I figured out why my girlfriend and I get into fights…
Before I get into this, I should note that I am not a psychologist or relationship therapist. I am just a guy who has been in a happy, challenging and ever-evolving relationship for the past four years and recently uncovered a similar construct that seems to exist when me and my good friends get into fights with our significant others.
Further articulating this construct has helped me and my gf Miki deal with the arguments/fights that pop up from time to time and most importantly, it has enabled me to respond to emotional events, rather than react.
I hope that sharing our own struggles can provide some insight that might help other couples on their own journey.
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It all started two weeks ago on a Tuesday night in DUMBO, Brooklyn.
I arrived early for the dinner party and was greeted warmly by the hosts, two of my closest friends and one of my favorite couples.
As I sat in the kitchen, I noticed that there was an unusual distance and cold energy in their actions towards one another.
I asked them if everything was alright. They mustered up the strength to tell me “life is great!” even though their body language told a different story…one of subtle unpleasantness.
If you’ve been in a serious relationship, you probably know that feeling of being mid-fight with your partner right as you are about to meet with friends. Communicating with haste, desperately trying (and failing) to clear the energy before everyone arrives.
That is exactly what I walked into…
Rather than avoid it, I asked them if they wanted to talk about it with me there and assured them that I would be happy to listen (this is what they were really thinking about anyways). I was genuinely intrigued and it’s rare to have an opportunity to take part in these types of vulnerable conversations between couples.
I believe that the easiest way to add depth to our relationships is through supporting and being supported. When you have an opportunity to hold space for honest, open conversations about your friends’ struggles, your relationship will grow and you should always try to do it.
So they dove in…
She felt disconnected from him since she returned from her trip, he had not been making quality time for her, or helping her integrate back into city life.
He feels like she is being ungrateful and that he did make an effort and that she is not acknowledging how good everything is. He tries to remind her of the flowers that were waiting on the kitchen table when she got home.
And around they went, desperately wanting to return to their calm, loving relationship, but being trapped in this cycle that kept them from connecting.
There was also another couple I knew that was going through a similar scuffle about spending time together vs. with friends. As I listened to him vent, I thought more about these conversations and my own relationship, I started to recognize a pattern and simple framework that these energy consuming arguments take. I call it the “Doom Spiral.”
Polarity — Masculine & Feminine energy
Pulling from David Deidas’ work; If you want to sustain desire in any romantic relationship, a polarity between the masculine and feminine energy need to be present between partners. (Masculine and feminine energy do not have to be gender specific, but for the sake of clarity, I will associate the masculine with the man and feminine with the female in my examples below.)
The masculine energy will tend to be more rational and logical.
The feminine energy will tend to be more impulsive and emotional.
Often times arguments are sparked because of a deficiency of some kind. Someone feels like there is:
- Not enough quality time. “How come we NEVER do anything fun with just the two of us?”
- Not having good sex. “ Are you into this? Maybe you could try saying something during sex so I know you’re not asleep.”
- Not going on enough dates. “Watching Netflix and ordering in does NOT count as a date.”
The Doom Spiral takes shape in 3 steps:
1. Feminine energy defines a problem/deficiency.
When the feminine energy feels like there is something wrong, they will articulate the problem explicitly and immediately. The feminine side is so in touch with their emotions, that this momentary feeling of something lacking suddenly dictates their thoughts and actions.
This momentary feeling now defines the entire relationship…
“We never have sex anymore.”
“We never go on dates anymore.”
“You are always working.”
2. The Masculine energy feels a lack of appreciation.
In these moments the masculine tries to evaluate these comments and provide rational responses that counter the claims:
“But we did this last week!”
“But there was so much work and that’s why _____.”
“But YOU were traveling all month.”
The masculine side is not as taken by his emotions and is capable of rationally evaluating the entirety of his efforts in the relationship. He is confused by this lack of recognition from the woman and the woman articulating her overwhelming feelings of mistreatment make him feel like he is under-appreciated and disrespected.
This leaves the masculine side feeling disconnected from their partner.
“Why try if they don’t recognize the effort?”
3. The feminine call for presence.
In these moments of disconnection and disagreement, the feminine energy wants to feel her man being present more than anything else.
She wants physical touch and support. The feminine seeks out true acknowledgment of her feelings.
Because the masculine feels disrespected or under-appreciated, this is one of the most difficult things for them to give. They do not want to “support this kind of behavior.”
And around they go…
How we get out of the argument
Once someone in the relationship can identify that they are in the Doom Spiral, both parties are more capable of recognizing these triggers and responding with integrity instead of anger/pain.
There is no silver bullet to getting out of an argument like this, but here are the things that have worked for Miki and I recently. When emotions are high it always helps to have an idea of how you want to respond to certain triggers and these are a few of ours that we have talked about…
For the masculine:
- Take time to acknowledge your partner’s feelings. Literally say “it sounds like you are saying xxx, is that right?”
- Understand that she is articulating how she feels right now and it is not indicative of your efforts throughout the entire relationship, just this moment (even if she says otherwise).
- As hard as it may be, try to facilitate an embrace or hug. Show your woman that you are there with her. Presence is essential to progress.
- In these heated moments, it is not the best time to try and rebut the feminine. Instead, focus on acknowledging her truth and seeking to formulate a response and bring it up (potentially in writing) after things have calmed down. It is very difficult to be truly heard when someone is angry.
For the feminine:
- When articulating the lack or deficiency — take the time to also offer recognition for something good your partner has done in this department. “ I know you did xxx for me recently and I appreciate it, I also need to let you know how I feel because this is important to me.”
Offer recognition of your relationship, find perspective and articulate that even though things are awesome, there is always room to improve.
Excited to hear if this resonates with any other couples? Have you experienced the Doom Spiral? How did you get out of it?