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When Couples Fight

Photo by Erik Clausen (His Blog, Flickr)
Editor’s Note

This article applies also to those not currently in a relationship.

My husband and I had a fight over the weekend – on our date night, of all nights. We rarely fight, so when emotions escalated to shouting, I knew something had to change. I had to change. There was something to be learned here.

The thing about when couples bicker is that both people feel that they are right. Both people feel that their point of view is rightfully justified. So we try to make the other person understand. When we are arguing, what we are essentially trying to do is to show the other person our side – to show them that we are right (and they are wrong).

After all was said and done, underneath the problem on the surface, what we were really fighting for was to feel appreciated and validated. We, each in our own indirect way, were trying to let the other person acknowledge us, and to value what we contribute. But sometimes, we can be so stubborn.

If you dissect all the fights we’ve had in the past with our significant others, and through observing our friends, I think the desire to feel appreciated and recognized is a common theme.

What’s interesting is that in the heat of “battle”, when we are so consumed with wanting the other person to see our side, we become blind to recognizing the other person’s point of view – which is equally valid and understandable. It’s like trying to put out fire with more fire, you will just end up with a bigger fire.

In every argument, there are two sides to every story. It is highly likely that both parties are partially wrong, and both parties are partially right. And if both people continue to argue for their side, there will be no end to it. There will be no peace, no resolution.

But if one person, puts their own need to feel right on pause for just a few minutes, and sees how painful it must be for the other person, and genuinely apologizes for the hurt they may have unintentionally caused, then a miraculous shift takes place between them.

The other person will realize that they too were wrong, and likely apologize as well. When they do, the energy between them shifts from that of resentment and misunderstanding and hurt to that of love and forgiveness and generosity. When that happens, the love in our hearts expands to a realm beyond us, leaving us feeling a blissful sense of peace.

Admitting that we were wrong can feel as bad as pulling our own teeth. And when we do, it requires an internal fight with our ego to overcome our natural urge to retaliate and defend for our side. But it is possible to make a conscious decision of setting our egos aside – this may require biting our tongues, and nodding our heads in agreement though.


Photo by Nathiya Prathnadi

If we truly become the observer, we will see that, in a way, the other person is right – at least partially right. There is something we can learn here. And it really doesn’t matter if they see our side. Our job is to bring love in to situations and to empower ourselves, and those around us. To learn from life.

I came to the realization that “I don’t care to be right anymore. The argument is over something from the past. Why am I constantly trying to bring this unhappy state from the past into my present? And into my future? Why am I creating a future that causes myself suffering?

Like a light bulb going off in my head, I began to soften up, and began to relax.

When I relaxed, I forgave, and released something from the past, which I’ve held on to so tightly over the past year. This belief -this story- that I’ve held on to, was the source of much pain, which I’ve created for myself. And now, I’ve set it free. I set myself free.

Here are some quotes from Dr. Wayne Dyer from his book Excuses Begone! that seem appropriate to this topic:

You hear people say this all the time: “I have a right to be upset because of the way I’ve been treated. I have a right to be angry, hurt, depressed, sad, and resentful.” Learning to avoid this kind of thinking is one of my secrets for living a life of inner peace, success, and happiness.

At the root of virtually all spiritual practice is the notion of forgiveness. Think about every single person who has ever harmed you, cheated you, defrauded you, or said unkind things about you. Your experience of them is nothing more that a thought that you carry around with you. These thoughts of resentment, anger, and hatred represent slow, debilitating energies that will disempower you. If you could release them, you would know more peace.

A peaceful person attracts peaceful energy. You won’t know God unless you’re at peace, because God is peace. Your resentments literally send God out of your life while you’re busy being offended.

You practice forgiveness for two reasons: to let others know that you no longer wish to be in a state of hostility with them and to free yourself from the self-defeating energy of resentment. Send love in some form to those you feel have wronged you and notice how much better you feel.”

Parting Words

Sometimes, when we hit rock bottom, or fall into a dip in our journey through life’s turbulences, there isn’t anywhere else to go but up. Instead of treating these experiences as the enemy, as something that you “hate”, remember that these situations are there to help us wake up.

These experiences are there to teach us something we have yet to learn. These moments are blessings that we have yet to realize. These moments are the turning points of our life, towards something more profound, and valuable, and beautiful.

