A fight can trigger partners to do and say things they’ll regret later. It’s easy to see from the outside of a conflict that hurting each other through words and action won’t help fix the problem. In fact, it only puts more strain on the relationship. Conflict is so much a natural part of any relationship that battles over the thermostat settings and a number of blankets on the bed have become cliché and stereotyped.  Most couples disagree in these areas and so much more, simply because they are not identical people.  Obvious, right?  But regardless of the number of differences, or whether they will ever change, it’s what you and your partner do with conflicts as a couple that will determine your satisfaction as a couple.

Most of us manage conflict with ease until our buttons get hit and our anger starts to boil.  Then, the trifecta of relational destruction emerges: Disengage, point fingers, and comply with resentment.  Any one of these are toxic to a relationship and is often the reason my help is sought for couples counseling.  Orange County couples have a lot of resources available to them to learn how to fight fair and productively, but first it’s important to understand these three enemies of relational communication.


You may think that keeping your mouth shut or retreating will make the conflict go away. The truth is that it creates a hostile environment for your partner. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but the silence from disengaging creates 2000 words in your partner’s head as they “fill in the blank” with what they think is going on with you, real or imagined.  Usually, they aren’t positive assumptions which only causes more resentment and anger, especially if you’re not doing anything to dispel those thoughts.  Take a deep breath and respectfully speak up for yourself.  When you refuse to speak up, the relationship takes one more step toward break up.

Pointing Fingers

Blaming or making your partner feel guilty won’t solve anything either. It might be tempting to overpower him or her by pointing your finger or shaming him or her to get relief, but it will only lead to an antagonistic downward spiral in the relationship. Instead, express your feelings and tell your side in a way that doesn’t sound like you’re blaming your partner for a fault he or she may or may not have committed.  Remember, there are three sides to every story: yours, mine and the truth.  So keep in mind that you each have a part to be responsible for when there is a conflict.

Comply with Resentment

This is probably the most destructive of all patterns because on the surface it looks like there are a partnership and some sort of compromise being reached. It’s confusing to your partner. You said, “Yes,” but really wanted to say, “No.” That’s the perfect environment for resentment to take hold and grow quickly. The fights may stop, but only because one or both is in the process of giving up on themselves and the relationship. As these resentments keep partners from knowing each other’s needs, desires, and identities, hope for happiness fades. If your tendency is to comply when in conflict, soon you will have nothing left to lose because you will have vacated the relationship piece by piece until there is nothing left to fight for. Start by speaking up for yourself while there is still a relationship you value and want to keep.

These three patterns of conflict are often deeply ingrained and difficult to change.  For some help making these changes, I’ve written a guide of tools for communication that will give you a start in changing your conflict patterns. If you need some extra support shifting the patterns, a psychologist can be very helpful. In couples counseling, Orange County couples can get real-time feedback and direction that will help eliminate this trifecta of destructive relational communication patterns. Before you discard the relationship you already have, why not see if it can be rebuilt into something better that it ever was.

Unexpected Ways That Only You Can Save Your Marriage, Oprah.com
How To Save Marriage: 6 Unconventional Tips, HuffingtonPost.com