Quarreling in the relationship - from self-help to couple therapy

Psychologist and couple therapist about quarreling in the relationship - when to seek couple therapy?

Do you argue a lot with your girlfriend? Here you can learn more about arguing in the relationship, so that you and your partner can handle dealing in the relationship in a new way. We will also help you assess the need for couples therapy and how couple therapy when arguing in the relationship will be able to help you who are arguing too much.

If you have already decided to give couples therapy a try, you can easily book an appointment online here:

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Argument in the relationship - constructive or destructive?

Arguing in most relationships, be it dating, cohabitation or marriage is normal and not necessarily a sign that something is fundamentally wrong and that one should seek psychological help.

In fact, research shows that quarrels in relationships also characterize couples who live good cohabitation for life. Read more about this further in the article or hear one of our couple therapists talk about quarrels in the relationship in the podcast family life.

Dimitij Samoilow leads a strong professional environment within couple and family therapy at Psykologvirke

Try to see conflicts and quarrels in cohabitation as important and necessary events in the relationship. There are situations with the potential for a lot of learning and growth. All couples need to go through conflicts.

Constructive conflicts and quarrels that are well handled and repaired can be a source of development in cohabitation. The bonding can deepen and the love intensifies.

Saying sorry to each other and taking responsibility for each other's contributions to a conflict is crucial. It can lead to new respect and closeness. And it can increase understanding and empathy for the partner - and himself.

Conflicts that are handled well can actually lead to a better version of oneself. Thanks to the partner pointing out aspects of oneself that can be problematic - at least within the context of the relationship.

It's incredibly annoying at times - and it's easy to defend.

But anyone who chooses to enter into a relationship is served by striving for a learner, rather than a defensive attitude to quarrels and conflicts.

It can also be helpful to understand how situational, rather than personal, relationships affect arguing in the relationship:

Why so much arguing in the relationship?

It hurts when arguing obscures some of the best moments in life. For paradoxically, it is often around the major life events that the pressure is also greatest.

Such as quarrels during renovations and relocations, quarrels during pregnancy, after birth, during the toddler period, quarrels over illness and loss or, paradoxically, quarrels before weddings. 

Unfortunately, many couples also break up due to quarreling after having a baby. Having children is a great strain on the relationship. Even if the child is wanted and also gives a lot of joy.

This is about the interaction in the relationship changing drastically. Suddenly you can no longer follow your own wishes but must relate to the child's constant needs and demands.

Not all couples are able to adapt to the new situation.

Many couples therefore seek couples therapy during infancy. They get help to strengthen the relationship by understanding what is happening inside each other. And they learn to negotiate good agreements where both give and take. 

Couples therapy to avoid or handle arguing?

When couples avoid conflicts, it can mean that important topics they disagree on are not highlighted and discussed. This can damage the relationship in the long run.

An invisible wall may appear between the parties.

Persistent distance can lead to parallel lives where one loses the emotional closeness in the relationship. 

Sometimes such smoldering disagreements can arise during periods when you are together a lot. It guarantees quarrels at Christmas or holidays.

Unresolved conflicts can also come to the surface when drinking alcohol. In connection with alcohol consumption, the risk is high that there will be uncontrolled arguing and strong emotions.

At other times, disagreements are indirectly expressed through passive aggression. Small stings you yourself hardly admit to sending out.

Conflict shyness can escalate quarrels

To overcome conflict shyness involves learning to address disagreements in a healthy and constructive way. For some couples, this may be a topical issue in couples therapy when arguing in the relationship.

If a party is wary of conflict, it can paradoxically increase the level of conflict.

It may feel safer to bring up painful issues with a couples therapist present who ensures that both speak up and helps to put hurt feelings into words. 

Often one is afraid to open up on one's own. Maybe the pain gets worse. Such avoidance is often perceived as a lack of interest. But it can be due to the opposite.

The relationship with the partner is too important to risk anything.

Sometimes so important that only the prelude to a quarrel can lead to a kind of silent overwhelm on the part of one of the parties. Although it is actually an expression of underlying strong emotions, it appears as indifference.

The more overwhelmed one is, in a quiet way, the more insistent the other can become. This is how the relationship is captured in a downward spiral. Couple therapy is often needed by a psychologist to break such patterns.

