love is strong yet fragile

How to Argue Less, Love More

Couple talking about fears and understanding
It’s almost five-o’clock and you’re at work. You want to call it a day, so you reach over to shut down your computer. But your hand hesitates as you look around for one more extra thing to check on.  There’s nothing urgent – you realize with a sobering feeling that you don’t look forward to going home anymore.

All couples have their disagreements, but when unresolved arguing persists over time, it begins to take a toll on everything you do, especially on how you feel towards your relationship.  You remember how you and your partner used to enjoy some wonderful moments together. The life you began together is precious to you in many ways. But lately you may find yourself thinking: “We argue all the time, and we fight over small things almost every day. No matter how hard I try to resolve a problem, I never get it right.”

It’s miserable to feel this way.  You don’t want to keep fighting, but you’re disheartened and confused.  You may wonder if you should spend some time apart, but you don’t want to throw away your relationship. It might be hard to know what your true feelings are.

Can You Just Fall Out of Love? Shouldn’t Our Love Be Something More?

It may seem impossible to make sense of love. Until recently, when looking at the process of love and bonding, people from poets to philosophers “agreed that you absolutely can’t understand it. You fall into it, you fall out if it, it hits you on the head,” says Dr. Sue Johnson (author of Love Sense: The Revolutionary New Science of Romantic Relationships).  “…But the evidence is, almost with any crisis and transition, it’s the same story.  If you understand a bit about love, and you know how to have what we call these ‘hold me tight’ conversations, you can deal with almost any stressor or transition because you deal with it together.”

When couples are struggling to communicate and don’t know how to have those trusting conversations, it magnifies the trouble that both experience.  People get caught in a terrible pattern of blaming and putting more distance between each other.

Many paths lead to the same quagmire.  This can happen when:

  • Your early relationship happened fast, and you didn’t have time to deeply explore how to work through things together as friends
  • One or both is feeling too unheard to listen (a principle defined by psychologist Dan Wile to explain why partners can not listen to each other)
  • One or both people in the partnership are not feeling seen or held
  • There is not a lot of trust
  • Defensiveness has taken over the dialog
  • Partners focus on winning an argument rather than being honest with how they feel, and open to hear how the other feels
  • Partners are not able to draw from their parents’ relationship to help handle their relationship

The new science of love helps people find the power to repair their relationships. We have learned the importance of helping people  recognize fundamental fears beneath the anger. When each person understands their underlying emotions and needs, and talks to their partner in a way that makes sense of strong emotions, the partners can respond with support and powerful help in resolving distress.


love is strong yet fragileYou can find a way to feel more securely bonded, and you can shape what happens for you and your partner.  It is possible to move a distressed relationship into love and understanding.  Couples can develop the ability to talk about painful wounds and to provide the safe haven that builds love.

Rebuilding the Bond With Your Partner

In the rush of modern life, the importance of giving time to nurture trust and attachment with our partner gets lost.  Somehow, the focus on our careers, our Internet, or going to the gym starts to come before turning to our partner.

What you honor and give time and focus to will grow. Sue Johnson reminds us that if we honor our need for connection, we realize how powerful it is, and then we understand how much we need it. Then we start to make it a priority and we give it attention to get things going well.

It’s okay to be mad at each other sometimes. Angry feelings don’t always damage a loving relationship. What matters is to find ways to break out of a cycle of arguing without being hurtful.

Our new findings about love point to ways to begin a transition to fight less and love more:

  • Believe and know there is a way out of this hardship.
  • Slow down, rather than shut down.
  • Give time and space to allow feelings to calm. It is hard to feel empathy for each other when angry feelings are raging.
  • Put brakes on the defensive response; slow down enough to be curious.
  • Think about what is happening for your partner.
  • Think about what is impacting both of you.
  • Realize that when it comes to arguing with your spouse, no one wins by winning.  It helps instead to focus on understanding rather than winning.

When you are in the thick of a charged situation it is hard to see what is happening.  It is hard to unravel a cycle of arguing from inside it.  A trusted counselor helps you look behind your upset feelings and find the words to share what you long for, and hear what your partner needs, in a gentler way than before. It takes courage to shift from being defensive to finding out what is happening with your partner.

The EFT Therapy Difference

Effective counseling can help you recognize what is creating the disconnect, and what the feelings are underlying the arguments.  Emotionally Focused Therapy for couples (or EFT) takes the findings from the last 50 years to help couples deepen bonds in romantic relationships.   The skilled EFT therapist has a roadmap to intimate relationships and how they work. The therapist understands the processes that take hold when couples are struggling, and knows what new paths to pursue to put things right.

Know that you can find your way back to connecting with your partner. It does take practice to learn how to pay attention to each other, help an emotional bond to deepen, and tune into each other.  Just as it takes two people to struggle and feel disconnected, the two of you can also work your way back to deeper connection. Your determination, good will and courage to recognize the part you play will serve you well in making things better.

As we heal, the power of love allows us to feel safer and stronger in ways that spill over into the other areas of our lives. As therapists, we see partners grow stronger, more resilient, more effective at work and as parents, when each person feels connected to a partner they love.

More Answers For Your Concerns and Questions

See our Resources page for good books, articles and links that we find particularly valuable, and more ideas to help build relationships on our blog.

Every counselor in our practice draws on the EFT approach because we see couples have an especially high success rate in build loving, healthy relationships, in a finite number of sessions.

Contact us for introductory phone call. This is an opportunity to talk about your needs and options at no cost, to see whether our workshops and counseling are a good fit for your needs. You can reach Kris Rosenthal directly at (703) 768-6240.

Help love grow strongerLearn 5 ways to Grow Closer and Deepen Your Love.

“Why are we unhappy?” Is there a simple way to bring back more warmth into your relationship? The science of love shows us how we can turn withdrawal into deeper connection. Learn 5 ways you can help your relationship grow and flourish.

Were Here When You Need Us

Contact Mount Vernon Therapy, for confidential, caring couples therapy, individual therapy and marriage counseling.  703-768-6240

Serving Alexandria, Annandale, Arlington, Belle Haven, Burke, Fort Belvoir, Fort Hunt, Franconia, Groveton, Huntington, Hybla Valley, Mount Vernon and other Northern Virginia locations

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