Couples Argue for Only 3 Reasons — and Knowing Them Is Key to Resolving Issues

Couples arguing

Forgetting to rinse the dishes before stacking them in the dishwasher. Leaving a wet towel on the bathroom floor. Not showing enough effort with your friends. They’re all things you and your S.O. might’ve fought about at some point. While each argument might’ve seemed specific to your situation, turns out, they all boil down to three key reasons.

In a video that’s racked up 1.5 million likes on TikTok so far, psychotherapist Esther Perel was asked whether fighting from time to time was good or bad for a relationship.

“Oh, it’s a must,” she says. “It’s obligatory. The question is not so much the fighting. The question is really the repair. I think relationships follow a cycle of harmony, disharmony and repair.”

Perel explains that when people fight about the same things, again and again — she calls these the “plot lines” — isn’t in these details. In fact, what they’re actually fighting about are three key groups of things.

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“They’re about the needs, vulnerabilities and biases that get triggered over and over,” Perel writes on her blog. “Unsurprisingly, when a situation affects us deeply, it’s because it resonates with something else we have experienced before. […] And when these triggers compound over time, it creates a lens through which we view every interaction.”

@anxietygangofficialSpeaker: Esther Perel ??♬ original sound – AnxietyGangOfficial

So, what are they? With Perel asking us to pause, take a breath and attempt to work together to identify what’s really going on, it’s worth becoming these three possibilities for triggers.

Power and Control

Fights about power and control can sound like, “We only have sex when you want to” and “You undermine me with the kids”.

Closeness and Care

Fights about closeness and care can sound like, “Why don’t we have sex anymore?” and “Why am I always the one to text or call you? I pursue; you distance.”

Respect and Recognition

Fights about power and control can sound like, “You go out with your friends without asking me what I’m doing” and “You never acknowledge my professional accomplishments.”

What next? Now that you know the three possibilities, next time you fight, remember to pause, take a breath and remember that when someone is angry or upset, it’s usually because they care.

“When we work together in a healthy way to understand how these patterns came to be, we shift our relational trajectory toward how we can help each other through it,” Perel writes. “Getting out of the loop is a process of dismantling entrenched dynamics, reversing them micromovement by micromovement.”

She writes that while this process might seem unnatural at first, eventually, it will become more organic to say, “I feel something but that doesn’t mean you’re necessarily doing it, but I need you to hear that”.

“Creating new patterns of mutual self-awareness and affirmation of the other is the key to improving our relational dynamics,” she concludes.

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