But you can also manage to move forward on your own if you start by being genuinely curious about the process of arguing - that is, what happens inside the other, inside yourself and between you.

Actively ask how your partner is feeling inside. Sometimes it is not the case that the partner does not want, but simply not can relate to you. Then the threat the person experiences, often from the other person's intensity, must be mitigated.

Party therapists are well acquainted with such dynamics and cohabitation therapy will be able to help you further. You can read more about our forms of couples therapy, emotion-focused therapy and PACT which we offer with us in Psykologvirke.

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Psykologvirke has several of the country's best couples therapists on staff and we also offer couples therapy online from all over the country. It usually works just as well. You usually find out already after the first hour if couples therapy is for you.

Arguing only with boyfriend, cohabitant or in marriage?  

Another good reason to seek out couples therapy is when you as boyfriends or cohabitants quarrel a lot over time, in front of the children and / or when the quarrels become loud and constantly escalate to aggressive outbursts.

Such quarrels make you tired and can erode the relationship and the family. 

There are few relationships that are as exposed to recurring conflicts as relationships. We psychologists often hear the following in couples therapy:

"I never get so angry or upset with anyone but my partner. I'm never furious at colleagues or friends. It must mean that I do not have an aggression problem, the problem is my partner ". 

This is usually a mistake. 

The reason we get so angry or frustrated with our partner is not necessarily because our partner is so unreasonable.

It is above all about us being connected to our partner in a way that triggers the strongest feelings in us. 

Why so much anger and arguing in cohabitation?

When we enter into a relationship and devote ourselves to our partner, our attachment system will be activated.

Especially when we have been together for a while and have established a life together where we have a lot to lose in a breakup.

The relationship becomes a platform in our lives. An emotional foundation that forms the basis of the rest of our lives. 

When this foundation wall falters, we become insecure. It can feel as if we are in danger of death when the connection is threatened. 

This usually does not apply to other more peripheral relationships in our lives. We are therefore not so upset when there is a disagreement with, for example, a colleague. 

The threat of losing the relationship is not something the parties are necessarily aware of. Therefore, the strong reaction can be incomprehensible to ourselves and to our partner. 

For example, it can be completely incomprehensible that we get angry because the shoes are in the middle of the hallway. Or because the milk is not put in the fridge.

Of course, it's not about shoes and at least not about milk.

But about whether one is alone or together. Whether one is taken on the other's radar or not. If you can lean a little or have to be on your toes.

When the connection feels insecure, small everyday disagreements will be interpreted by the brain as "evidence" of rejection or that the partner is not on the team.

This is what the body reacts to, ie the fear that the partner is not there for us.

Then we will feel a strong physical discomfort that we react to by, for example, attacking our partner, or pulling away.   

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Quarreling in the relationship - typical patterns 

Typically, conflicts begin to recur in the same pattern. That is, the parties react in the same way every time they experience disagreement, regardless of what triggered the dispute.

Sometimes quarrels are triggered by housework, finances or money. Other times because you disagree about holiday plans or how long to stay with in-laws at Christmas. Arguing becomes burdensome.

Whatever the cause of the conflict, the parties go into their usual positions. Either escape and avoidance, or in attack and persistence. 

Avoidance can come in the form of changing topics, turning away or starting with housework. But also by looking at the phone, becoming silent or "rushing" and let the partner's words go in one ear, and out the other. 

Attacks can come in the form of criticizing, bullying and complaining. In some cases, it can escalate into aggressive, abusive and intimidating behavior. 

Arguments that escalate to violence

Sometimes even the one who avoids will suddenly switch to attack, after feeling pushed up into a corner with no way out. 

Then the reaction to the conflict could give the couple a new problem that must be solved; namely, mental and physical violence. 

Violence occurs in some relationships as a reaction to disagreement and occurs in affect. Maybe in the form of a threat, a push or a mobile phone being thrown into the wall. 

Violence that characterizes the relationship

In other relationships, violence permeates the entire interaction. It is a distinct balance of power where one party is constantly afraid to trigger the other's anger. 

This is a serious situation to be in, where one can not feel free and well.

Violence is characterized by a person using force, threats or intimidating behavior to get the other person to do something they do not want. Or stop doing anything it wants. 

Violence is harmful to humans. It can cause serious physical injury and lead to reduced mental health, reduced quality of life and trauma.

