HELP! THERE’S CONSTANT ARGUING IN OUR RELATIONSHIP
By Lorin Harrott
Damarius and Sara were in an argument rut. Whenever a disagreement started – and it seems like there was constant arguing in their relationship – it always went the same way.
- Sara would get mad, Damarius would get sarcastic.
- Sara would yell, Damarius would get quiet.
- Sara would start cleaning and slam things around, and Damarius would turn the TV up and sit on the couch.
And then hours or days later they would act as though nothing happened and get back to the business of managing their life together. Thus, they add another unresolved conflict to the pile. Not much later, however, the constant arguing that seemed the hallmark of their relationship would start again.
Round and round they went in the same pattern. Pretty soon that pile of unresolved issues felt like it took up more space in their relationship than anything else.
Sounds at all familiar?
It’s not uncommon. Many couples, especially in long-term relationships, can find themselves in ruts, arguing about everything. Falling into a cyclical pattern of fighting, particularly when it doesn’t result in resolution, is not only ineffective, but it can also lead to the demise of a relationship if a couple can’t break the pattern.
Why Does Constant Arguing Happen?
The overwhelming reason couples end up constantly fighting in the same, ineffective way, and often about the same things, over and over again, has to do with communication, or more precisely, the lack of communication.
One of the big issues for which couples seek counseling is communication – more specifically, poor communication and the resulting problems. Dr. Kurt works frequently with couples whose marriages are being threatened by constant arguing and ineffective communication. According to him,
Another contributing factor in relationships with constant arguing is the disconnect that develops and shifts the couple dynamic from one of being partners to adversaries. As a result, not only does each person listen less and care less about the other one, but they also shift into self-protection mode and turn their communication into a competition. Communication about any topic can turn into one of each partner going on either offense or defense, trying to be the winner and not loser, and leaving the interaction feeling worse about themselves and the relationship. Talk about an anchor around a relationship!”
Communication breakdown in a relationship happens over time to most couples. The busyness of life means your focus gets split across many areas and often the one area (read person) who ends up with the least of your focus is your partner.
This means that when an argument arises, you’re already predisposed to not really listen to what your partner has to say. So, rather than resolving a problem, you react in an autopilot manner with certain script-type behaviors.
In Damarius’ case, sarcasm and silence, and in Sara’s case, yelling and slamming things around. After all the energy they’ve spent on what amounts to nothing, neither one of them has the energy needed to actually talk about the real problem.
Then guess what?
The same issues come up again, maybe in a slightly different way, but it gets handled in the same manner as before. And the cycle starts again because there’s no resolution to the true problems within the relationship. Constant arguing becomes a regular feature and leads to frustration, resentment, and yes, more arguing.
The Effects Of Constant Arguing On You And Your Relationship
Arguing constantly will take a toll on the happiness and satisfaction within the relationship. The tension that constant arguing creates can be exhausting and lead to the feeling of walking on eggshells around one another. Not at all the way you want to feel around your partner or at home.
If that type of regular, unresolved conflict goes on for too long it will lead to bigger problems in the relationship. Over time resentment will build and cause you and your partner to grow further apart. This often means that intimacy lessens, anger builds, and one or both partners will feel like they’ve fallen out of love.
It’s not just the relationship that experiences problems either.
Constant arguing with your partner creates unhealthy levels of stress that will have negative effects on your physical well-being as well. Chronic and repetitive conflict can lead to a weakened immune system, insomnia, headaches and digestive issues, and anxiety to name just a few. The isolation and loneliness within your relationship caused by what feels like never-ending arguments can also exacerbate these problems and lead to depression.
The resulting combination of emotional turmoil and physical discomfort has the unfortunate effect of making it even harder to feel motivated to make the changes needed to stop the cycle of constant arguing in your relationship.
The continual, negative back and forth between partners will also affect more than just the partners involved. Family, especially children, and friends will suffer as well.
Friends may begin to feel uncomfortable and start to avoid interacting with a couple who always seem to be sniping at each other or just seem to dislike one another. The consequences on children of constant fighting in a relationship can be much more dire, leading to anxiety, emotional instability, and negative social behavior in kids.
Ways To Break The Pattern Of Constant Arguing
There’s no avoiding arguing in a relationship. In fact, a certain amount of disagreement and fighting is healthy and allows the couple to grow through resolution. But that’s the key – resolution.
When you fall into an unproductive routine of arguing and constantly fighting with no resolution, you must find a way to break the cycle if you want your relationship to survive. That’s easier said than done, however.
Many couples, like Damarius and Sara, for example, fall into a pattern of arguing and skipping the resolution, preferring just to cool off and pretend nothing happened, only to fight again (and again). This pattern won’t naturally change over time, it needs to be deliberately stopped and modified.
But just how do you do that if you’re already feeling frustrated, tired, and exasperated? Consider the following suggestions to help you break the pattern.
- Admit to yourself that something needs to change and part of that something is you. Of course, it’s not all you, it’s both of you. Being honest about your contribution to this unhealthy cycle is important though. When you’re in a rut and feeling frustrated with your partner, it can be hard to recognize your part in things. In order to get started, however, you have to admit to yourself that something is wrong, something needs to change, and then be ready to start that process. This may require some self-reflection and self-talk. Just know you can’t begin to fix things until you’ve put yourself in the right mindset and that means being honest with yourself.
- Schedule time together to talk. Neutral ground and a designated time for discussing things will help. You both need to be able to feel at ease and not rushed in order to focus and have a productive conversation.
- Agree to listen to each other. Does this seem like a silly thing to have to verbally agree to? It’s not. Too many of us are so concerned about what we’re going to say next and expressing our own thoughts that we forget to actually listen to our partner. Saying out loud to each other that you agree to listen will make it clearer in your own mind.
- Check your chip at the door. Maybe the hardest thing to do is to try and come into a conversation about your constant fighting with a clear mind and clean slate. You probably have built up feelings of anger, frustration, and resentment. But this isn’t a time for accusations and blame. You need to be ready to listen and think positively, so check that chip on your shoulder at the door.
- Understand that one conversation won’t fix everything. If your relationship includes constant arguing then there’s not one small problem that needs to be resolved, there are probably several and they likely span a long period of time. This isn’t a one conversation fixes all kind of thing – you’ll need to be prepared to repeat this new kind of communication several times before real change becomes evident.
- Be ready to take a break. From the conversation, not the relationship. The goal is to prevent things from getting heated and spiraling into the same cycle, so if you find yourselves moving back toward old patterns, take a break. Remember, you may need to attempt this several times before it works out well.
Long-term relationships naturally have ups and downs. Getting through the downs takes commitment and willingness to change on both your parts, especially if your relationship includes constant arguing. Keep in mind that the suggestions above are not a cure-all but rather general guidelines for starting the process of changing your unhealthy communication.