2 Reasons Why Couples Really Fight
Have you ever gotten into an argument and later wondered what the fight was really about?
Things either start with anger or it can get heated during the discussion. Somewhere during the argument, you’re both yelling about something completely different.
It can be mind boggling. But most of us have experienced that feeling of “What are we really arguing about?”
Sometimes the real issues aren’t apparent. We fight about in-laws, money, lack of attention or respect, and a host of other reasons. However, the situation is rarely as simple as some people would make it out to be.
Most of us can agree, though, that fights are pretty horrible. What’s worse is that it’s usually with the people we care most about.
So what are the reasons why couples really fight?
Some interesting research, done by Keith Sanford from Baylor University, tries to discover what these underlying reasons might be.
It turns out that there’s really only 2 big reasons why couples fight.
Getting in the Ring
Keith’s work deals extensively with emotions and interpersonal communication for couples. His recent study about the underlying concerns during conflict was published in the journal Psychological Assessment.
Here’s what his research revealed.
The two big reasons why couples fight is because they either perceive neglect within the relationship or perceive a threat.
Keith explains what can happen:
“When people have underlying concerns about a perceived threat or perceived neglect, they may be likely to engage in reflexive, emotionally charged behavior that can initially serve to escalate the conflict.”
The first cause – perceived threat – is when you see your partner as being hostile, overly critical, blaming, or controlling.
The other concern – perceived neglect – happens when you believe your partner has failed to demonstrate an ideal level of commitment or a desired contribution/investment to the relationship.
Remember that we are talking about what is perceived. We aren’t speaking about what is actually being contributed or done. The difference between perceived and actual is a whole different conversation.
So can identifying the underlying cause help?
Absolutely. It can help determine the path to resolution. Keith elaborates on this:
“This means that perceived threat and neglect should correlate with how couples communicate during conflict. Each type of concern is associated with a specific and distinct set of emotions and perceptions.”
Working Towards Resolution
Keith has actually done another study looking at how resolution might best be found when looking at the two underlying concerns. I’ve written about it in another article which talks about what couples are really fighting for.
When it comes to perceived neglect, his research shows that people want more engagement. So the best thing to do is to find ways to show investment in the relationship, communicate more with your partner, or ways to give or show affection.
Resolution for perceived threat is slightly different. These strategies include ways to passively disengage. This could mean a reduction in hostile behavior, expressions of appreciation, and relinquish control.
The Root of the Matter
As with most communication, it helps to understand where the other person is coming from.
In the heat of the moment, this can be tough. We may be too busy trying to defend our own position to learn why the other person is upset.
However, knowing where and how to start can go a long way in taking the first step. And when fighting with people you care about, it can also be the most important.