Why Couples Fight

(And Some Strategies for Managing Conflict) 

Arguments and conflict are an inevitable part of a romantic relationship. And, while no one is suggesting that conflict is fun, it is healthy and - if handled correctly - can lead to growth and better communication. When you can talk about your problems together, you are one step closer to solving them.

As a couples’ therapist, I teach my clients that understanding why they fight and how to navigate these disagreements is the key to maintaining a strong and resilient partnership. So, let’s look at some of the factors that contribute to conflict in relationships and consider strategies for handling them constructively.


  1. Communication Breakdown

This is number one for many couples in the list of reasons why they disagree. Misunderstandings, poor listening skills, and the inability to express thoughts and feelings effectively can lead to heated arguments.


Therapist’s tip: You can work on improving your communication with each other by practicing active listening, speaking honestly, and being empathetic toward each other. By active listening, I mean being attentive and fully present in the conversation, using good eye contact, avoiding judgment and listening as a way to understand your partner rather than wanting to respond and express your point of view. Use non-verbal cues, like nodding, and reflect back to your partner what has been said to show that you’ve understood. Asking open ended questions (What do you think we could do about that? How did that make you feel?...)  can encourage your partner to open up more about the issue.


  1. Unmet Expectations

We all have expectations, but within a romantic relationship, unrealistic or uncommunicated expectations are a recipe for problems. You may have different expectations about various aspects of your relationship – from trivial things, such as when to do the washing up, to more significant things, like bringing up children or managing finances.


Therapist’s tip: One of the greatest ways of reducing conflict is to identify and address your differing expectations. It can take work to find common ground or agree a compromise, but it will pay dividends within your relationship. If you are unable to do this yourselves, working with a couples’ therapist can be highly beneficial.


  1. Differences in Values and Priorities

If your core values and life priorities don't align, you can find yourself disagreeing about some important things. These differences can manifest in various ways, from career choices and family planning to lifestyle preferences.


Therapist’s tip: Recognising and respecting these disparities is essential for finding a compromise that both partners can live with. This is not always easy when it comes to our values as we can find ourselves becoming entrenched in our point of view, which can make us inflexible. Once again, working with a professional therapist might really help in this situation.


  1. Emotional Triggers

All of us have emotional triggers which stem from our past experiences and personal insecurities. When we become triggered by something within the context of a close personal relationship, it can lead to unnecessary conflicts.


Therapist’s tip: Couples need to work together to identify and address their individual triggers. I advise them to practice emotional intelligence so they can respond to each other more rationally and with greater compassion. By understanding your own and your partner’s triggers you can help to prevent situations from escalating and becoming a major conflict.


  1. Lack of Quality Time

The hectic pace of modern life means many couples experience a lack of quality time together as they juggle the demands of life, work, children and other responsibilities. This lack of connection can lead to feelings of neglect and isolation, creating a breeding ground for disagreements and conflict.


Therapists tip: Spending quality time together can help to strengthen and nurture the emotional bond that is vital for a healthy relationship. For some couples, this can be having a regular ‘date night’ while for others it might mean making the time to enjoy a shared hobby or to try something new. Shared fun and laughter can be a great way to rekindle the spark in your relationship as well as helping you avoid conflict.


  1. Financial Disagreements

Money arguments are another biggie for couples. Things like differing spending habits, financial priorities, and budgeting can be a source of conflict in a relationship and such disagreements can easily become a repetitive pattern.


Therapist’s tip: I advise my clients to aim to have open and honest discussions about finances. Setting joint goals and creating a financial plan can help to mitigate these issues and help the couple to understand each other better.


  1. Power Struggles

It can feel a little uncomfortable to think about power struggles within our closest personal relationships. But it is essential for couples to establish a healthy balance of power when it comes to decision-making and to find a way to share responsibilities equitably.


Therapist’s tip: Talk to your partner about responsibilities within your relationship and share important decision-making between you. Be aware if one partner is feeling disempowered or lacking in agency.


Couples fight for a variety of different reasons, and disagreements are a normal part of any partnership. The key to building a healthy and thriving relationship is to be aware of how these conflicts are managed.


Effective communication, empathy, compromise, and self-awareness are all essential tools. And, while you don’t have to seek professional help from a therapist or counselor, it can be a valuable resource for couples looking to improve their conflict resolution skills and strengthen their bond. It’s good to remember that, ultimately, a strong and enduring relationship is built not by avoiding conflicts but by facing them together and growing through the experience.


For more information about conflict resolution and couples’ therapy, contact me.