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It is normal to have disagreements in a relationship, but if you're stuck in a cycle of constant arguing that is difficult to break, may need to seek help. Here we look at how you can move forward.

Why do we fight all the time?

Constant fighting in a relationship can be due to several underlying problems or unaddressed emotional needs. A common cause is communication problems, where difficulties in expressing feelings, needs and expectations effectively lead to misunderstandings and frustration. Unrealistic expectations can create a sense of disappointment. External pressures such as work stress, financial problems or family issues can increase tensions and result in frequent arguments.

Feelings of insecurity or jealousy can lead to conflict if not managed in a healthy way. Differences in values, priorities and life goals can create a gap between partners and cause recurring conflicts. Untreated wounds or trauma from previous relationships can also affect the current relationship, leading to conflict.

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A sense of power imbalance, where one partner dominates decision-making or does not respect the other’s boundaries, can also be a contributing factor to arguments. If a partner has mental health problems such as depression or substance abuse, he or she may additionally need to undergo self-help therapy.

To reduce conflict, you can work on improving communication, managing stress more effectively and seeking compromise. Couples therapy can reduce the feelings of loneliness and distance in the relationship that can arise when there is a lot of fighting. It can bring people closer together and improve the quality of the relationship.

How often is it normal to fight?

The frequency of arguments in relationships differs between couples and depends on factors such as personalities and communication styles. What is important is how conflict is handled, not how often it happens. Constructive conflict can strengthen relationships by increasing understanding and personal growth. On the other hand, frequent and destructive arguments can suggest deeper problems that can damage the relationship. Developing good communication skills and seeking couples therapy when necessary is essential for a healthy relationship.


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Are there any benefits to fighting?

Conflicts in relationships can be beneficial if managed constructively, acting as catalysts for improved communication, increased understanding, development of conflict management skills, resolved problems, stronger relationships and personal growth. By expressing feelings and needs, couples can achieve better communication and increased empathy. Healthy conflict management enables problem solving and promotes self-reflection and development. However, if conflicts are mismanaged and become destructive, couples may need professional help, such as couples therapy, to learn more effective communication and conflict management.

How to deal with the fights?

Managing arguments in a relationship effectively involves good communication, understanding, empathy and sometimes creative solutions. You can use ‘I’ messages to express feelings and needs, which helps to avoid your partner becoming defensive. Actively listening to each other and showing that you understand and respect the other’s perspective, even if you don’t agree, is crucial to reduce tension and increase understanding in the relationship.

An effective strategy is to take a break if emotions become too intense, giving both parties a chance to calm down before continuing the discussion. Focusing on problem solving and finding possible compromise shows you both value the relationship and are willing to work together to find solutions that work for both of you.

To further strengthen the relationship, it is important to spend quality time together outside of conflict situations and to share personal thoughts, feelings and dreams. If you find that the arguments are becoming destructive or difficult to manage on your own, it may be a good idea to seek professional help through couples therapy. Learning to manage conflict constructively is an important part of building a strong and lasting relationship.


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What is couples therapy?

Couples therapy is psychotherapy that helps couples resolve conflicts, improve communication and strengthen their relationship. It is suitable for couples in all relationship types and focuses on addressing issues that affect the health of the relationship. Together, the therapist and couple work to understand the core issues, improve communication, manage disagreements and strengthen the relationship.

This involves exploring the history of the relationship, improving the expression of thoughts and feelings, addressing specific problems such as finances or parenting, and developing conflict management strategies. Couples therapy is valuable during crises such as infidelity or major change. The goal is to help the couple understand what is best for them, whether that means staying together or separating in a healthy way.

The therapist acts as a neutral, supportive and objective party who helps the couple navigate through their problems without taking sides or placing blame. Seeking couples therapy can be a powerful step towards revitalising a relationship and building a stronger, more fulfilling future together.

Treatment for relationship problems

Couples therapy begins with initial sessions where the therapist gets to know the couple and their challenges, followed by setting joint goals to improve the relationship, such as better communication or conflict management. The work phase focuses on developing communication skills, resolving conflicts, working through emotional issues and introducing positive behavioural changes, with active input from both partners. The process ends with an evaluation and a plan to maintain and improve the relationship further. The therapist’s role is to guide and support the couple through this process, where the couple’s involvement is crucial for success. Couples therapy aims to provide insights and tools for a stronger and more satisfying relationship.

Different methods of couples therapy

There are several different approaches to couples therapy, each with their own theoretical basis and techniques to help couples improve their relationship. Here are two evidence-based approaches that are commonly used:

1. Integrative behavioural couples therapy (IBCT)

IBCT aims to help couples accept the irreconcilable differences between them and work on increasing closeness and understanding by improving emotional acceptance and empathic communication. The method combines behavioural changes with acceptance strategies. It is an evidence-based approach, meaning that it has been shown to produce good results in research and is a further development of cognitive behavioural therapy for couples.

