3 Ways to Get Through the Dumb Fights We All Have

Because even great relationships suck sometimes.

Kaia Maeve Tingley
Mar 12, 2020 · 8 min read
Photo by Sarah Kilian on Unsplash

Pointless arguments can be tough to spot in the heat of the moment.

“What do YOU know about economics?” my exhausted husband asked me testily one tired evening as we were putting the kids to bed.

I had been talking about this article about women’s unpaid labor, and what would change about our economic system if we actually had indicators that took the work of caring into account. Contrary to his belief about my amateur status, I was quick to point out that in fact, I do know quite a bit about the topic. I rattled off some statistics and concepts referencing articles like this, this, and this.

So I said, as calmly as I could, “This is the kind of thing you say that triggers an emotional reaction in me. I happen to know quite a bit about economic theory and social change, thank you very much.” I wasn’t very calm, to be honest. I was pissed, and he could tell.

His rejoinder, “No. No, you’re not right. That’s not how it works. At all.”

At this point my hackles were raised, voices were starting to raise on both sides of the table, and I realized we were on the brink of falling into one of those dumb fights that all couples have. It was the kind of quarrel where the real cause of the irk is camouflaged behind a completely unrelated topic. But we still somehow end up arguing?

Please note, that the dialogue described above is the article-friendly cliff notes of the conversation from my own perspective, written after the fact, and not actually what we said to each other in real-time.

Without the ability to carry on a civilized conversation in a reasonable tone of voice, your relationship is either going to break, or it’s going to suck.

Why? Why do we have these dumb fights?

Neither one of us wants to fight, but somehow it still happens. What are we even fighting about? I don’t think it’s about the way the economic system works.

Why do lovers fight?

While great relationships have a lot of common ground between the people involved, it’s likely there will still be some fundamental issues on which you and your partner have a deep ideological divide.

In our relationship, we agree on finances, food, medical care, religion, and even politics. We have a shared dream of life, and we are raising two kids together. It’s good. Really.

But I know he judges me for my inclination to be in my headspace as often as I can. And in turn, I judge him for his tendency to plod along, step by step, thinking he never takes time to look up and dream into the future.

And it’s these judgments underneath the argument that really hurt, to be honest. I feel like he doesn’t even like me, and I can tell he feels the same way.

Does this mean we should scrap the whole thing and throw in the towel on love, life, and family? Does this mean that one of us is more right than the other about how to make a positive change?

Of course not.

In a perfect world, the two of us could form a team and leverage both of your strengths for good. We’re working on it.

Where to even begin?

I think the trick is to treat these fights as puzzles to be solved instead of deal-breakers that will lead to us breaking up. It’s more about converging on a solution, and less about winning the war of being right.

No one can thrive by subsuming themself to their partner's way of being. Even though it could feel like a victory for them to “convert” you, it really won’t do them any good if you just keep bending over backward to please them. And no one wins in a relationship where one person is made to feel like they are the problem. That’s not what I would call a good relationship in the first place.

So, we are processing how and what we need to figure out to keep this inevitable friction sinking the ship of our relationship.

This is a joint effort, folks.

The biggest things that seem to feed the drama caused by the friction of our disagreements seem to be (1) lack of empathy, (2) the sense of judgment of your partner being wrong while you are right, and (3) ignorance of the proper way to navigate the foundational differences of your two different belief systems.

(Full disclosure, we are still most definitely working on all of these in our own relationship. They are not easy, but they are relatively simple, at least in theory.)

If you recognize you’re headed into a stupid fight, learn how to stop the fight before it gets too heated. If you don’t do this, and you dive headlong into the argument anyway, well then you need to learn how to apologize to one another after the fact.

Chances are good that one or both of you were tired, stressed, or not in the mood to have a constructive conversation in the first place.

A simple, “Hey babe, I’m sorry I was so rude to you about that thing before” goes a very long way in restoring trust in the shared intention of the relationship. When that intention is love and mutual respect, apologizing is priceless. And it’s important for both people to be able to apologize. One person who does it all the time, and one who doesn’t — nope, that won’t work.

Just because we didn’t learn these skills when we were young doesn’t mean we can’t learn them as adults.

