Why Couples Keep Fighting

I’m starting to realize that we keep fighting over the same things again.
We both wanted love in the end.
— Tim Be Told, "Miscommunication", from the album "Humanity" (2011)

Ever since I began working with couples, one question kept ringing in my mind:

"Why is it so hard for these two people to GET that the partner really does CARE?"

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Beneath the fights, the icy silence, and the emotions of anger and numbness are the embers of the bond that once burned fiery hot with passion, now desperately trying to maintain whatever warmth remains. Songs like "Miscommunication" (video at the bottom) come alive in my office, with themes like loneliness, longing, and desperation echoing off the walls.

What happened to this couple who once was head-over-heels for the other, who laughed with such freedom, joy, and hope?

Is it impossible to restore the loving connection they once had?

Courage to Connect

Over the past two weekends, my colleague Melinda and I put together a two-part workshop called "Courage to Connect," inspired by the work of Dr. Sue Johnson, founder of Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT), one of the leading modalities for couples therapy.

We covered the following topics:

  • Why Relationships Matter
    • Our brains are wired for it!
    • Secure attachment cultivates resilience and growth
       
  • Why Relationships are So Difficult
    • Threatened safety/connection
    • Amygdala & primal panic: FEAR
      • Fight, flight, freeze
    • The "Dance" of Disconnection
      • Pursue/Withdraw
      • Attack-Attack
      • Withdraw-Withdraw
         
  • How to Break the "Dance"

Fear that So Separates and Destroys

The reason why I named this workshop "Courage to Connect" was precisely because FEAR was the driving force of the "Dance of Disconnection":

  • Fear of being alone, abandoned, unlovable
  • Fear of being unseen, invisible, insignificant
  • Fear of being vulnerable, rejected, hurt
  • Fear of the unknown
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These are very frightening VISCERAL experiences, deeply affecting the person at the core, bypassing logic, and triggering powerful survival instincts to fight, flee from, or freeze before the partner, whom the brain has coded as the enemy.

The deeper the bond to the significant other, the more powerful these defensive reflexes, since the partner has great access and influence to affect our well-being. Vulnerability, which is so key to building intimacy, is also so terrifying that couples avoid it at all cost.

Couples desperately desire to LOVE and to BE LOVED so deeply, but without a map to show them how to get there, they resort to what ever tools seem the most familiar.

Growing OUT of Fear INTO Love

Based on the overwhelming interest and response, it was clear that there was a DIRE NEED for couples to have more support and space to learn how to connect more deeply with their partners. Here's another entry about three quick ways to make love last.

If you would like to learn more about a specific topic, check the options below:

© Copyright 2017 Joanne B. Kim. All rights reserved.

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Joanne B. Kim, AMFT

Joanne is an Associate Marriage & Family Therapist in San Jose, CA, who loves empowering individuals and couples to create emotionally thriving relationships. She fully believes that emotional health and relationship health have everything to do with each other: when one part hurts or heals, so does the other.

She holds a special place in her heart for adult survivors of emotional abuse/neglect and for high-conflict couples - those who desire deep connection, but feel stuck, anxious, and frustrated in their significant relationships.

What began as her own mission towards wholeness became a passion and calling to accompany others on their own journey to love and be loved. She loves creating a safe space for others to cultivate their curiosity and courage to explore the deeper places that hold the secret to meaningful relationships.


Tim Be Told - Miscommunication (from the album "Humanity" (2011))

If you like the song, please consider supporting Tim Be Told by visiting www.timbetold.com or iTunes.

It can't be my fault
I did nothing wrong this time
You say I pushed you away
That you couldn't stay behind

This is not a game, see
If you want to blame me,
State your reasons

We can't seem to let go of our pride
Interpretation has caused this great divide
Communication was lost when I made you cry
I'm starting to realize that we
Keep fighting over the same things again
We both wanted love in the end

I won't say a word
Just to make it hurt inside
Go ahead and say what I lack
You can't take it back this time

Tell me, are we waiting
For something worth saving
I just wanted you to hear me

Are we really that different after all?

Tell me, are we waiting
For something worth saving
I just wanted you

We can't seem to let go of our pride
Interpretation has caused this great divide
Communication was lost when I made you cry
I'm starting to realize that
No one's really that different after all
We both wanted love in the end

Are we really that different after all?
(Just wanted love, just wanted love)

Love can save us
Don't leave, don't leave