Why You Keep Arguing With Your Partner + 3 Things You Can do About It.

Why You Keep Arguing With Your Partner + 3 Things You Can do About It.

You can see the same old argument coming from a mile away.

Worse yet, you already know how it ends.

You’ve tried all the positive communication strategies you can think of; a soft lead in and using “I statements” but somehow in the heat of it all, things fall apart.

Here’s an awesome worksheet to help you make sense of why you keep getting caught up in arguing with your partner.

Have a look at it now, and then read on to learn more about what is keeping the two of you stuck.

Maybe for you, a repeating argument with your partner goes something like this:

You: I’m just wondering why are you always on your phone?

You: You know how much I hate that. I’m so sick of coming home and finding you on the couch.

Them: Mhmmmm.

You: Did you hear me?

Them: Yup.

You: (more angrily now) Then why are you still sitting there like that? What are you doing? Who are you texting?

Them: Why are you being so controlling? You’re always telling me what to do and how to live my life. I’m sick of it. You’re so cranky and irritating. I’m done talking to you about this.

Of course, you never intended for this conversation to turn into an argument with your partner!


You have no idea why things seem to go sideways in your conversations and you are genuinely confused about why you consistently misunderstand each other.

If all couples argue, why do some couples end up getting more and more distant  and pissed off with each other while others seem to be able to work it out?

The short answer is that couples can get stuck in a negative pattern of reacting (triggering) each other that they don’t know how to get out of.  

This predictable pattern can get started over virtually any topic.

The argument gets started, and keeps going, because each person is pushing the others person’s  buttons in an attempt to get their needs met and find a sense of emotional balance.

If you and your partner score low on emotional responsiveness, you are more likely to get caught in these predictable patterns of heated exchanges.  Over time, this stuck pattern will leave you both feeling frustrated and alone. ( If you haven’t taken last week’s quiz, check that out here.)

Sue Johnson, the pioneer of Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy, coined the term Demon Dialogues to describe these stuck patterns of communication.

Maybe you recognize yourself in one of these:


You know you’re caught up in this destructive communication pattern if you and your partner  accuse or blame each other for the struggles in the relationship. The hallmark of this pattern is mutually attacking, blaming and faulting the other person.

This happens when one person is triggered by feelings of being misunderstood, judged negatively or  blamed unfairly by the other.  They then resort to pointing out all the faults and shortcomings of their partner in a reactive way.

This ‘blame game’ goes around and around leaving both people feeling distant and disconnected.  This heated attack-attack pattern is hard to keep up, and often leads to the second demon dialogue. 


It is widely accepted that a demand-withdraw pattern of communication between partners is connected to higher levels of divorce.  But why?

It’s because our brain’s wired in need for connection and security keep this  negative cycle in play with one partner demanding connection and the other shutting down or turning away.

It might sound like one person criticizing the other for being on the phone too much or spending too much time our with friends or at work.

Although it may not seem like it, this partner is protesting the feeling of being disconnected from their significant other.

However, in response to this perceived criticism, the other partner withdraws, shuts down or moves away emotionally. They may shut down conversations, dismiss the other person’s concerns or leave the room when the tone of the conversation heats up.

Both partners are missing each other’s distress signals. They are unknowingly confirming each others work fears.  One partner is demanding, actively protesting the disconnection; the other is withdrawing, quietly protesting the implied criticism.

Over time, this stuck cycle leads to the most disconnected dance of all, freeze and flee. 


You’ll know that you and your partner are caught up in this negative cycle if things are remarkably quiet between the two of you. Both of you are so committed to avoiding conflict that hard topics and points of contention just don’t get talked about. To borrow Dr. Johnsons’ metaphor, in this dance, “both partners are sitting it out. It looks like there is nothing at stake; no one seems invested in the dance.”

This often happens when the ‘Protest Polka’ has gone on for so long that the pursuing partner has given up hope that things will change. The pursuing partner has resorted to dealing with the loss of connection in other ways rather than continuing to seek it in the relationship.

It’s not impossible to rebuild your relationship from this demon dialogue, but I strongly encourage you to seek out the help of a skilled marriage & couples counsellor.  

As an Emotionally Focused Couples Therapist I have a map that will help me guide you and your partner back to a close and connected relationship. 


1. Recognize that it’s this stuck negative cycle, not an unfixable defect or flaw in your partner that is keeping you apart.

2. Get clear about your steps in the dance. Here is a worksheet for you to reflect on so that you know how you are contributing to the stuck dynamics between you and your partner.

3. Talk about it with your partner. Acknowledge how tough it is when the cycle gets the best of you and how much you want that to change. Maybe you can give your cycle it’s own name and notice when you are getting caught in it.

Relationships are complex, and having a skilled marriage & couples counsellor who can help slow you down and sort through the stuck spots, can be a huge help.

If you’re sick of being caught up in frequent arguments with your partner and feel like you can never get to the bottom of it, consider couples counselling  to learn new ways to get unstuck. 

If after checking out this blog post you and your partner realize that you’d benefit from some help to improve the connection and communication in your relationship, let’s chat. I work with couples in Halifax and surrounding areas from my Bedford Office.  You can book a free 15 minute consultation  online or call Stephanie at (902) 702-7722 to book an appointment.

