Deflecting and projecting:
If you notice yourself engaging in excessive levels of conflict with your spouse, consider the possibility that you are upset with yourself about something that is unsettling or difficult to face.  For example, if the marital fights involve a lot of anger about your wife’s job, make sure you also reflect on your own career and how your professional satisfaction may factor into the ongoing conflict.  Sometimes we deflect the dimensions of ourselves that are challenging to address and we project them onto those closest to us, mainly, our betrothed.

Revisiting unfinished business:
All couples who are invested and present in their marriage will fight.  A total absence of conflict can be a serious cause for concern.  But if you can’t stop fighting about a particular issue, give yourself the time and emotional space to reflect on what the conflict is touching in you and how it relates to your past.  If you grew up with a lot of financial instability, conversations about money may feel exceedingly charged even if you and your spouse have much greater financial stability than your parents.  Be honest, is pain from your past driving an over-reaction?  Could it dilute the tension if you share this observation with your spouse and attempt a repair?

Prioritizing winning over intimacy:
Couples locked in a state of perpetual conflict have often become so reactive to each other that they have actually lost their independent selves and blended into one.  In this mode, each person finds it extremely difficult to talk about themselves and what they may be contributing to the problem at hand. Instead, they are laser focused on describing and analyzing the flaws and shortcomings of their spouse. Highly reactive couples become obsessed with winning each argument even though arguments offer no prize and no finish line.  If this sounds familiar, consider that a need to always be right is a definite barrier to intimacy.

Whether you acknowledge that you are projecting some of your own conflicts into an argument OR you admit that unfinished business is triggering excessive intensity, this does not mean that you are being weak or caving.  Instead, it means that you are being real and eloquent and pitching to the best in your spouse and the best in yourself.

Elisabeth LaMotte


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