Most of us learned some pretty gnarly sh!t as children when it comes to communicating with clarity. Especially with the people we love. Communication requires empathy, humility, and trust. And above all, the willingness to be vulnerable.

There are many, many reasons why crappy communication is the norm, but when you boil it down, basically it’s very hard to access healthy communication skills that we rarely or never saw modeled as a child.

But, there are tons of resources available these days in the form of books, videos, blogs, and teachers who can teach us the science and art of effective communication. Just because we didn’t learn these skills when we were young doesn’t mean we can’t learn them as adults. We just have to stop being rigid and close-minded and get off our arses and learn.

If you don’t like to read books, then go to YouTube. Or look up a podcast that covers the topic from a voice you like. The information is out there. Learn it.

Without the ability to carry on a civilized conversation in a reasonable tone of voice, your relationship is either going to break, or it’s going to suck.

You can read all you want about relationships with a narcissist, or emotionally abusive relationships — which unfortunately DO exist and people do suffer in. But chances are, the intention to harm your partner is not deliberate or calculated in many cases. It’s more likely that the skill level simply isn’t there. At least not yet.

Spoiler alert. We all have baggage. Every single one of us. It doesn’t matter how woke you think you are. You have baggage too. Me too.

Ultimately, it’s not going to do much good to stew in your own juices while you plot and plan how to change your partner into the person you want him to be. We all know this. But does that mean you’re willing to do your own work? You’d better be. That’s where the magic happens.

Understanding where the friction comes from and what purpose it serves

Dr. Harville Hendrix and Dr. Helen LeKelly Hunt published a well-known book called Getting the Love You Want. In it, they write about the point of being in a relationship.

Their work deconstructs both why you are drawn to your partner, how your childhood learning affects your adult relationships, and what benefits there are to being willing to dig deep within yourself and look in the mirror to find out why you tend to fight with your partner so often and so painfully.

Some of their topics include the following:

  • Discover why you chose your mate
  • Resolve the power struggle that prevents greater intimacy
  • Learn to listen — really listen — to your partner
  • Increase fun and laughter in your relationship
  • Begin healing early childhood experiences by stretching into new behaviors
  • Become passionate friends with your partner
  • Achieve a common vision of your dream relationship

Sounds nice, right? Who doesn’t want all these things?

But you can’t just go straight from a fight into doing “the work” with your partner if you are still stuck behind the arguments that necessitate the effort in the first place. And if you’re dealing with a partner whose intelligence doesn’t come in an academic format, it can be very difficult to apply such a studious solution to a tense situation.

It can be difficult to even sleep in the same bed together after such a kerfuffle. Even when you both know fighting was stupid in the first place.

But with greater readiness to be vulnerable and apologize, to do the work to learn the skills to communicate, and the willingness of each partner to do the work that needs to be done to transcend the patterns of childhood, options open up for relationships to be places of growth rather than ongoing trauma.

So, 3 steps to get to the front door of options. And then continuing work to delve into more nuanced learning or even therapy. Making progress isn’t easy. Relationships are not easy.

But what worthwhile things come without effort?

Is your relationship worth it? Is it good, or even great? So do the work. And the reward will be not only a better relationship with your partner but the potential to heal childhood wounds as well.

Kaia Tingley is a writer, artist, podcaster, digital strategy nerd, and sometimes hot-tempered supernova with a wild, free soul. You can find her on Instagram here or on LinkedIn here.

Fearless She Wrote

This is a space to empower differences, tell our stories…

Kaia Maeve Tingley

Written by

I help women craft a space for inner balance. Top Writer — Feminism, Climate, & Parenting. Striving to be a positive influence. Instagram @muse.of.creativity

Fearless She Wrote

This is a space to empower differences, tell our stories, and share our lives together. We will not be silenced. We will be fearless. And we will write.

Kaia Maeve Tingley

Written by

I help women craft a space for inner balance. Top Writer — Feminism, Climate, & Parenting. Striving to be a positive influence. Instagram @muse.of.creativity

Fearless She Wrote

This is a space to empower differences, tell our stories, and share our lives together. We will not be silenced. We will be fearless. And we will write.

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