Constant fighting in a relationship is the worst.
It usually starts with something seemingly minor.
Like a pile of clothes on the floor. Or a forgotten chore. A tension in the tone of voice.
Then, before you know it, an argument escalates. Some inelegant phrases get thrown around with grimaces. Each second stings more deeply than the last.
Both partners wonder, How did they dare to say that?! Each partner feels hurt and frustrated: Why does it have to be so complicated?
The sudden feeling of isolation and abandonment that entails… It’s like a tectonic plate burst open between you two and there’s no common ground.
But what if I told you that my partner Loïc and I feel grateful for our arguments?
We even credit them for helping us transform our codependent relationship into a healthy one.
How could that be possible?
Read on to discover how we managed to stop constant fighting and nourish more love and compassion.
Understanding instead of blaming
A huge reason why arguments escalate is that we take things personally.
It’s easy to feel attacked by a critical remark. We’re human.
But for a relationship to thrive, we must start looking under the surface of disputes. We must:
- Become radically self-aware and learn why we react the way we do
- Understand why our partner reacts the way they do and
- Heal the parts of us that react in unhealthy ways
Instead of returning a bitter remark, we take a deep breath and connect with ourselves. We become mindful and validate our own feelings and bodily sensations. This creates space to validate our partner’s experience too.
Validating our partner’s reaction certainly doesn’t mean that we condone it. We’re not excusing disrespectful or abusive behavior.
It’s about embracing the other’s perspective—even if it’s vastly different from our own.
Sometimes, it seems ridiculous that our partner doesn’t understand where we’re coming from. But it’d be wise to remember that each person has their own experiences, biases and assumptions that filter their understanding.
“When you plant lettuce, if it does not grow well, you don’t blame the lettuce. You look for reasons it is not doing well. It may need fertilizer, or more water, or less sun. You never blame the lettuce.
Yet if we have problems with our friends or family, we blame the other person. But if we know how to take care of them, they will grow well, like the lettuce.
Blaming has no positive effect at all, nor does trying to persuade using reason and argument. That is my experience. No blame, no reasoning, no argument, just understanding.
If you understand, and you show that you understand, you can love, and the situation will change.” ―Thich Nhat Hanh
Learn about attachment styles
One of the things that helped Loïc and me to take the other’s reactions less personally is to learn about attachment styles.
The attachment theory describes the 4 types of emotional bonds we had with our caretakers:
- Secure attachment
- Anxious attachment
- Avoidant attachment
- Disorganized attachment
Having primary caregivers who were available and responsive to our needs when we were infants helps us cultivate a deep sense of safety.
We learn that we can count on our caretakers during stressful times. This teaches us how to be okay with our emotions, without feeling overwhelmed by them, and encourages us to explore and grow.
Since I grew up with an overly critical parent, I learned that I needed to be perfect to gain love and approval. My dad was cold and distant, so I grasped onto my mom and followed her everywhere like a tiny duckling. That said, neither of my parents knew what to do about my sensitive soul, leaving me feeling abandoned.
Many of us grew up with caregivers who didn’t spend enough time with us, show us affection or encouraged us to be ourselves. Perhaps they disciplined us too severely or didn’t show interest in us.
When these behaviors happen consistently, it’s called emotional neglect. And it can traumatize us, even if we believe that we had a “normal” childhood.
That said, it’s not about blaming our parents, but acknowledging our pain and taking responsibility for our lives.
The bottom line is that the lack of secure attachments in childhood can negatively impact us. Fortunately, though, it’s possible to heal and thrive.
Take a look at the table below to learn how the different attachment styles show up in romantic relationships.
Different people may have different reactions—this is just a guideline:
Reframe triggers as healing opportunities
Years ago, I came to the horrific realization that I was unconsciously repeating my past with my dad in my marriage.
This scenario is extremely common.
In psychology, it’s called “repetition compulsion”. We tend to expose ourselves to situations that ressemble the original trauma. Sometimes, we do this because it’s familiar. Other times, it might be an unconscious desire to heal and gain a better outcome.
After I breathed through the shame, I vowed to learn from every emotional trigger.
Loïc and I had already endured years of constant fighting anyway. What else had I got to lose?
It wasn’t realistic to expect no more arguments. (Now I know that the occasional clash is totally normal.)
But perhaps it’d be possible to heal and cultivate honest communication?