In summary, here’s what I’ve learned:

  • I don’t care to be right anymore. I don’t care if another sees my side. It doesn’t matter. It’s all in the past now. Let’s focus on the now and the future.
  • In all challenges, no matter how justified I feel, always come back to myself by asking, “What can I learn from this situation? What lessons am I supposed to learn that I have yet to recognize? What did I learn about myself?
  • Writing my thoughts down when these challenges happen is a great way to not only get to know myself in more depth, but also help to relieve resentment and pain. Writing in my journal is my best medicine.
  • Talking about it to others from the point of complaining and victim identity only prolongs the story, and causes us to remain in the mode of helplessness. But never the less, talking about it to a neutral party helps to relieve some of the bundled-up energy, and may help us find clarity. I recommend finding a counselor who is trained to listen and direct you towards a mindful resolution.
  • Our opinion about someone (or some situation) colors our perception of them, and projects upon them a story, which makes the story become true for us. This projection changes our interaction with that person, making it appear more real to us. For example, if we believe that someone doesn’t like us, we will start to look for evidences of that person not liking us. As we know, what we seek, we shall find. We project upon this person that they dislike us, and we repeat that belief in our head, and it becomes true for us. In reality it’s only an idea in our own head, and not actually true.
  • Telling someone you’ve forgiven them, but still complaining for what they “did to you” is not true forgiveness. You’ve only done so superficially. This hard feeling will continue to linger until you can truly forgive them and stop talking about the story.
  • Forgiveness can be a multi-layered process. Don’t kick yourself if you can’t do it in one sitting. It can take time. Take as much time as you need. Follow the flow of life. Know that when you are suffering, there are more forgiving to be done.
  • Communication is vitally important in any relationship – not just in romantic ones. It’s important to setup time regularly to communicate, to share openly about your feelings, thoughts, unhappiness, worries, joys, dreams, hopes. For couples who live together, it’s important to do this instead of falling into the routine of crashing on the couch and watching TV all night. Even if sharing time means 10 minutes every day before bed. Make it a priority.
  • For couples with kids, it is important to commune as a couple and spend quality time together, focused on each other. Schedule date nights, even if it’ll cost money to find a sitter, or that you have to trade baby sitting with another couple. Your relationship is the nest in which your children lie in. Your relationship is the foundation to which your family is built upon. How much money is that worth? Priceless, right? Make it a priority.
  • Sometimes, we create busyness in our lives to avoid dealing with something that is causing us pain. We bury ourselves in our work, or direct our attention in the solving of someone else’s problems, in order to avoid dealing with a problem in our own life. No worries if you recognize this. We do this unconsciously, and it happens to all of us. Be brave. Make a conscious effort to address the root problem, this will make us feel so much lighter and free. We can actually end up happy (imagine that!).

I love you guys. Thank you for listening. And in case you’re curious, Jeremy and I are doing more than great now. We’re thankful for the learning and growing experience, and are closer than ever! :)

Please take a moment to let the meaning behind these words sink in. Apply what rings true to you to the best of your ability in your own lives. Learn from my mistakes and those around you. Spread joy. Life is so precious, and beautiful – and you deserve to see and experience its beauty in its full bloom.

Have a beautiful week, my friends.


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About the author

Tina Su is a mom, a wife, a lover of Apple products and a CHO (Chief Happiness Officer) for our motivational community: Think Simple Now. She is obsessed with encouraging and empowering people to lead conscious and happy lives. Subscribe to new inspiring stories each week. You can also subscribe to Tina on Facebook.

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59 thoughts on When Couples Fight

  1. Kathleen M Rath

    wow some awesome words of advice, Loved this

  2. Tina – please pass this along to your husband ;-) ….

    Do you want to be happy, or do you want to be right? Here are two rules for long and happy marriage –

    Rule #1: Assume you are wrong (because you usually are), accept responsibility, and be quick to apologize.

    Rule #2: Never forget rule number one.

  3. A lovely article Tina~ I find myself more able to practice this~ and then the my higher Self ups the ante to ensure I continue to walk my talk~ I am a source of endless amusement to the gods and goddesses (Self ~:-)

    Not long ago I had the opportunity to say sorry first with a man I was dating at the time, though I was in the right to maintain my boundaries~ how I did that could of been less sharp~ my fierce compassion has yet to find its balance when it comes to romance.

    Anyways, he was bowled over, and yes, apologised and reaffirmed my boundary. In the past woman (princesses?) have gone on the attack~ and he was avoiding the “inevitable” name calling. We are no longer dating, but are maintaining the friendship~ though from a distance for him~ having his shadow accepted and accepting another’s is daunting for him.

