The 6 Reasons We Argue in Love
Whatever pleasures we share with our long-term partners - the sexy time, the laughs, the collective thoughts - we are (statistically speaking) going to spend about 10% of our time arguing. The average American couple argues 19 times a month and spends 5.5 nights sleeping on the couch per month.
That’s a lot of time to spend in these exhilarating, intense, and vivid exchanges. Each argument is theoretically about one issue… unless someone is losing and they have to bring up something from the past to have a winning chance.
Whatever the issue is though, the argument seems to follow the same path:
The Unmistakable Breaking Point
The Facial Expressions
The Unfair Treatment
The Maddening Stupidities
The Obvious Truths that the Partner is Happily Opposing
How is that they can’t just text they will be an hour late when they asked you to have supper ready at a certain time just 2 hours beforehand? Is it so much to ask to have a little alone time after a long day at work? How could they laugh at the joke that was made at your expense in front of friends or family?
With such insult to injury, we pull out our leather briefcase and build our air-tight case to bring them to trial to account for their crimes. We gather evidence. We align our words perfectly to present our perspective in a way that they will obviously have to rethink whatever they were doing.
Round 1 of this bout seems to go calmly and civilly enough. But then as early as the 2nd round, but for sure by the 3rd round, things start to unravel. There is more pressure and desperation. There is more displeasure and irritation. Each side begins to add more wrath.
Oh, that sweet taste of vengeance.
The declarations are repeated with more soreness and vexation. How could we not add more spice to it? They seem to be so ignorantly resisting the logic of our argument. So we get louder and angrier. We get red in the face and snarl our teeth. We, sadly, start name-calling - c***, b****, a******, p**** - to the very person we have put in our will, to the very person we have chosen to give our lives to.
So anything closeable is slammed, anything hurtful is yelled, and it can take days for the dust to settle. An argument ready to begin again at any point in a lovingly shared home that has become a hostile territory of trigger-happy gunslingers.
Once the dust does settle, we feel so ashamed and demoralized by the foolishness and nonsense of the whole thing. Even if we have close friends or family members we could talk to about it, we don’t. It would be too embarrassing to mention such details and entrails to others. Coincidentally, they do the same and we are all left feeling a little lonely and guilty in our feelings.
At best, we say we’ve had a little argument or we are just going through a rough patch. None of us openly confesses that the person we love most in the world seems to be trying to destroy us from the inside of our hearts where we have placed them.
One of the biggest mistakes we make when we argue is that we believe that declaring some undeniable and objective truth will put an end to this ugly and open and murderous wrongdoing we feel. As if this ultimate truth can neutralize the forces of evil present in the air between us and our partner.
Unfortunately, as anybody that has been in an argument knows, the truth doesn’t help. The truth doesn’t really matter. It is mind boggling to us creatures of reason to accept this, but it is evident if we ever look back honestly at our past differences and conflicts.
It is irrelevant who ‘wins’.
All we really want to hear from our partner... The real truth angrily lying under our well-put-together case is the simple fact that we need to know we are loved.
We aren’t lawyers fighting over ethical dilemmas. We are lovers savagely arguing because this relationship we have found ourselves in has made us extremely vulnerable to another human being that we are emotionally dependent on. It is painful in a very real way.
We need reassurance. We may look like monsters by calling them a c***. But it is only because we don’t know how, or are too scared, to ask behind the tears we feel, ‘Do you still love me? And if you do, why are you hurting me so much?’
Instead of getting hung up on the name-calling and easily written-off complaints, we should maybe learn to see through them and get right to the emotional and deep cause of the plight.
Below are what could be considered 6 of the most common types of the general feeling ‘I need to know you love me.’
I don’t feel like I’m important to you.
I feel abandoned and alone.
I don’t feel I’m good enough.
I feel you want to control me.
I feel you don’t really accept who I am.
I feel like you don’t even see me or hear me.
It may be hard to say these words when your partner is actually listening, much less when he or she is yelling at you or cutting you down over how you flirted with a stranger again. So rather than shutting down in futility to be heard or yelling back in anger, write these (and other) feelings on the fridge and simply point to them. You will have said what you needed to say without being cut off and they will have a written message they can’t ignore.
So rather than trying to win a proxy war through silly and superficial issues, cut right to the chase and explain emotionally why there is a feeling of being upset.
Perhaps if you get angry that your partner didn’t take your side in a dispute with friends - ‘I feel abandoned and alone.’
Or if they constantly text you or get mad at you for going out with friends - ‘I feel you want to control me.’
Maybe they just can’t even text you to tell you they will be late for a scheduled event - ‘I feel like you don’t even see me or hear me.’
It is a seriously damaging logic that we often feel the only way to feel safe in an argument is to hit back. It has proven to work before in life. Yet, in love, we are actually going to be so much safer and happier (and more likely to receive fondness and redemption) if we find a way to peacefully show our open wounds to our partners (who probably only wounded us accidentally, to begin with).
We think rebuilding our defensible walls of emotional security is the best thing to do when confronted by possible vulnerability and pain. However, fortune favors the bold, my friend.
There will always be a difference of opinions between lovers. But when it gets to the point of slamming doors and verbally stabbing each other, there is only one thing that the argument is truly about: We are exposed and vulnerable in front of someone we care so much about and that we, unfortunately, can’t control. We are at their mercy and we are begging for said mercy.
It can look like a dispute over last night’s dinner party or what to do over the weekend, but deep down it is a fight that leaves us bare to our fear of emotional abandonment. Once we realize this, we can get past the logical point system of who is right and get to the heart of the problem.
Saving 3 to 6 hours a week from that gives us more time to do the things we always wanted to do together anyway, like building that outside patio or learning that foreign language. We could use that exhausting passion for more endearing and inspiring things.