This applies to both those who are directly exposed to violence and those who witness domestic violence. 

In families, we must expect the children to become extremely scared when the adults lose control of themselves in anger. Especially with frequent loud arguments in front of the children. 

Working with violence in therapy

If you have a violence problem that you want to work on, there are good opportunities.

Alternative to Violence is a foundation with offices around Norway that works therapeutically to help people stop physical and mental violence. There you will meet therapists who are experts in this.

When a person has a violence problem, we will recommend individual therapy to stop the violence. A safety plan must be made, preferably in consultation with the partner, to ensure the situation for the partner and children. 

In the event of serious violence, the police, child welfare services and crisis centers are important helpers to rely on. 

If you are in doubt about whether you have a problem with violence, we recommend talking to a psychologist about this. You and your partner can then also get to an hour each for you. 

Sometimes you can talk more freely together then.

Couple therapy when arguing with uncontrolled anger

However, the most common form of attack in pair conflicts is not violence. But that one expresses one's despair through critical words, tears and strong emotions.

Regular couples therapy is a good and wise choice when you feel that your mind is boiling over and you lose control of yourself. 

An important process in couples therapy is to practice putting into words the underlying feelings and needs instead of attacking.

For some, anger is a so-called defensive affect - which hides other, more hurt feelings. For others, it is the other way around. Anger is hidden by hurt feelings.

It may be necessary for the couple to make an agreement on "time-out", that the couple takes a break from the conflict and goes apart for a while to calm down. 

It is important that the couple makes an agreement that they will address the problem again. Otherwise, a proposal for a timeout in the heat of battle can be perceived as a dismissive means of force.

It may pay to do this with a therapist to get training in expressing yourself more constructively.

The goal is not to avoid conflicts but to learn to argue in a way that does not scare or offend the partner or the environment.  

Many also seek individual therapy from a psychologist for help with one sun problem.

Then the therapy will often involve getting to know the underlying hurt feelings that trigger anger and practicing acknowledging and expressing these.

The goal of the therapy will also then be to express anger in a way that does not offend or frighten others.  

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Couple therapy in case of quarrel: Psychological attack and avoidance 

Attacks and persistence are often a reaction to feeling alone and abandoned, especially when the partner responds silently or walks away. 

The partner who evades can feel unsuccessful, stupid and of little value when the criticism comes bombarding. 

When the conflict is at its worst, both parties will feel hopeless and discouraged. They will feel that neither of them reaches out or makes contact with the other.

The pattern can affect both self-esteem. It is often difficult to see how hard this dynamic also hits the other. 

Then it feels as if the connection is thin, the distance is enormous and that you are opponents instead of team players. The reason why the discomfort becomes so strong is precisely because the partner means so much to us. 

All we want in the whole world is to be received, to be met with understanding and support, and to receive confirmation that our partner still loves us. 

For the partner is one of the most important people in our lives, the one we most long to be seen and recognized by.  

How to deal with quarrels - two main strategies for ending destructive quarrels in couples therapy

Tolerating conflicts in relationships is about two main strategies. One is to practice arguing in a safe and non-offensive way and repair afterwards. 

It can be about anger management, raising awareness to speak more calmly, expressing needs instead of criticism and practice apologizing and repairing faster after conflict. 

The second strategy is about strengthening the connection and building up a buffer, which means that the relationship can withstand a conflict.

This can be about regular physical contact such as long hugs, kisses and sex. 

Or daily expressions of gratitude and admiration, time to nurture the relationship. For example, through dating, finding good series to watch together and surprising each other with good food and fun. 

Both of these strategies are important ingredients in couples therapy with a psychologist.

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Conflict as a source of growth in cohabitation therapy

Working with conflict management in couples therapy will often be about finding the underlying hurtful points the parties are hit on during conflict, and expressing these. 

The wounds can sometimes be about other attachment wounds from earlier in life. The more attachment wounds you carry in your luggage into a relationship, the faster and more often you can be triggered. 

Becoming conscious triggers can slow down our emotions, giving us better control over how they are expressed. 

A couple had the following experience in therapy. As a child, she experienced that her parents divorced after many years of arguing.

As a child, she did not see her parents become friends again and repair, on the contrary, the conflicts led to breakups and the quarrel continued over contact and agreements about her and the siblings. 