    Crazy banana.

  4. Bay Taper

    Love your article, thanks for sharing this, well done! I find there is also another very similar, very related, but subtley different aspect to this… And that is trying not to make others ‘wrong.’ It gets back to your comment about acknowledging the other side, the validity to their positions, and just because you may not agree, that doesn’t necessarily mean they are ‘wrong.’ It’s easy to fall into the trap of making others wrong because they have their unique view of things. Sometimes is not about right or wrong, it’s a mutual respect for each others’ positions. Thanks again for sharing your story…

  5. Valerie

    Excellent article and one of my favorite ones on your site, Tina! Especially the point about forgiveness. I’ve also made the mistake of thinking how the other person always needs to be right — when in fact I’m worried about my being right.

  6. Jeff C

    Thanks, nice article. My worst arguments have been when we were both convinced we were “right”. My deepest relationship have always developed after we both came to accept each others flaws.

  7. Wow… thank you for that one Tina… some REALLY GREAT info in there that I wish I had known before… it may have saved, and perhaps helped past relationships…

    Hmmm… RIGHT after typing the above statement, I realize that that is and of itself; a form of living in the past as well. On second thought, I do NOT wish I had known all of those above mentioned points before. Not knowing those things played a part in bringing me here, and to the present moment now.

    So if I may reiterate – I appreciate the info you’ve given me (us) and will certainly take it to heart.

    Great stuff!

    Matt

  8. Same here Jeff. Not just accepting each other’s flaws (that’s huge), but also recognizing that being right doesn’t matter, it leads to nowhere. Focus on what it is we want ultimately, and for me, that’s a peaceful, happy, fulfilling relationship. Focus on what we as a couple can do now, instead of who was right, what did what wrong, etc.

  9. @Valerie

    It happens to all of us Valerie. I think it’s the most natural reaction. But nature is about survival, not peace. And if we followed our natural reaction, there’ll be no end to the argument. Thank you for your kind words. It’s one of my favorite that I’ve worked on. :)

  10. Hi Matt, You’re funny. You’re right, all our relationships and experiences added to contribute to who we are today. All the challenges probably taught you more than if everything was smooth and easy.

  11. @Char (Scholar Lifestyle)

    Thanks for sharing your story.

    >”my fierce compassion has yet to find its balance when it comes to romance”

    It took me years to learn this, and practice makes perfect. Our ego is so strong sometimes that it’s just hard to admit that we are wrong. It’s our survival instincts. Our entire body is saying “defend! defend! defend!”

  12. Sun Tzu

    Indeed I will share this. Thank you very much. Glad to hear all is well. :)

  13. Mona Kristin

    I loved it just as much as I love everything you write. You truly are an inspiration in my life – thanks a lot Tina.

  14. Well said Tina. The point about just giving another our attention and accepting their pain is such a huge one. It made me smile. So often we just want to prove our point, to be ‘right’, like you say, which is just a facade for ‘needing attention to our self’. One has to realize, we don’t need to fight for attention. We need to be compassionate. And then the ego which fights for attention will keep quiet and we will be recognized for the core, that we are- the spirit, the soul. The article flows really well Tina. Well written.

  15. bob

    Tina,

    How perfectly timed this is. I have someone that I work to forgive, and it is not easy. I once watched an Oprah show, and they were discussing forgiveness. It was said that not forgiving someone is the most selfish thing in the world to do, and I agree. Holding on to the hurt and anger only destroys yourself, and much of the time the offender does not even know.

  16. Michelle C

    Another great article Tina. I wonder if you could expand on, or hypothesize about, how you were able to “pause” to step out of the drama and turn the argument around? Any advice on how to facilitate such clarity? I keep encouraging people to “watch the thinker”, but I’m not too sure how to help them get out of the thinking and into the watching. It’s easy for me to point out the thinker to them, but I don’t know how to help them get the awareness to do it for themselves. Thanks!

  17. Thanks for the sharing Tina. As for me I always find it very challenging not to be affected by arguments or disagreements with my wife ironically cos I love and care about her so much. I can ignore and not be affected by others, but it is always those who are dearest to me, those who mean a lot to me that I sometimes struggle with accepting them for who they are and having their point of view even when I may not agree or like it.

  18. @ Michelle C:

    Funny you mention that… I realize I’m not Tina, but if I may?

