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  • Writer's pictureAveril

Why do we keep having the same old fight?

Updated: Jul 24, 2023

Regardless of the content, most couples tend to have a same, repetitive fight (or three) that they return to over and over again.

Why do I have to do everything around here?!

Because if I do it it's never up to your standard! Just tell me what you want me to do!

You’re so controlling!

Well I wouldn’t have to be, if I could trust you to be reliable!

It’s like I can never do anything right by you!

Well you would get things right, if you’d just think about someone other than yourself for once!

Why do we do this?

Would it be different if we’d chosen a different partner?

It’s quite possible that there is someone else out there that wouldn’t get into this same argument with you, but there would likely be another repetitive fight that the two of you would have, or (here’s the kicker) – you wouldn’t be attracted to them (that’s a whole other post).

Often though, no, it wouldn't be that different. We bring our same issues to every relationship, and they usually run much deeper than whatever the topic of argument is.

We keep having the same old fights because they don’t work.

Nothing changes as a result of this fight. There’s no “cure”, the issue doesn’t get resolved once and for all.

Neither of you gets what you want.

Maybe you make up, one or both of you apologises, vows to be more flexible, or thoughtful, or reliable, etc.

Until next time.

Is there anything more frustrating than going through this cycle over and over? The sting of feeling let down by your partner in the same old way is perhaps even worse than the actual transgression itself.

This is how couples end up feeling hopeless.

That’s understandable, because it is hopeless. It’s a pattern that goes nowhere, benefits no-one.

This is good news. You can give up the idea of having this same old fight over again, because it doesn't work. Good riddance to that.

So if you couldn’t have that fight any more, what would you have to do instead?

You’d both have to change something about how you interact, that’s a given. In any repeating conflict, it's a dynamic co-created between the two of you. Both of you contribute, to it, which means both of you have some levers to pull and opportunities to break out of the cycle.

That's not to say that every problem in a relationship is 50/50. Some issues are going to be more a "you problem", and some are going to be more your partner's - it might be 60/40, or 90/10, and that's totally okay. You are both full and complex humans with your own strengths and vulnerabilities. Still, even if your partner is the one who struggles with a particular topic more, you can do and say things that help or hinder how effectively you deal with it as a couple.

Even when you manage issues and conflict effectively, you’re still going to disagree, annoy each other, disappoint each other sometimes, that’s the nature of intimate relationships. Instead, focus on how you relate to each other in these moments so that you both come out the other side and actually get what you want – being a healthier, happier, more fulfilled couple and individuals.

We raise a couples’ relational consciousness by analysing the dynamics, figuring out what isn’t working and why, and what works better. Understanding who is contributing what elements to the breakdown is the vital first step in getting out of this losing battle. This takes self-reflection and a good dose of humility.

Next comes the ability to manage your emotions when discussing concerns. In our calm, rational minds, most of us have a general idea of the basics of communication - listen, take turns to speak, don't be mean to each other.

All of these skills go out the window though when we are really upset. In those moments, our intention shifts from making it better to winning the fight or protecting yourself. Learning all the communication skills in the world won't help you in that moment because you don't care about using them. It might sound ugly, but it's true and it's normal, and being able to manage this is fundamental in changing how we deal with conflict.

The ability to notice when you're getting upset and regulate your emotions so you can stay connected with your partner and in the mindset of creating a win-win resolution is much more difficult than it sounds. There's usually a part of ourselves we have to overcome in order to do that, and becoming intimately acquainted with the part that arises in those moments will give you a stronger footing.

The final piece of the work is committing to doing things differently, and then doing that every day. There might be some additional skills you can learn that will help you come to true long-lasting solutions to persistent problems. There could also be some repairs needed for old wounds in the relationship, or practices for ensuring you stay close and connected.

As couples therapist Terry Real says in his book The New Rules of Marriage, a good relationship isn’t something you have, it’s something you do, over and over again – instead of having that same old fight.

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