Why Couples Argue and How To Avoid It
The big take away:
The desire to be right is one of the most toxic issues that cause marriage difficulties, send couples to counseling, cause arguments, and problems in relationships.
When couples ask, “why do we fight?” this is often the answer. This is how to stop arguing and save a relationship.
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What great advice, I hope one day I will meet a guy who will be receptive enough to respond to and initiate this technique. I used to try and end flare ups with last boyfriend this way, but he got so far off it never worked, it was sad to see him so distressed over nothing.
Hey Lori, there are very strong reasons that humans feel the need to be “right”. These emotions are deeply baked into us. In the example in this video, she’s upset with him because she incorrectly guessed that he was annoyed that her parents were coming over. It’s tough for a man to get around that sense of violated justice when he’s been accused of being a bad boyfriend for thinking something he wasn’t thinking.
And this is incredibly common!
Psychologists call it “projection”: When we fear someone is thinking something negative, and then we imagine that they ARE thinking it, and then we decide that, yes, they are absolutely terrible for thinking such a thing!
This is the basis for most arguments between couples and this projection gets more powerful as things become heated.
The possible leverage point here for you (and of course, I know this may have just bee semantics, but it might actually be a useful observation), is that you wrote “distressed over nothing.”
Humans are super-sensitive to their emotional distress being called “nothing.” When a man feels that sense of violated justice and goes into that spiral of needing you see that he’s RIGHT (that he REALLY didn’t mean anything bad about your parents visiting!), and he senses that you think he’s being distressed over nothing, it actually makes things worse.
The loving response here: the noticing that projection is happening, the noticing that one of us or both of us is stuck trying to be “right,” isn’t resolved by maturely saying, “look, this issue that each of us wants to be right about is NOTHING,” because if it was nothing, why are you so upset about it?
Instead, try re-affirming the HIGHER importance of the relationship, and committing to understanding each other from a place of love… which means understanding the “meta-need” (which in this example, and in MOST situations, is her need to not to be seen as a “bad wife” because of inviting her parents to dinner, and his need to not be seen as a “bad husband” because he asked a simple question).
Sometimes the entire key is to flip it from “trying to show that actually I am good partner” to acknowledging that “nothing in this circumstance changes my opinion that YOU are a great partner for me.”
Sometimes this is easy–but more often than not it requires great patience and steadfastness to not get drawn back in with the triggered partner.
Hey Alex….You’re “right”!
thanks so much for this. It helped me realize how much in the pattern of initiating *^%# I’ve been lately.
I have been married for almost 31 years. About the halfway point an old wise sage asked me, “When an argument with your wife occurs, do you want to be “Right” or “Happy”? Like you have stated, the argument is seldom about the topic, it is about the emotion that surrounds the topic. Innocent questions or responses can easily be taken out of context and responded to emotionally, hence the fight. “Agree, agree and AGREE, then get back on topic. He stated, “Never give her the stick to beat you with”. Any emotion wants to live, it will feed and become bigger. Feed the Happy emotion and starve the negative one. The fight will never occur. It is a common perception that most men are rational thinkers and most women are emotional thinkers. This being said, we are bound to disagree. So, be a man, think rationally, empathize with her emotion because it is important (agree or apologize), let her speak about the total situation, wait patiently (shut-up), and eventually she will give you an agreeable, on topic answer, once the negative emotion starves out. Women are brilliant. Sometimes it just takes a little bit of a pause for the brilliance to radiate. But, if you become a cloud or an obstacle, you will never see that beauty. And not to be labeled a chauvinist, ladies, this works well for you too. Men, sometimes are also emotional fighters, especially as we age…..
Thanks for this reply Ernie, it is very solid advice. Adding to your suggestion, I’d like to contribute what, from my perspective, might be even more powerful than the “agree, agree, agree” tactic.
When you give your partner agreement to something you don’t really agree with for the sake of peace and feeding the happy emotions instead of the negative ones, you do good, but you do it inauthentically. Yes, you can circle back later when everyone isn’t triggered and correct the misunderstandings, but I think that our partners are often sensitive enough to know that we are agreeing with them to “manage” them, and nobody likes that.
The alternative is to “chunk up” to the bigger context. Two things are happening in the argument:
1) Your partner is saying something you don’t agree with
2) Your partner is in emotional pain (and you know if you disagree it’s going to get worse!)
What I’m suggesting is that you completely put aside the thing you disagree about and become sensitized to your grief and heart-ache at the fact that the person you love is in emotional pain. Reconnect on THAT basis:
“Your heart is more important to me than this discussion, or who is right about it.”
And if you truly mean it, you get the same results while remaining authentic to your truth.
been married 26 years and fight often now I see my son in law doing it . He is so emotionally sensitive,as is my wife! This is so needed,to help us diffuse this! You ought to do a whole video on it ! HELP!
Great concept to bring up to the masses here, Alex.
Eckhart Tolle covers this in depth as the “Pain Body” emerging and causing a person to not be him/herself in the moment of emotion. It’s up to the person to recognize this, but also helpful if the other person/spouse/whatever does too and is “present” enough to allow the “Pain Body” to run it’s course and then dissipate (like in Alex’s good video above). Fighting the negativity with negativity feeds it more. It doesn’t mean that a person has to accept abuse, nor fight negativity with all kinds of sunshine and positivity (barf), but simply be present with it the “pain body” enough to let it just run out of steam
This is covered in at least one of Eckhart’s works (I haven’t checked them all out yet) called “A New Earth; Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose (2005)” found here: http://www.amazon.com/New-Earth-Awakening-Purpose-Selection/dp/0452289963/
(Personally, have have little patience nor interest to do this for people anymore, especially women I’m in a relationship with. Who needs the drama! Which is just ANOTHER of my endless reasons I’m still single…)
There are many places where a couple can, and should “agree to disagree”. A good relationship does NOT depend on both parties being in total agreement. A wise man once said, “if both of you are the same then one of you is redundant”. There are some things that my wife and I disagree so strongly on, that we have not only “agreed to disagree”, but we have agreed not to bring those subjects up. It works well, and after 35 years of marrage, I still get “it” 3-4 times a week. Grow up and deal with your differences like adults, instead of entitled, spoiled brats.