    I found that I have that problem as well. Or did more so in the past, when I wasn’t as happy. I would get caught up in my ego, and couldn’t seem to get out of it. I would get caught up in the cycle of “proving a point” and “Showing the other I was right” and it was VERY damaging to the soul, and to my relationship at the time.

    I found that the more in tune with myself, and grounded I was, the easier it became. But it never seems to be easy. I still struggle with that. Losing my patience, and letting my ego take over is a constant battle for me.

  19. Hi Uzma,

    Thanks so much! Beautifully said. Thank you for that.

    I really loved working on this article. I felt so inspired, I sat down, and an hour later, all the words just flowed out of me. This is one of my favorite articles to date.

    It’s easy to say be compassionate, but when we are in heat of trying to get our side across to another person, it’s hard to remember to be compassionate. I do believe that we are always doing our best based on our present state of consciousness tho. :)

    Talk later.

    Tina

  20. Hi Michelle and Matt :)

    Thank you Matt for your input, they were perfect. Just perfect.

    Michelle, you asked: “if you could expand on, or hypothesize about, how you were able to “pause” to step out of the drama and turn the argument around?”

    I think we got to such a low point, after an hour of extreme emotions flaring around, that we were both exhausted. And I realized that we weren’t getting anywhere, except to make each other sad and tired. :)

    And then something overcame me, I don’t know what it was, I asked Jeremy what he wanted, and he said something that implied “To be appreciated” and with those words, a sudden clarity overcame me. I don’t think I did anything intentionally to gain this clarity.

    As Matt pointed out, it’s not about never reacting and instantly becoming a person with utter clarity, it’s about being aware of what we are doing and why we are doing it – even a few hours after the fact.

    The more we practice living mindfully, consciously, the easier it becomes to adjust our focus and come back that place of calm clarity. Notice, I said adjust, instead of instant. :) I too still struggle with my ego – as I described in my stories. It happens to all of us.

    The best thing we can do, is to do whatever we can daily to practice mindfulness. Observing our thoughts is one practice. I also recommend meditation or sitting silently for a few minutes each day. Reading inspirational books that awakens us, like “The Power of Now”. And even writing down our thoughts.

    All of these practices, has a cumulative affect on our conscious awareness. Which then affects how we handle problems when they arise. Reacting emotionally when problems occur is normal and natural. Adjusting how you proactively do after the initial reaction takes clarity. :)

    Tina

  21. Hi Lawrence,

    I hear you. We’re in the same boat together. I too have a hard time to not be affected by my husband, if we’re having a disagreement. I think that’s natural.

    I think maybe it’s especially hard with our spouses, because we’re so close with them, and we want them to see our side so badly, that it’s even harder to see their side. Know what I mean?

    After such a long time arguing over the same thing, and not seeing eye to eye on the one situation. I think I was just so exhausted or arguing for my side, that I realized that it really doesn’t matter. I don’t care to argue for a perspective anymore. It’s so silly, and energy consuming, and unfriendly. :)

    Tina

  22. Great article. Essentially, arguments arise because of ego/painbody being allowed to get in the way.

    Generally, I use a technique that has worked perfectly whenever I’ve remembered to use it. That is, I say to myself “EGO” whenever I recognise my ego rising up. Or if it’s my painbody, I say “PAINBODY” to myself (within my mind, it doesn’t have to be said out aloud although you could do that if you wished). Sometimes I have to keep repeating these words until my ego/painbody subsides, but it’s never failed me. The hardest thing here is to REMEMBER to say, “EGO” or “PAINBODY” to myself in the heat of the moment.

  23. Hi Gemma!

    I will try that. That’s a great idea! I think saying “EGO” and “Painbody” outloud will be more effective, because it’s physiological. Sometimes, when I’m feeling my ego rising.. for example, I’m feeling jealous, and I can feel this tightness in my belly. I would say in my mind, “Oh, there’s my ego, feeling treatened. It’s okay ego. See how much this person deserves…” and I could feel a sense of relief in my body. The tightness goes away, and the jealousy dissappears.

  24. I love this! I love the idea that God is peace and always resenting others shuts God and peace out of your life. I think I needed that reminder today. Thank you so much for sharing this with so many people.

  25. yumi, I love that quote too. It’s a beautiful reminder, indeed.

    “A peaceful person attracts peaceful energy. You won’t know God unless you’re at peace, because God is peace. Your resentments literally send God out of your life while you’re busy being offended.”

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