If you've ever been in a relationship, then you've probably had at least few disagreements with a partner. Even though it's never fun, getting into fights is a normal part of navigating relationships. But if you feel like your partner is always actively on the hunt for opportunities to start a fight, then their penchant for bickering could quickly turn into a bigger issue. Why do people pick fights in relationships? Well, while every situation is different, constant conflict could mean that you and your partner are dealing with deeper issues that aren't being addressed.
"'Picking a fight' typically starts with finding fault with and going after something a person did or said and escalating it into a fight," intimacy coach Irene Fehr tells Elite Daily. "It's a learned behavior used as a gateway to address a past hurt or resentment, without coming out vulnerably to talk about the thing that really bothers you." Can you think back on a situation where a partner did something that upset you, and neither of you spoke up about it directly? According to Fehr, when this happens, the residual emotions you've kept inside find other ways to come out.
"Most picked fights are not about the actual subject of the fight; the subject is merely a facade that allows you to act out on the deeper 'meta' message that you feel frustrated, unappreciated, not important, slighted, or ignored without having to admit to feeling this way," explains Fehr. Although this might not seem like a huge problem, relying on this method of communication can become a habit. "It’s a passive-aggressive way to express how you feel, and it’s highly ineffective because the fight is never about the issue at hand, so the true source of discontent is never resolved, creating cycles of prolonged frustration and resentment," says Fehr.
Fighting all the time can be really draining, and can lead to a bunch of emotional baggage between you and bae. Even if the disagreements aren't huge, if they're escalating into fights, then it may be time to address the heart of the issue(s). If the true source of you or your partner's discontent isn't dealt with, then it could eventually lead to irreparable damage. "In picked fights, much of our anger comes from the things that have been left unsaid, that anger unabated will hurt your relationship by gradually reducing trust and openness between partners," says Fehr.
No relationship is immune to partners picking fights. "[This] happens in every relationship, and you can learn to minimize your tendency to do it and learn how to repair the damage from it through vulnerable and open conversations about what’s truly bothering you and making an apology," says Fehr. Even though being honest and direct about the things that upset us isn't always easy, you owe it to yourself and your partner to be transparent. This way, you can fully move past conflict instead of reliving the same frustrations over and over again.
If you or your partner are repeatedly picking fights, the best thing to do is start a casual conversation about it when you're both relaxed, says Fehr. "Name that you see a pattern in your relationship around picking fights, name the impact on you: 'When we fight this way, I feel less connected with you and less trusting. And it hurts.' Express to your partner that you want to break through this pattern and understand what’s really bothering them. Ask if they’d be willing to have a more vulnerable conversation about what’s going on."
In the end, having a healthy relationship with effective communication means that both partners need to be able to fully express themselves. So, the next time you feel like unleashing your wrath on bae over the dirty dishes, it might be a good idea to analyze whether that's the true source of your anger. And if your partner is the one picking fights, starting a dialogue with them about their behavior is the best way to find out what's going on, because you both deserve to move forward.