Esther Perel's Real-Life Fight With Her Husband — And What We Can Learn From How She Made Peace

Your marriage depends on both partners being able to fight fairly.

Esther Perel, fighting couple @EstherPerel_official - TikTok/Vladeep - Shutterstock 

Marriage is not for the faint of heart. It takes compromise and empathy to make a relationship work in the long term and small disagreements can easily morph into big power struggles over who’s right and who is wrong.

When you're in it, you wonder if anyone else argues like you do, assuming that "happy" couples and relationship experts never have those sorts of problems. But Esther Perel, a world-famous psychologist and leading relationship expert, has taken to TikTok to prove us wrong. 


Those little battles for leverage are a big cause of marital strife and, according to Perel, and can cause big problems down the line. 

Yes, all couples engage in these back-and-forth arguments, but Perel says that's why every couple should develop a strategy for recognizing the pattern and stopping it in its tracks.



Would you rather be right, or would you rather be married?

The question might seem a bit cliché’ or even dismissive of a person’s point of view but it’s definitely valid. According to statistics shared by Forbes contributor, Christy Bieber, JD, 58% of couples reported arguing and excessive conflict as one of the top reasons they divorced their spouse.  


In a TikTok video she uploaded captioned “Let me tell you what happened to me this morning”, Perel tells the story of an interaction she’d had with her husband earlier in the day. She explained that she was in the kitchen making coffee when she asked her husband, “Why are you being so rough? You’re not being very nice.”

He shot back with, “Well, you’re not nice to me either.” The conversation is what Perel refers to as the old ‘tit-for-tat’, a situation where instead of really hearing your spouse, acknowledging, and empathizing with them, you try to ‘one up’ them with a problem or statement of your own. She, like most of us, “despises” that style of conversation.

After Perel’s husband responded so abrasively, she tried another approach, saying, “You know, I’m having quite a rough time at [the] moment.” In similar fashion, he responded, “I’m having quite a challenging time myself.” That, of course, annoyed her because she simply wanted him to validate her feelings.

RELATED: Esther Perel Explains 5 Things People Get Wrong About Marriage


Sensing dissatisfaction with his response, her husband said, “I know you’re having a rough time right now and you’re handling a lot. Is that better?”

He may have thought he was giving better feedback on his wife’s emotions but had gone from having a verbal ‘tug of war’ with his wife to engaging in what Perel calls ‘auto-correct mode’, where one person notices they have addressed another in an unwelcoming way and switches to a different, but just as dysfunctional, mode of communication, expecting the other person to be satisfied.  

When this happens, it’s easy for one partner to get upset to the point where their blood is boiling, as Perel says she did, and fall into old patterns of a never-ending argument where no one will come out victorious and, in the end, everyone loses. But the renowned psychologist did something different and wanted to share her very effective way of ending these damaging disagreements.

Photo: Fizkes/Shutterstock


RELATED: The #1 Solution If Your Marriage Is Stuck In A Rut

Three steps to stop a destructive argument and save your marriage:

1. Stop.

The first step to ending the turmoil and chaos is to recognize that you are engaging in an unwinnable debate, likely over something that’s not worth ruining yours or your spouse’s mood. Once you see the argument for exactly what it is, you can simply refuse to interact with the person you love in that manner.

2. Choice.

Now that you’ve put an end to the senseless banter between you and your mate, it’s time to decide how you want to change the energy between the two of you. At this point, you must decide what you can do to take the situation from tense and uptight, to relaxed and comfortable.

3. Change.

Finally, it’s time to change the atmosphere in the environment by lightening the mood. In Perel’s case, she “burst out laughing” and that prompted an immediate change in her state of mind. Her husband responded to her jovial approach kindly, laughing along with her, and just like that, the vibration in the room had shifted.


RELATED: 7 Reasons Women Start To Hate Their Husbands

When married couples argue, it impacts their physical, mental, and emotional health.

A 2018 study from Ohio State University found that animosity between couples can literally kill you. Not only is that ongoing conflict linked to higher levels of stress and anxiety, but it can also be a contributing factor to inflammation in the body, bacteria in the bloodstream, and an increased risk of depression.

Marital discourse and negativity can also take a huge emotional toll, making couples less and less likely to develop positive communication patterns. A Science Direct study showed that couples who exhibited communication patterns of demand and withdraw, or mutual avoidance had wounds that were slower to heal, greater negative emotions overall, and were less likely to properly evaluate discussions.


So, Esther Perel’s words are more than just a mere suggestion. The survival of both you and your marriage depend on the ability of two people who love each other to fight fairly.

Let the little things go and pick your battles. Even when you choose to fight for something you believe in, lead with love, understanding, and compassion.

RELATED: 30 Unsexy Communication Habits That Make A Relationship Work​

NyRee Ausler is a writer from Seattle, Washington. She covers lifestyle, relationship, and human-interest stories that readers can relate to and that bring social issues to the forefront for discussion.