When she and her partner came into therapy, she reacted with avoidance to even the most everyday disagreements and did everything to avoid quarreling.

Through couples therapy, her partner became aware of how scared she became of disagreements, because she had not experienced that they can be resolved by going apart. 

Her partner therefore learned to proceed more cautiously and give her time and reassurance to withstand criticism and amendments.

She learned to speak out when she felt insecure and to ask for confirmation that the disagreement would not lead to a breakup.

When the therapy ended, she said that she had learned to accept her own feelings better and that she had become good at repairing after conflict, something she did not anticipate.

She experienced becoming a better version of herself, one who did not repeat the same mistakes that her parents had made.  

Some people become more aware of their own trauma through couples therapy and is motivated to work individually with their own wounds. Also here has the psychologists in Psykologvirke specialist competence. 

Thus, addressing conflicts in the relationship can be a source of deeper personal liberation. 

Expectations for couples therapy with a psychologist

In couples therapy, the couple can expect both parties to be heard and tried to be understood by the psychologist. 

The couple therapy will often start with a joint conversation where they agree and clarify what the goal of the couple's project is. 

Then the parties can also come to talks separately so that they have the opportunity to speak more freely. 

In joint conversations, it becomes important for the couple therapist to see some of the conflicts that unfold and at the same time help the couple to slow down and express the underlying feelings and needs. 

When couple therapy against quarreling helps

The result is often that the parties gain a new understanding of themselves and gain access to understanding and care for the partner. 

When the connection is strengthened, the relationship will feel safer and the couple can start unpacking and discussing problems that they have avoided or had destructive quarrels about. 

It is not a goal to resolve all quarrels in the relationship, a cohabitation is largely about living with the fact that there are certain topics you will always disagree on. 

Through daily care of the relationship, calmer conflicts and good repair, cohabitation can work well and again become a source of security and closeness. 

And not least an arena for personal development. 

Difficult to seek couples therapy?

Ugly quarrels in the relationship be associated with a lot of shame and guilt, which makes it more difficult to seek help. 

Remember that we are experienced psychologists and couples therapists who have practiced couples therapy by arguing in the relationship and all sorts of other conceivable issues for a number of years.

We've seen most things before. Ugly quarrels are not so uncommon in relationships. We know how human it is to lose your temper and say and do things you regret afterwards.

With us you will be met with acceptance and understanding, not condemnation. It can go a bullet hot in most good homes.

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When should one seek couple therapy in case of quarreling?

If the quarrels take place almost all the time, are loud, destructive and ugly, when arguing in front of the children or where the quarrel is very consuming, it is clear that you may need help. 

Other times it is less obvious. Are the problems really so big that it is necessary to seek couple therapy? 

Here, the couple may also have different views. Our experience is that many have too high a threshold to seek couple therapy and come in the latest team.

You do not have to have a bad relationship to go into couples therapy. It is also about improving a relationship that you generally thrive in. 

It is difficult to find out everything on your own.

The art of living with your girlfriend

Most people spend a lot of time and money on education and courses to master the job.

The tasks that face us at work are usually nowhere near as complex as being able to live together in a fairly tolerable way over time.

A good cohabitation over time does not come by itself and seeking couple therapy in the event of an argument in the relationship is deeply respected. It should be considered a wise and healthy decision, not a defeat. 

If only one of you wants to go into couple therapy when arguing in the relationship, it is an issue we are used to dealing with. In the first hour we can see if we find a basis for a common process or not. 

Some also come alone for the first hour in an attempt to kickstart the process.

It is rational to give it a try. Whether couples therapy can help you and your boyfriend is just one way to find out. 

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Couple therapy by arguing in the relationship online

We accept couples in all phases of life all issues. Our partner therapists have extensive experience and further education. They teach couple therapy nationally and internationally, are non-fiction authors and offer highly qualified help both for quarrels in the relationship and other issues.

Psykologvirke now also offers simple and safe video therapy, with calls via secure video solution. This is for couples who live far away from Oslo or couples who can not move out for various reasons. 

We have good experience of offering couples therapy online and recommend giving it a try if personal attendance is difficult. 

We will do our best to help. We present ourselves as whole people and the best of professional knowledge. 

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