the overall health of your love life. But a lot of arguments seem to go round and round the same topics and can leave both you and your partner frustrated. This is when you need to look beyond the surface level into your deepest needs that underlie these conflicts but are never clearly stated. Thus it don’t gets resolved.

We used to consider relationships that had no or very little conflict as healthy and desirable. It turns out that we were wrong. Having no arguments often means that two people are living parallel lives, or there are other issues, such as co-dependence, lack of boundaries, lack of communication skills or conflict management skills.

A lot of this goes back to our relational legacy. Whether you were raised for autonomy or loyalty has a lot to answer for who you are and how you behave in your relationship. Your script that leads to automatic behaviours determines whether you can stand up for yourself and whether you can accept the support of your partner. It will also determine what your biggest fears are in the relationship and how you deal with conflict.

Whilst your patterns and behaviours feel as if they were personality traits, they aren’t. They can be changed to feel closer to your partner and at the same time to meet your deepest needs.

Let’s look at the three topics couples really argue about.

1. Power and control

  • Who has the power in your relationship?
  • Who makes the decisions?
  • Do you both feel included in the decision making process, or does one of you feel deprived of control?

If you were raised for autonomy, power and control are fundamental for you. Your biggest fear is losing yourself and your freedom in a relationship, so if you feel that you’re deprived of making decisions, you will feel angry or frustrated. You’ll probably lose touch with the “togetherness” feeling and start protecting yourself and defending your individuality.

This doesn’t only impact individuals whose core value is autonomy and freedom. It impacts you even if you were raised for loyalty. We can only thrive in a relationship if we’re equal, but you might be more likely to try and appease your partner or silently sulk about not being part of the decision making process.

In either case, when you have a disagreement, and you find yourself triggered, ask yourself if it has anything to do with power and control. If it does, see whether you or your partner feel that you’ve been excluded or taken for granted. If that’s the case, start talking about that underlying topic and see how you can include each other.

2. Respect and recognition

  • Do I feel that I’m seen as a person with dignity?
  • Do I feel respected in this relationship?
  • As we’re arguing, do I feel that my opinion matters and I’m recognised as a core member of this relationship?

We want to be heard and seen for who we are. It’s a deep human need.

If you feel that you’re not heard or seen for who you are, or that you’re not respected for your innate qualities, you’ll find it very difficult to show up vulnerably in your relationship and to feel intimate with your partner.

Feeling respected and cherished for who we are is the greatest gift anyone can offer us, and it’s what we can offer to our partner. But it’s not just something we do from time to time, it’s something we need to make our partner feel daily, and they need to make us feel that too.

Your conversation about who takes the rubbish out has nothing to do with the rubbish, it has everything to do with you feeling respected by your partner or not. If you feel taken advantage of because in the end you do everything even if (s)he promised to do it, it will come out in your arguments. But instead of getting stuck in arguing about the rubbish, you could tell them what you feel:

“I feel that I’m not respected when you promise to take the rubbish out, but you don’t do it.”

“I feel I’m taken for granted, because I always end up taking the rubbish out even though you committed to doing half of the chores.”

Make sure you avoid sentences like “You always… / you never…” “You make me feel / do…” “I hate that you….” and stay on topic rather than generalise. You want to express how you feel, what you perceive, without blaming your partner. That will make you feel closer together and (s)he will be more likely to want to cooperate.

3. Care and trust

  • Do you feel that (s)he has your back?
  • Do you feel held in your relationship and does your partner feel that way too?
  • Do you feel you can trust each other to do the things you commit to and to support each other?

Trust is built in the place of disconnection. There’s a cycle to connection: connection – disconnection – reconnection. We build trust by reconnecting though arguments and daily stressors. That’s the way we build and nourish a mature, lasting relationship. Whenever you have arguments, you can strengthen your relationship further by building a more resilient trust.

That’s, however, very difficult if you don’t feel cared for. There might be things that you can do for yourself, such as work on your self-esteem, embody more self-trust, and integrate daily self-care practices into your life. This can help you feel what care is like by giving it to yourself, it’s especially useful if you have an anxious attachment style.

But remember that we are wounded in relationships and we heal in relationships. It means that only working on yourself isn’t enough when you want to change your relational dynamic. You need to work in that context too, and it has to involve both of you, otherwise it can easily become a one-sided relationship.

The solution to your arguments

Your relational healing journey starts with building awareness. You need to map out what is happening. Start looking back at your arguments and understand the subtext. See if it’s something that is reoccurring.

If you can, start paying attention to the arguments as they’re happening. Don’t blame yourself if you can’t immediately do it. We don’t have access to our whole brain when we are highly stressed, which means that we tend to revert to our relational blueprint and do whatever we did before on autopilot. But you could focus on your breath, which brings your attention to your body, and once you feel calm enough, ask yourself about the subtext.

If you can, do it together. Discuss these three underlying needs and see whether you’re trying to meet the same need or something else. You might discover that all along you were talking about very different topics.

Then create choice.

  • How could you show up so that you partner feels more supported and less threatened?
  • How could (s)he show up in such a way?

Experiment, try things out and see how that changes your arguments and also the actions that follow them.

Remember, you’re in it together. Arguments are only successful if at the end you both feel that you won, rather than one of you winning and the other losing. If that happens, the relationship also loses, which means that you’re not on the same team. Bringing more awareness, and tweaking your habits can make all the difference and create the love life you’re seeking.

relationship coach, love therapist, relationship counselling

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