Most couples have the same short list of arguments that come up time and time again. They may be packaged differently but the underlining issue is the same. This isn’t surprising given that many people just have a few reoccurring insecurities and fears. For example, the oh so classic “I’m not good enough” or “I’m not lovable.” This type of internal battle can manifest in arguments related to insecurity in the relationship. Related, trust issues continuing to pop up. Perhaps it’s continued arguments about household chores or spending time with friends. Whatever it is, it can feel like groundhog day when it comes to arguing.
SO WHY SO LITTLE PROGRESS?
Why is it that some couples can just address things and move on and others make so little progress when it comes to resolving conflict? Yes, it’s a unique combination of personalities and the content of the actual argument. But there are other key players here. If you’re the one initiating the argument and it is playing on repeat, ask yourself the following.
LIKE, WHY IS THIS SUCH A BIG DAMN DEAL?!
The underlining issue is something far deeper than the superficial stuff that comes up in arguments. It’s usually a much more vulnerable place that you are going to need to go and yes, chances are it has something to do with YOU, not the other person. This is not saying that your partner isn’t selfish or wrong, or whatever it is the label you may be assigning them. It does mean that your loyalty to your argument has to do with you not looking at your concern deeply enough. You’re arguing about some behavior of your partner but you are not addressing the underlining issue. And yes, it is possible that this is NOT your partner’s issue. Why don’t you spend more time with me may be more related to your underlining fear that they don’t care/love you and will ultimately leave you. Who knows…but if you sit with it, I think you do know. Start asking questions related to the underlining issue (when calm….not in the heat of the moment when you’re upset about one of the “surface level” arguments). If your partner gives a comforting response to your real issue, hopefully that will help. If it doesn’t, then this is an indicator that the argument may be covering up real internal work that you have to do.
Our brains have an impressive ability to think on repeat and it almost becomes habitual. If you’re used to arguing about the exact same household chores over and over again, it’s difficult to suddenly walk into the kitchen and not get upset about the dishes in the sink. Well, try. Try to just turn your mind away from the very thing that is annoying you for about a week. You’ve been arguing about it for a while now and certainly you’ll have opportunities to argue about it again. Just give your mind a break, and give your partner a break. This frees up space for you to feel more of what’s going on, and for real issues to be worked out.
WHAT IF YOU’RE THE ONE “GETTING IN TROUBLE?”
If you’re the one on the receiving end of the argument (and yes, often times it’s two sided…but for many arguments there is one person that ends up arguing by attack and the other by defense…and yes that can turn into attack). You don’t want to get in the routine of creating arguments that are eerily similar to the arguments you had as kid or teen with your parents. In a compassionate way, like a detective try look at your partner and see, “What’s REALLY going on here?” Ask for help in understanding why it is that “this thing” is bothering your partner so much. It may not be the first thing that they say if you ask something along those lines, but uncovering the layers of responses to this could give you something to work with. Try to work with your partner by finding ways to address the underlining issue in addition to doing the one thing that they want you to do that you can’t stand to do. Also, own what is yours. Be able to tell the difference between your not wanting to do the thing they want you to do….or if you are genuinely protecting your own fundamental needs which would not be met if you did compromise.