5 Ways You Accidentally Start Fights


fighting couple
Mistake number one: being defensive.
You may not even realize it at the time.

Do you ever feel your partner knows just how to push your buttons and off you go? Or no matter what you say, he/she flies off the handle?

It's no fun to argue with someone you care about and yet we do it all too often. Even when it seems our partner was starting it, we know there have got to be things we contribute to the fight. The first step to change is recognizing what these things are.

More from YourTango: How To Get Your Partner Into Couples Therapy

Here are five common mistakes people often make when communicating with their significant others.

1. You get defensive. Your partner brings up an issue and you feel misunderstood and accused. Because it seems unfair, rather than trying to deeply understand what your partner is saying, you immediately reject their point and refuse to admit any shortcomings. The mission becomes to prove your innocence. It is human nature to want to protect yourself from attacks but while we are in that "mode," emotional survival temporarily becomes much more important to us than connection with others. Therapists call this a "triggered state" — and while it is a common reaction to being criticized, the manner in which you respond to your partner during that state is likely to hurt and trigger them and the vicious cycle continues.

2. You change the subject. Changing the subject is a popular way to divert from the fact that someone is frustrated with you, or just from the emotional discomfort of having to discuss something difficult. If changing the subject doesn’t work, listing your own grievances is another common way to distract from the thing you were told. Whatever your "signature reaction" to conflict is, it likely stems from a pattern you learned in childhood and while it may have developed for a self-protective reason, it may be time to exercise some new "emotional muscles."

More from YourTango: Getting Your Money's Worth in Couples Therapy

3. You offer a solution without really hearing the problem. It's hard to listen when you feel like you already know the answer to your partner's dilemma. If he/she just followed your advice, this whole thing could go away, right? But jumping to proposing a solution to your partner's problem is rarely why he/she wanted to talk with you. Apart from the fact that the first thing that pops into your mind has probably already occurred to your partner, what your partner is really looking for is empathy  your understanding of the burden and your willingness to carry it with him/her. Keep reading ...

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Article contributed by
Advanced Member

Julia Flood


In my San Francisco practice I help couples in crisis break out of the vicious cycle of hurting and getting hurt. Call me at (415) 820-3210 or email me at

Location: San Francisco, CA
Credentials: LCSW
Specialties: Couples/Marital Issues
Other Articles/News by Julia Flood:

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