Why Do Couples Fight?

How To Fix Your Relationship with Couples Therapy by South Bay Counseling

Couples Therapy by South Bay Counseling of Amityville NYPicture a romantic vacation with your boyfriend/girlfriend/spouse. Imagine handholding, fine dining, talking, laughing and intimacy.  This scene is what we all want.  But how can you have any romance when all you do is bicker, argue and fight? If this is the case, then it may be time for couples therapy.


What the fighting is about

There are central themes that couples fight about.  When you think you are arguing over who will take out the garbage and other chores, or the kids behavior or money, there is something else going on underneath.

What the fights are really about:

  1. I feel inadequate
  2. You seem inadequate
  3. I am losing/you are winning
  4. I fear being alone
  5. You don’t respect me
  6. I am no longer attracted to you

Let’s discuss….

I feel inadequate

This is about your own feelings projected onto your partner.  They don’t necessarily believe you are inadequate.  Maybe what your partner said or did feeds into your belief about yourself and your self esteem issues. You cannot change someone else’s behavior to cure your poor self esteem.  That must be handled internally.  Are there times when your partner may legitimately be indicating that they think you are inadequate?  Yes, but you need to learn when this is happening and when your beliefs about yourself are clouding your judgment.

You seem inadequate

This thought can occur when you start to believe that you can do better than your current partner.  Maybe you can if your partner is treating you poorly.  However, “you seem inadequate” is generally brought on by having an outside love interest.  Maybe your recently lost weight or started a new job and are getting more attention than in your current relationship. Just because someone else is showing you attention, doesn’t mean it’s time for an upgrade.  Carefully decide if you should leave or try to make things better where you are.

I am losing/you are winning

Does your boyfriend/spouse/partner sometimes feel more like a sibling than a lover?  If so, there may be what looks like a constant competition within your relationship.  When you accomplish something, is it hard for your boyfriend/spouse/partner to compliment your efforts?  Do you find it hard to praise him or her?  If they are a winner, do you feel like a loser?  These kinds of competitiveness will leave you both feeling cold toward each other.  Try actively praising your partner with no expectations in return.  Let them brag and try to throw it in your face.  A few such experiences with no retaliation may train your partner to trust that the competition is now over.

I fear being alone

Fear of being alone can lead to suspiciousness against your boyfriend/spouse/partner.  This is where unfounded jealousy can really ruin a relationship.  And when does jealousy not lead to fighting?  Especially, when accusations are delivered with anger and then progress to retaliation.

Underneath the jealousy is the fear of being alone.  Whether there is cause to be jealous or not, the fear is real.  So how do you prevent getting mired in jealousy and having it ruin your relationship?

Feel it, don’t voice it. Simply don’t allow yourself the gratification of sharing your doubts with your partner.  Their excuses will not end your feelings of jealousy, so why ruin the relationship?  Eventually, you will stop feeling jealous if there is no good cause for it.  Will it be hard to stop the accusations?  Yes, but it will be self-rewarding as your relationship improves.

What if your partner is the one ruining the relationship with unfounded jealousy?  Read this blog to your partner before you end up leaving the relationship.

You don’t respect me

This underlying thought causes many fights in couples.  Respect or lack of it can permeate just about any conversation or action.  Does your partner consult you on major decisions, or not?  Are you the only one taking care of unpleasant tasks?  Does your partner continue to repeat behaviors that you’ve indicated many times you don’t like?

What you must always remember is that some of the behaviors your partner is displaying may be about their own lack of self-control, or self-esteem than it is about their lack of respect for you.

Read that last sentence again.  It isn’t always about you.  Sometimes people are impulsive when they make decisions and have difficulty saying no, or being assertive.  That may not be about their lack of respect for you.  It may be about how poorly they feel about themselves. 

For example, let’s say a hard selling salesperson causes your partner to buy an expensive item without checking with you on it.  Will you be angry?  Yes!  What if your partner is unaware that he/she got taken advantage of?  What if your partner is embarrassed about their own lack of assertiveness and becomes defensive when you tell them it wasn’t a purchase they should have made?  You can always assume that you are being disrespected, but what if you are?  Responding to the behavior assertively, rather than emotively, will help you establish a boundary.  Boundaries lead to respect.

I am no longer attracted to you

This is better than, “I am disgusted by you.”  Disgust is about lack of physical attraction and that may not be possible to overcome. And it may just be a signal that there has been some behavior you (or your partner) don’t approve of. 

It is almost impossible to be attracted to someone who you believe is emotionally hurting you, withholding from you or competing with you. 

What can be worked on is closeness and affection.   This is what many couples fail to understand.  Closeness and affection takes effort.  Real life isn’t a fairy tale, so it will require some work to remain attached and attracted to each other.  The positive here is that this work will be enjoyable.  Think of activities that can be fun for both of you.  Write a loving text.  Make your partner’s favorite meal.  Surprise them with a thoughtful deed such as taking care of a chore that is normally their least favorite.  There are so many ways to change the atmosphere in the relationship.  Be creative.  Do it now.


Elissa Grunblatt, LCSW-R, SAP is the Owner/President of South Bay Counseling LCSW PC, a multi-clinician outpatient counseling center located in Amityville, NYand Huntington, NY