I look forward to hearing from you,


How To Feel Closer in Your Relationship + A Quiz

How To Feel Closer in Your Relationship + A Quiz

If you’ve been in a relationship for any length of time, I’m guessing you’ve experienced misunderstandings and miscommunications between you and your partner.

There is no healthy relationship that is entirely free of disagreements and it isn’t conflict in itself that is problematic. Sure, no one enjoys feeling misunderstood or getting into an argument with someone they love, but in healthy relationships these moments of disconnection don’t change how you see your relationship or the other person.

Partners in connected relationships know how to revisit these difficult conversations and work through it.

Unfortunately, for many couples, over time, these moments of disconnection seem to happen more often and communication seems to become increasingly difficult. Both people begin to wonder what happened to the harmonious connection they had in the early days of their relationship.  

Partners in disconnected relationships feel discouraged by the destructive communication patterns that seem to be keeping them stuck. 

Let me explain with an example about a fictitious couple, whose relationship is much like the ones I see in my counselling practice

You’ve had a long day at work. You are exhausted. Traffic on the way home from daycare pick up was a nightmare and the kids are wailing in the back seat. Mentally, you try to work through the list of ingredients at home in the fridge to figure out what you can put together in a pinch.


 You get home and begin to pull out the ingredients you need and as you reach for the frying pan to cook the meat you realize it is still dirty from the eggs your spouse made this morning. 


All the frustration and overwhelmed feeling from the day begin to spill out. You accuse your partner of being lazy and inconsiderate and of never pulling their weight around the house. They are obviously frustrated. But instead of stepping in and helping, they tell you that they have had enough of your foolish talk and that they are going somewhere where they will actually be fed – McDonalds.

 As the door closes behind them you begin to cry. You feel so overwhelmed, hungry and alone. You still need to clean the pan and put supper together for you and the kids. You wipe your tears and settle the kids at the table with a snack to buy you some time to make supper.

You feel so misunderstood by your partner. How could they not see how hard you are trying and what a horrible day you had. You make a mental note that you will never ask them for help again.

Before bed you spend your down time researching 15 minute meals so you won’t depend on your spouse at mealtime again.

Couples Describe This as a Communication Problem

And while it is true that communication between this couple is a part of the problem, the real issue is much deeper.

The reactive behaviours that each person is showing come from our biological need to know that our most important person is accessible, responsive and engaged.

Attachment theory, developed by John Bowlby and Mary Ainsworthy in the 1960s, was applied to the bond between a mother and a child. Ongoing research in this area has shown that even as adults, the need for a safe other to turn to does not go away.


After studying countless hours of couples therapy sessions, Dr. Sue Johnson, the pioneer of Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy, concluded that it is our internal ‘attachment alarms’ that drive these reactive behaviours and contribute to the destructive communication patterns that couples can get stuck in.

Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy is backed by 30 years of scientific research and when practiced by a trained therapist following the model, outcome measures show that 70-75 percent of couples move from being distressed to being close and connected and approximately 90 percent show significant improvements.

In this blog series I will introduce you to Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy and hopefully help you and your partner experiment with some new ways to communicate.


What does it mean to be emotionally responsive to your partner?  Think back to the ‘disastrous dinner’ scenario for a second.  While you have that in your mind, I want introduce you to an important concept; emotional responsiveness.  Once you know a bit more about it, I want you to consider whether you think being more emotionally responsive might have helped this couple….and if it might be helpful for you and your partner too.

There is a ton of fascinating  research that shows that our human need to find connection and responsiveness is literally wired into our brains. Check out how this baby responds in this experiment known as the ‘Still Face Experiment.’

Guess what, as adults our behaviour might look different, but we react when we cannot establish a connection with our most important person.  

Knowing this helps Emotionally Focused Couples Therapists see communication breakdown and conflict as a an attempt to have our need for secure connection met.

Rather than viewing either person as flawed or dysfunctional, and EFT therapist would understand this interaction through the lens of unmet attachment needs.

Because of this, Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy is different than skills training.  It allows couples to have new experiences of actually being there for each other in the therapy room and then apply this in real life rather than giving a list of skills to learn. 

If the ‘disastrous dinner’ couple could recognize that the hurtful exchange described above is a pattern that showed up in part because of a lack of emotional responsiveness, then they could view it differently.   They could revisit the conversation in a way that was more responsive and find new ways to be there for each other.  

Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy with a skilled therapist, helps couples slow down their conversations to explore underneath these reactive behaviours to learn more about their unmet needs and how they are playing out in the relationship. 

As Dr. Sue Johnson notes, what truly makes a relationship thrive is emotional responsiveness. 

I’m curious.  Are you in an emotionally responsive relationship?

Here is a quiz that she includes in her book, Hold Me Tight, Seven Conversations for a Lifetime of Love (which you should definitely read!).

If you want a clearer sense of how responsive you and your partner are towards each other, take the quiz and find out!  

Come back next week for part 2 of this blog series and find out more about how you and your partner can restore closeness and improve communication in your relationship. 

If after checking out this blog post you and your partner realize that you’d benefit from some help to improve the connection and communication in your relationship, let’s chat. You can book a free 15 minute consultation call online or call Tamar at (902) 702-7722 to book an appointment.


I look forward to hearing from you.




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