Constant arguing can be devastating for your marriage. While every couple has things they disagree over; constant arguing puts stress on a relationship that eventually causes it to collapse.
We offer 4 tips on how to break the cycle of constant arguments so you can build a healthy, satisfying marriage.
Surviving marriage can be challenging. But it shouldn’t be that way. Marriage is a sacred union between a husband and wife. It is meant to represent the good things about life. So why are there so many challenges? Why is marriage often tough? In this series, we tackle the big issues that keep couples from experiencing the best of marriage.
Why and How Arguing Can Ruin Relationships
Arguments are a part of any relationship. However, an argument can easily turn into an unhealthy and toxic relationship.
Arguing is never the best way to resolve disagreements. It only leads to more anger and resentment between partners. This is why it’s important to know the difference between arguments and disagreements so that we can avoid ruining our relationships in the future. .
Understand The Difference In Arguments and Disagreements
For the sake of this article, let’s make a distinction between an argument and a disagreement. There may not be a technical difference, but this will help clarify why arguments can be devastating for your relationship
Arguments are a form of communication that leads to something else; disagreements are a conflict between two parties over different thoughts, feelings and/or behaviors.
Arguments are more deeply rooted in feelings, while emotions drive disagreements.
We often talk about the difference in feelings and emotions. To put it briefly, feelings are deep seated ways we see life, ourselves, and others. They are based on the underlying beliefs we have about things.
Emotions, on the other hand, are based on things that bring about a surface reaction.
For example, we have deep feelings about what our spouse believes about us. We believe they truly care and are in love with us (through good and bad), or they are disconnected and uncaring. Our belief about them sets the stage for how we interact in our marriage.
In contrast, we may have a bad day and experience negative emotions that bleed over into our relationship, but those things are short lived. They do not determine or alter the course of our relationship. Feelings can (and do) change the direction of our relationship. Emotions are just things we have to deal with because life happens.
I hope you see the difference.
This distinction matters because it isolates the difference between arguments and disagreements.
Arguments, as we said, are rooted in feelings we have about our marriage. They generally lead to ‘something else’ because they come from a sense of rejection, hurt, anger, or wounds.
Disagreements are just that; something we have different opinions about. Those opinions do not change the relationship. Arguments can.
Arguing with your partner can have many negative effects. One of the most important things to consider is that arguing with your partner can lead to lost feelings of love and intimacy. Further, it can incite anger or resentment in the relationship and lead to a variety of other problems.
5 Reasons Arguing Will Ruin Your Marriage
Arguing is destructive for many reasons. The five reasons listed below expose how constant arguments erode your relationship.
1. Arguing and criticism creates distance and resentment.
Arguments can make you feel disconnected from your partner, which in turn can lead to distance in your relationship and the feeling of rejection and loneliness or depression on your part.
Your partner’s defensiveness can also result in him or her feeling angry, hurt, or resentful toward you, which can make it harder to communicate in the future. This can create a negative cycle that damages the relationship over time.
2. Constant arguing erodes trust.
When you and your partner argue repeatedly, it becomes harder and harder to trust each other as you grow further apart and less connected as a couple.
Trust is one of the most important parts of any relationship because it provides the foundation needed to build a happy, healthy relationship. If one or both of you feel betrayed by the repeated arguing in your relationship, it can take away your sense of safety and lead to mistrust of your partner as well as a lack of trust in yourself as well.
It’s important to learn how to create an atmosphere of trust rather than a climate of conflict.
3. Continued arguments can lead to physical violence.
Things left to themselves often deteriorate. In the case of constant aggressive arguing the deterioration leads to escalation. This type of arguing can easily escalate to verbal and even physical violence.
Certainly not every argument leads to a physical altercation. However, if an argument occurs between a couple with a history of violence between them, the chances of it escalating to physical violence increases greatly. Because violent couples often use fighting as a way of expressing anger towards each other, it doesn’t take very much to push them over the edge into violence again.
This is especially true if they feel cornered or threatened in some way by their partner during the argument.
4. Arguing destroys intimacy.
When you and your partner are constantly arguing about the same things over and over again, it can become hard to feel connected to one another, which can kill intimacy in your relationship over time.
