Fighting with your partner?

Fighting with your partner? Why the details don’t matter as much as you think they do

Fighting with your partner?

Why the details don’t matter as much as you think they do

If you’ve been fighting with your partner, it’s natural to think that the problem between you is in the details of WHAT you fight about.

Details of arguments do matter when you’re trying to work out agreements and compromises to solve a problem. But in another, very fundamental way, continual fighting has nothing to do with the nitty-gritty details.

Here’s an example:

You and your partner fight about something seemingly mundane – like housework.

You’ve had this argument in one form or another for the entirety of your relationship.

You’ve tried different things to make it better.

You’ve tried a chore wheel.

You’ve tried not caring so much (or so little, depending on how you feel about housework).

Whatever solution you come up with works for a little while – until it doesn’t. You find yourself caught in the same fight about house cleaning again. And again…


So what’s going on?

Underneath the hurt feelings and accusations about who did or didn’t take out the garbage, something more profound is going on.

Fighting is about connection

Many fights between partners can be distilled down to one essential theme: connection. If you feel distant from your partner, or the quality of your connection is threatened, fighting is often the outcome.

One way to look at fighting is that underneath all the details of who said and did what, both parties are saying that they don’t feel connected, supported, loved and heard. They don’t feel like what they want and need matters to the person they love the most. And this feeling is driving their frustrated emotions (even if they aren’t fully aware of it).

Relationships are emotional bonds

Feeling connected is so important because relationships, at their core, are emotional bonds. Everyone needs secure emotional bonds to survive and thrive.

Our first emotional bonds are with our parents (or other caregivers). Without an adult to protect us and listen to what we need, our very survival is threatened.

Adult romantic relationships, for better or worse, tap into this young place where it can feel like our very survival is at stake, even if we’re not fully conscious of this.

When our connection – or emotional bond – is strong, each partner feels more secure both with each other and when they venture out to face the world. When that bond is weakened, emotional insecurity sets in and partners can react in anger and fear at seemingly small things. This is when a couple is most vulnerable to fighting.

Unspoken fears lie beneath the surface of the fighting

Fears such as:

  • Do you have my back?
  • Will you be there for me when I need you?
  • Are you with me?

Answering yes to these questions is vital to having a secure and stable relationship.

And, answering yes is vital to feeling loved and safe with each other.


To see how couples therapy in San Francisco can move you from fighting to connection:

Call for your phone consultation (415) 310-5142