2. Emotionally focused therapy (EFT)

EFT is a method that focuses on strengthening the emotional bond between partners by exploring the emotional responses that underly the couple’s interaction patterns. The therapy helps couples identify and express their underlying emotional needs and learn to meet each other’s needs in a more satisfying way. EFT is an evidence-based approach that has been shown to produce good results.

Each method has its own strengths and may be more or less appropriate depending on the couple’s specific situation and needs. Things such as the Gottman Method, other couples therapies, and literature can also be helpful in learning more about relationships. Many couples therapists use a combination of these methods to best address the couple’s unique challenges.


12 common questions about fighting all the time

Why do we fight all the time?

Fighting in a relationship can be caused by several different factors. There may be communication problems, unmet emotional needs, and external pressures such as stress and financial worries. Past relationships and trauma can also have an impact, as well as mental health problems on either side.

How often is it normal to fight?

The frequency of arguments in a relationship varies widely between couples and can depend on many factors, including personalities, communication styles and life circumstances. There is no normal frequency that fits all relationships, but it is important to focus on how conflicts are handled rather than how often they occur.

Are there benefits to fighting?

Conflicts in a relationship can actually have potential benefits if managed constructively. They can serve as catalysts for improved communication, deeper understanding of each other, development of conflict management skills, resolution of underlying problems, strengthening of the relationship and personal growth. However, if conflicts are destructive and repetitive, it may be helpful to get more help in couples therapy.

How to deal with the fights?

Managing arguments in a relationship effectively requires good communication, understanding, empathy and sometimes creative solutions. An important part of the process is using messages and active listening. You can work on problem solving and other strategies in couple therapy to change the pattern you have developed.

What is couples therapy?

Couples therapy is a form of psychotherapy that aims to help couples understand and resolve conflicts, improve their relationship and communication, and strengthen the closeness of the relationship.

How does treatment for relationship problems work?

Treatment often starts with an assessment phase to identify problems and patterns. This is followed by an active treatment phase where work on tools and strategies to change patterns is central. Finally, there is a closing phase where the treatment is summarised for further work after the therapy.

What is IBCT?

IBCT (Integrative Behavioural Couples Therapy) is an evidence-based therapy that aims to help couples accept their differences and work on increasing intimacy and understanding by improving emotional acceptance and empathic communication. The method combines behavioural changes with acceptance strategies.

My partner is mean when we fight, what should I do?

If you have developed a destructive pattern in your relationship, you can seek help in couples therapy. Abusive behavior is not okay, but help is available if both partners are motivated to change.

I am afraid of my partner and do not dare to leave, where can I turn?

If you experience threats and/or violence in your relationship, call 999. Women’s shelters can help also provide support.

The children notice that my partner and I are fighting, how should I handle it?

If the children are affected by conflicts at home, it is important to seek therapy to get more help.

My partner has a problem with alcohol, can we go to counseling?

If you have problems with addiction or other mental health issues such as depression, it is important to seek help for this separately from couples therapy. These problems need to be addressed before you can get a good result from couples therapy.

Where can I seek help?

Your GP can refer you to a therapist. Alternatively, book an online session with one of Lavendla’s experienced therapists. We make the difficult easier.

Treatment for relationship problems with Integrative Behavioural Couples Therapy (IBCT)

Integrative behavioural couple therapy (IBCT) is an evidence-based form of couples therapy that aims to help couples improve their relationship by accepting each other and increasing the couple’s emotional closeness. IBCT combines traditional behavioural therapy techniques with a focus on both change and acceptance. Here is how a treatment with IBCT usually works:

Initial phase

  • Assessment: Treatment begins with a thorough assessment of the couple’s relationship, including their current problems, relationship history, and each party’s perspectives and experiences.
  • Feedback session: The therapist provides feedback based on the initial assessment. This phase often includes discussions about the couple’s strengths as well as areas that need development.

Work phase

  • Focus on acceptance: IBCT emphasises the importance of accepting unbridgeable differences between partners. The therapist works with the couple to help them understand and empathically accept each other’s needs, desires, and patterns of behaviour that cannot be easily changed.
  • Emotional closeness: By encouraging openness and communication, the therapist helps the couple increase their emotional closeness and understanding of each other.
  • Behavior change: Although the focus is on acceptance, IBCT also includes strategies for behaviour change. This may involve developing new communication skills, solving problems, and working on improving daily interactions.

Closure

  • Evaluation of progress: Together, the therapist and couple evaluate the progress made during therapy and discuss any future steps or continued support.

IBCT focuses on helping couples develop a deeper understanding and acceptance of each other, which can lead to a more satisfying and sustainable relationship. By balancing acceptance with active change efforts, IBCT aims to reduce conflict, increase closeness and strengthen the emotional bond between partners.

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Written by dominic

Dominic is a Cape Town-based copywriter and editor with a background in psychology.