Constant fighting can take a toll on both of you emotionally and mentally — especially if one partner is the aggressor in the argument — which can result in you both feeling disconnected or numb to one another’s feelings during an argument.
Although you may each be able to disconnect from your own emotions during an argument, this can make reconnecting afterward difficult, which can then lead to more arguments as you try to heal from past fights and rebuild your connection with one another again.
5. Excessive fighting can cause one or both partners to withdraw emotionally.
If your partner feels angry and hurt by the constant bickering and criticism in your relationship, he or she may withdraw from you in an attempt to cope and avoid more fighting in the future.
In some cases, a partner who withdraws from an argument may be looking for a way to punish his or her partner for the fight by withdrawing as a way of getting even for his or her partner’s bad behavior during the fight.
Side Note on Boundaries
My wife and I are members of the Boundaries program. We often recommend their resources to couples who are struggling to navigate the underlying issues in family life.
I bring this up because proper boundaries are meant to protect your heart from others who would intentionally (or recklessly) hurt you by their involvement in your life. It is not punitive – meant to punish them, but simply to erect a barrier of access so they cannot continually hurt you.
If, however, your motive in setting up a boundary is to hurt someone else, your boundary becomes a tool of harm, instead of a way to protect yourself.
Couples in dysfunctional marriages often use the right terms (in this case boundaries) in a destructive manner. This causes further withdrawal and emotional vacancy in your relationship.
You may also want to read about how to safeguard your marriage against silent relationship killers.
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4 Steps To Get A Grip On Conflict And Stop Constant Arguing
Disagreements may be normal, but constant arguing puts too much stress on the relationship. At some point, the relationship breaks.
Here are 4 tips that will help you break the cycle of arguing and stop the argument before it gets out of hand.
Step 1- Take a Break From Arguing
The first step is to take a break from the argument. This may seem like an obvious answer, but it is important to remember that taking a break allows both parties to relax and think more clearly. It also gives the other person time to cool down and rethink their position.
A break can be as simple as stepping out of the room for a few minutes or going for a walk together. Sometimes, just making some tea or coffee can help take the edge off of an argument.
Some couples get so caught up in the moment they fail to realize it’s possible to stop, step away, and cool down.
I recommend couples who find themselves in constant turmoil make a contract to not argue for one week.
You may be thinking, ‘That’s impossible. Things are always going wrong and my spouse (fill in the blank here.)’
Most often this is an excuse. Arguing can become a lifestyle and habit that has to be broken. Taking a break is possible. And necessary.
After all, has constantly arguing solved any of your relationship issues? My guess is, no.
Since it doesn’t accomplish anything, and most often adds more stress, why not step back and stop engaging with arguments.
Taking a break from arguing doesn’t mean separating. It doesn’t imply withholding love or affection. It is a commitment to stop engaging in the argument.
An old adage states: Nothing changes until you do!
I’ve found this to be true. Most people, however, work hard to change external circumstances.
If you pay attention, you can hear it in their words.
- “If my spouse would just do this (or that), then we wouldn’t argue so much.
- “If my wife was more attentive to my physical needs, we would get along better.”
- “If my husband would just talk without insulting me or yelling, we wouldn’t argue.”
All of these things are legitimate needs. Yet, they are focused on what the other person needs to do.
You can’t control anyone but yourself. The goal, therefore, needs to be on self realization. Discover what is going on in your heart.
Ask yourself questions:
- Why do we get into arguments all the time?
- What lies beneath the surface of our heated disagreements?
- What deep feelings are driving me to engage in arguing with my spouse?
- What deep unmet needs to I have? How can I work on resolving those issues?
These questions are inward focused. In other words, you can do these things regardless of what your spouse does.
This is the beginning point of real change.
Step 2- Stop Playing the Blame Game
Stepping back from the argument allows you to become an observer of what is happening in the relationship rather than a participant. In other words, you no longer play the ‘blame game.’ Instead, you take responsibility for your own feelings and try to discover why you are feeling the way you do.
This is important because blaming other people or circumstances for how you feel keeps you stuck and unable to move forward with your relationship problems.
When you find yourself in a disagreement, remember that it isn’t necessary to blame the other person for how you feel. Often our own emotions have been triggered from past experiences that were never resolved fully.
