When Couples Fight All The Time



What does it mean when couples fight everyday?


I need help. My relationship is falling apart at the seams and I can't seem to do anything to stop it.

I met my girlfriend 2 years ago and we have lived together for about a year and half. In the beginning everything was great, but now it seems we only fight. She accuses me of not listening and recently she's right. I admit I have been somewhat distant. It seems every time we talk I end up getting screamed at and when I get upset about it I'm wrong. She sees everything in a negative way as far as I can tell.

To make matters worse when we do talk and I give an opinion, she acts like I'm trying to tell her she's wrong unless I just agree or apologize. Or when I tell her something that has to do with my life that I don't like, it seems she has to try and outdo me and show that she has it worse off. She doesn't work, and doesn't seem to want to accept that she might have to do a job she doesn't like to help us survive. I hate my job but suck it up and deal with it every day.

I try so hard to take care of all of our financial burdens and to encourage her to do the things she loves and pursue her passions and dreams but she won't listen. She knows that I'm trying to keep us going and tells me that but she still doesn't seem to accept that she has to help too. I don't know what to do. I love her but I feel like she's slipping away and nothing I do helps. Please tell me how to make things better.

Dear Trey,

As a couple, you actually have 3 issues going on here:

  1. You don't understand what it is you're REALLY fighting about.

  2. The two of you don't know how to communicate properly.

  3. She isn't contributing financially to the relationship.

Let's look at them one at a time.

When couples say they fight all the time, the surface issues are only the tip of the iceberg. If, say, someone forgets to take out the trash or comes home 15 minutes late and the other partner blows his/her top, s/he's not only reacting to the wrong committed today, s/he's also reacting to all the times s/he felt previously let down by the other partner. Not only that, (believe it or not) s/he is also reacting to stored up emotional disappointment from before you two even met, like from childhood. This may seem farfetched but it's true.

So if you're girlfriend gets mad and blows up over what seems like a relatively small thing, what she's really reacting to is a pattern of feeling unloved, unappreciated, and misunderstood. And the current problem gets blown out of proportion because those feelings have been building up over her lifetime and never gotten resolved.

The same dynamic is true for you too. Mostly we aren't aware that this is what's happening or that we have old pain from long ago that was never healed and that still affects our lives today. This is one reason why intimate relationships can be so painful and full of so much fighting because our significant other has more power than anyone else in our lives to (unconsciously) remind us of feeling unloved.

Here's what to do about it. Plan a time when you can sit down together and talk about how you both are still suffering from old wounds, probably from childhood, but also possibly from past relationships. Talk about all the ways you both feel you were let down by your parents. If any negative memories really stick out, these might provide clues about a recurring problem like, for example, feeling ignored, abandoned, belittled, bullied, etc. The point of this exercise isn't to blame your parents for anything but just to acknowledge that these early experiences had lifelong consequences and that their effects are playing in out in your current relationship.

After you've looked at the past you can look at the present. Without blaming or getting mad, take turns sharing what each of you feels you need that you aren't currently getting from your partner. This means being good listeners for each other and not interrupting or getting upset and defensive. If you need help with this step, read our site's page on communication or read the book Stop Walking On EggShells which explains in detail how to communicate effectively.

When couples start sharing honestly like this and digging deeper to uncover what's really going on and then take steps to meet each other's needs, the fighting will decrease automatically.

As for your girlfriend not working, why isn't she? Assuming she is capable of holding down a job and doesn't have a young child to care for, she definitely needs to do so, for her own self-respect and as an equal contributor to the relationship. Don't allow yourself to be taken advantage of.

Insist that she get a job and start helping out with the bills. She can still pursue her passions but maybe they will have to be relegated to evenings or weekends. Encourage her to set a goal for herself regarding her passions, whether it be working part-time while she goes to school part-time for a degree, or whatever.

It sounds like she's taking advantage of your generosity to the point where she's gotten lazy. If she refuses to make any changes in this regard, you might want to ask yourself why you put up with a woman who is a leech, love or no love. Don't you think you deserve to be with someone who wants to be an equal partner?

The moral of this story...couples who fight all the time have more going on than they realize.

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