Arguments are a normal part of any relationship. So learning the art of resolving them and moving on without building up resentments is vital. This post might help with better understanding of what motivates our arguments.
The participants in arguments are often motivated by fears which appear in everyday speech.
Fear of for example:
- Loss of partnership, “You never call to say where you are!”
- Being hurt(again), “Why the hell do you criticise me so much?”
- Losing control, “I told you we should have turned right.”
- Physical danger, “You broke the speed limit with the kids in the car.”
- Losing security, “You will forget to pay it and we will lose everything”
- Being unappreciated, “You never ask how my day has been.”
Arguments are heavily influenced by our past, for example:
- The effects of sexual or physical abuse are often hidden or denied in adult life.
- A clean/tidy upbringing may mean security is threatened by disorderliness.
- If a caregiver was often absent or withdrawn, distancing may be a threat.
- In a family who never argued and made up, any small conflict may seem threatening.
Here are four basic fearful feelings along with examples of how they come up in petty arguments. Fears about:
- Security: uncontrolled, endangered, threatened by change. e.g.”The kitchen should be cleaned after meals.”
- Freedom: trapped, confined, restrained. e.g. “What’s wrong with walking in the hills and meeting my friends?”(See Security vs Freedom)
- Rejection: disregarded, unloved, alone. e.g. “You are always on the computer/social media.” Or “You are always looking at other men/women.”
- Inequality: unfair, unjust, disrespected. e.g. “Its your turn to clean.” or “You have never earned as much.”
In arguments we justify our own position as right/reasonable/sensible, and focus on our partner’s as wrong/stupid/abnormal. So we argue about the small petty issues when its really about these larger threats and fears.
Resolution of arguments depends on our ability to reflect on, admit to and share how these inner fears have been triggered by small everyday events. We must also, at the same time, respect what underlying fears are happening in our partner, not by making assumptions but by listening to them. It is only when we truly understand how the small things affect our partner at a deeper level that we are able to compromise and find mutually agreed ways to manage everyday life without repeated conflicts.
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