There was no sure way to know. But we persevered, we trudged on, we returned to ourselves over and over again.
If I were to travel back in time, I would’ve encouraged us to use EFT Tapping to quickly heal our blocks.
When we get triggered, our brain immediately puts us into fight-or-flight mode. The prefrontal cortex, the part of our brain responsible for rational thinking and creative solutions, gets shut off. That’s why it’s so easy to fling hurtful comments during a fight.
The fear of rejection and abandonment thwarts our sense of safety, making us lash out or run away. Tapping on certain acupuncture points rapidly calms our amygdala, the area of our brain that controls fear reactions.
Basically, we regulate ourselves, we give ourselves the love and safety that we seek in another. When we do choose to speak, we can communicate with more compassion.
Through EFT Tapping, we can quickly and effectively heal our deepest wounds to thrive in our relationships. (I offer free EFT Tapping sessions here.)
Arguments reveal precious information
They’re the ultimate playground to discover where we cross our own boundaries, how we reject ourselves and what wounds are still festering underneath.
My clients often feel stunned when they see the link between the current issue and a childhood issue. That’s because our brain is constantly searching for potential threats and comparing them to past painful experiences.
For example, when Loïc gets upset and blames me for not following through with a plan, I sometimes find myself recoiling like I used to as a 7-year-old, when my dad would harshly criticize me for errors.
I can feel the anxiety rushing through my body, as my brain signals to me, Danger, danger, you’re going to be abandoned! (Yes, healing is an ongoing adventure.)
As we heal these past wounds, we become much more present, peaceful and compassionate.
We find that we have an increased capacity to say no, enforce our boundaries and choose more helpful reactions.
Handle an argument with care
I always recommend using EFT in the heat of the moment, by yourself or with your partner.
You can use 3 or 4 fingers of one hand to tap on the side of your other hand. This is called the Karate Chop point in EFT. You don’t have to say anything, just tap.
This will send the signal to your amygdala, which is in charge of the fight-or-flight reaction, to calm down. Grounding yourself and finding your center keeps the argument from escalating because you’re less prone to saying or doing something hurtful.
You can also tap on the Karate Chop point, while saying or thinking, Even though I’m so angry right now, I deeply and completely accept myself. Say that 2 more times.
Then, tap on the other acupuncture points, while saying short Reminder Phrases, like I’m so angry, I hate it when we fight, I’m so upset right now. If you don’t know the tapping points or need a refresher, you can check out this blog article.
Once you both feel calmer and find safety within yourselves, it’ll be easier to lay down your weapons and be vulnerable.
Muster up every ounce of courage possible and show empathy for both of your perspectives: We’re both feeling misunderstood right now. Let’s try to find some common ground.
Make space for each person’s feelings and perspective, even if it’s incredibly uncomfortable: I understand why you feel angry. It makes sense now that I have a better idea of what you were experiencing.
(It’s not going to be perfect. Take a deep breath!)
Try to remember that we each have an inner child that wants to be loved and cared for.
Speak from your most vulnerable self.
And speak to the most vulnerable part of your lover.
Healthy love is possible
It all starts with 2 partners who are radically aware of their own feelings, reactions and personal baggage.
Healing past wounds clears the way for honest and open conversations and more peace and joy.
Romantic relationships ask us to look deeply within and connect with our most intimate self. They invite us to reveal and share our most vulnerable self with another human being.
Ultimately though, the love that we’re seeking in another is found within ourselves.
“When you find the love, you find yourself. The secret is in the love. You are the love, not another. Everything is in the love, and everyone needs the love. If you find this, what more could you want? The jewels are inside you.” —Sufi Shaykh Sidi al-Jamal as-Shadhuli
Want some free support?
I’m offering free EFT Tapping sessions in exchange for a short interview via Zoom.
I enjoy connecting with other women and learning about their challenges related to confidence, boundaries and relationships.
In the first 15 minutes, I’ll ask questions like “How did you discover me?” for new content ideas. In the last 15 minutes, you’ll get an EFT session to feel calm and clear. (Yes, things can shift that quickly.)
This offer isn’t a discovery call, where we discuss my paid services. It’s a fun opportunity to connect and support each other!
If you feel inspired to work with me, we can book a free call to make sure we’re a good fit.
I look forward to connecting with you!
Further reading to stop constant fighting in a relationship: