marriage fighting

Stop Having the Same Argument Over and Over and Over and...

Stop Arguing With Your Partner

I wrote a post a couple weeks ago about cyclical arguments in relationships and have gotten so many great responses I wanted to talk about it a little more. I know these repetitive conflicts in relationships are some of the most frustrating.  

Maybe this has happened to you:

You can feel like you've said the same thing a hundred times and you're just not feeling heard. Meanwhile, your partner looks exasperated and seems to be bringing up the same points, issues, or topics you've heard before.  

No matter what you try in conversation it feels like you end without resolution.  

That's what a cyclical conflict feels like. Super stuck. Often ugly. And because they're rarely resolved they often lead to piles of resentment and distance.  

When I last mentioned Dr Susan Johnson I outlined her key questions to help couples get underneath the surface of these stuck conversations.  Today I want to outline three of the kinds of conflicts most couples experience to help you identify when your own cyclical conflicts come up.  

1.  Find the Bad Guy

So many great couples get stuck in a blame game that doesn't lead anywhere but stagnant hurt feelings.  When this shows up I hear couples use language of right or wrong, always and never, and good or bad when talking about each other's behaviors.  When we define our partner as somehow defective (uncaring, unwilling, etc) everyone loses.  

If you notice yourself stuck in blame, try moving to personal accountability.  However small each of us plays a role in every conflict we enter.  Notice if there is anything you could do different, or you might need to be held accountable for.  Take the high road and acknowledge your own behavior if you're stuck focusing on the behavior of another. 

2.  Protest Polka

A lot of couples counselors and relationship researchers have written about an attack-withdraw dance in couples (that often leads to divorce).  It's like two same-sided magnets that chase each other across a table.  The more one chases, the more the other withdraws.  

In these cases the partner demanding attention is really after connection, and the withdrawing partner is avoiding what seems like criticism.  Over time couples in this kind of conflict can feel hopeless and build even greater distance from each other.  

The first step to changing this pattern is noticing you are in it.  Most folks (especially the distancing partner) have a hard time noticing it because it can be incredibly subtle.  Start by writing out your pattern using the outline below.  

The more I ___ the more you __ and then the more I ___,

3.  Freeze and Flee

This kind of conflict can seem the most difficult of all.  It might look like a standstill or a standoff without a lot of connection or communication between partners.  It's usually a space where both of you feel hurt and hopeless.  

If you find yourself in a freeze and flee pattern it's a good time to call a professional to support you and your partner in reconnecting.  It might feel like you've tried everything you can on your own, and having a consultant halp you out with their expertise is a great step to trysomething different with support.  If you'd like to talk with me about helping you break out of the freeze set up a consultation here.  

None of these conflicts are un-resolvable, but each pattern takes care and awareness to change.  I hope this article can help you begin the change you'd like to see in your own relationship.

Sex Counselor Portland Relationship Therapist

Gina Senarighi, MS, MA, CPC is a sex educator and relationship coach specializing in polyamory, open relationships, jealousy, LGBTQ issues and infidelity.  

She can help you:

  • rediscover passion in long-term relationships
  • repair trust after infidelity or dishonesty
  • move past jealousy, insecurity or codependent patterns
  • open your relationship or practice polyamory with care
  • resolve sexual dysfunction and disconnect
  • break unhealthy communication patterns in your relationship

Contact her for a free consultation to see if working with her is right for you.

Click here to download her free guides to strengthen your relationship (monogamous or not).

How to Get Over an Argument With Someone You Love

All of us face challenges in relationships.  No matter how beautiful the relationship, disagreement is an unavoidable part of loving another human.  

As a therapist I see clients every day who have lost family members and lovers to conflict.  So many of us can't figure out how to move past a fight.

One of the best books on forgiveness and reconciliation is Laura Davis' "I Thought We'd Never Speak Again"  I've read it and recommended it to clients and readers in difficult places more times than I can count.  

Although the book focuses on the experience of abuse survivors and their families, there are really amazing lessons on compassion for all of us regardless of our survived traumas.   It has helped my clients with break-ups, moves, family relationships and bad bosses.

I am not suggesting reconciliation is always the answer (neither does the author), only that it's important to move from pain toward compassion for our well-being.  But more and more scientific research is showing that carrying pain and resentment has real effects on our health and well-being.  

Compassion and healing are critical to our ability to create healthy partnerships, friendships, and long lasting relationships.

How to Get Over A Fight With Someone You Love

So how do you move toward compassion when you're in a place of hurt?  Here are a few tips based on my work as a marriage counselor for the last seven years.  

Pause and reflect on these six steps in a conflict in your life and then move with warmth and openness (I can't emphasize this part enough)  in each step when you are ready:

1.  Talk it out- say how you feel.

Shame often comes to visit either or both party after a disagreement and can work to isolate us further.  The greatest antidote to shame is to reach out to another for support or to offer a genuine apology.  It can be helpful to acknowledge how hard it is to reach out, and share that you still really want the connection even though it's hard.  

The more transparent and consistent you can be the better.   Even if time and shame have kept you apart reaching out (with warmth and openness) directly can help to repair broken bonds.

2. Humanize them.

Remember that everyone carries some hurt and often conflict comes out of misunderstood pain.  Listen authentically to their story with warmth and openness.  Demonstrate you are listening by offering to paraphrase back what you hear to be sure you are getting it and don't rush.  

Some hurts can take a while to surface clearly so be patient.  Remember the sweetness, good humor, and shared values that brought you together in the first place.

Also consider the ways you have shown the same behavior you have seen in your partner.  It's not easy to do, but we must remember that in certain circumstances we all have the capacity to do the wrong thing.  

We have all made mistakes in friendships and relationships.  Remembering this and forgiving ourselves for past similar wrongdoing helps us move forward.

3. Connect with sadness.

You cannot bandage a wound without looking at it and you cannot repair a relationship without looking at the sadness that happens when someone is hurt.  It is important for both parties to acknowledge and really connect with their sadness (no matter how small it may seem) to move forward with confidence.

4. Honor your memories.

Honor the greatness that you have in the past with care.  Some couples do this informally over conversation; some partners have shared memory books, one set of roommates I worked with painted memories on the walls of their co-op before moving on to a new place after much strife.  Whether formal or informal, honor your shared history before moving on to your next chapter.

5. Commit to future acts of service and creation.

Planning to make something beautiful or invest in others together can be a great way to heal together and individually.  These can be acts of service and creation within the relationship (planting a garden together, planning a trip) and acts directed towards your external community (hosting a dinner party, volunteering for a cause you care about.  Setting positive future plans together will change the nature of your time together fundamentally.

These steps can be taken whether you are single or in relationship.  Even if you never decide to connect with the other person, building compassion all on your own will be healing.  

Sharing your story with an empathetic ear, humanizing your "enemy," honoring your grief and meaningful memories, and taking part in service or creative acts will help your heart heal and will start to free you from the weight of heartbreak.  If you want me to be that ear, schedule a consultation here.

How do you get over a fight in your relationship?


Online Sex Counselor | Portland Couples Counseling | Counseling in Portland

Gina Senarighi, MS, MA, CPC is a sex educator and relationship coach specializing in polyamory, open relationshipsjealousy, LGBTQ issues and infidelity.  

She can help you:

Contact her for a free consultation to see if working with her is right for you.

Click here to download her free guides to strengthen your relationship (monogamous or not).