Remember: Feelings Are Not Facts!
We often assume we are justified in how we feel because we think something is true; however, feelings are not always accurate! Making this mental shift helps you to become responsible for your feelings and not to blame others for them.
If you are having trouble doing this on your own, you may want to consider working with a couples counselor to help you identify the specific triggers behind your negative feelings and help you resolve them in a positive way rather than by engaging in blame and anger.
Step 3- Try to See Things from Their Point of View
Putting yourself in someone else’s shoes is empathy. It’s the ability to see life from a different perspective.
Unfortunately, this is a rare characteristic. It doesn’t come naturally for most people because we live in a world that is centered around our individual needs and wants; we rarely take the time to step outside ourselves and try to understand the needs of others around us. But, it’s an important quality to develop if you want to create change in your relationships.
A good first step in learning to be empathetic is to try to see a situation from the perspective of your partner instead of your own perspective. Empathy begins when you realize that seeing the world from their point of view builds a connection and allows you to better understand them and the struggles they may be facing.
Once you understand what they’re going through, you can respond in a way that will help improve your relationships instead of making it worse!
Step 4- Learn from Your Mistakes & How They Made You Feel
There are two common reactions when people make mistakes. One leads to improvement and the other leads to repeated arguments over time.
The first reaction is what I call the “L” reaction. It stands for Learning to Accept Responsibility for your actions. Taking responsibility for our mistakes in the past is the first step towards becoming a better person. When we are better people, we can be better partners.
The second reaction is what I call the “F” reaction. This stands for – Feeling sorry for yourself. This happens when we play the victim role by blaming the other person for your mistakes.
These reactions often stem from the same root problem.: unhealed wounds from the past. When these wounds are not healed, they interfere with our ability to act in a healthy way.
When our egos get wounded, we tend to become angry and defensive. We try to protect ourselves against further hurt and pain.
Learning from our mistakes helps us stay present in our relationship. It keeps us from falling into the trap of reliving the pain. When we take responsibility, we empower ourselves to make the changes necessary to move forward.
When we fail to do this, it puts us on a constant cycle of repeating the same negative patterns. Eventually, we get so sick and tired of it that we give up entirely!
To move forward, you must let go of the past! It’s normal to look back with regret and longing; yet, you can’t change the past! You can only learn from it and move on from it! Try these techniques and see what happens! Let me know how it works for you!
Knowing Your Dance
My wife is a ‘people person.’ She loves to engage with others. She is also an astute observer of couples.
She has a unique ability to understand how couples interact with each other. She calls it ‘the dance.‘ Everybody – every couple – has their own, unique dance. This is how they engage, communicate, and interact on a regular basis.
To understand how constant (severe) arguing erodes a relationship, it’s important to keep in the context of our dance.
Some couples are loud and fun. Others are quiet and reserved. How much you talk does not equal communication. Nor does disagreeing with each other equal lack of loyalty.
There are two dangers I see with couples who argue constantly.
First, it disrupts their normal dance.
Arguing interferes with the normal expressions of gratitude, love, and respect that make marriage what it is supposed to be. Constant criticism and emotional battles tear down the framework of a great relationship.
To combat this we have to create emotional security in our relationships. This means making our partner feel safe and accepted.
Second, it takes on a life of its own and becomes the dance.
This is perhaps more dangerous than the first. Once a couple falls into the trap of arguing as a normal way of life, it is difficult to get back on track.
It takes time, energy, and hard work. It’s possible, but not easy.
You have to reverse engineer the process. The same tools used to get you to that point have to be employed to get you back to a healthy normal.
For example, to create an atmosphere of constant emotional turmoil, you have to focus on the negative things your partner does. You think only (or mostly) about your own needs, wants, and desires. You then criticize and belittle them to make a point. In other words, you are doing negative things that begin the downward slide of disconnecting from your spouse.
To reverse this, you have to do the opposite (which takes work). You must focus on the positive things about your spouse. You have to put aside selfish thinking and try to discover and meet the needs of your partner. Then you must affirm, build up, and encourage your spouse.
This changes the direction and trajectory of your relationship.
Author Gary Chapman states it best:
Many couples have never learned the tremendous power of verbally affirming each other.Gary Chapman