How to Get Past Emotional Distance & End the Perpetual Arguments

How do couples get to this place?

You can get into this kind of predicament in a variety of ways. It might not be as dramatic or feel insurmountable, but you might be in a relationship where there is too much criticism, not enough intimacy, insufficient sex, and too much emotional distance.

I want to provide a concise response to the query and lay the groundwork for making the necessary changes to have a fulfilling relationship because the article’s main focus is on where to go from here. Not one single individual ever enters a relationship with the intention of staying there. Most relationships are filled with optimism and anticipation throughout the initial few weeks and months. There may be a lot of talking or texting, lots of praises, and frequent, satisfying sex.

I’m just as certain that no one thinks, “I’m going to live unhappily ever after,” as I am that you and your partner will argue. Even couples who claim to “never fight” have disagreements, and here’s why:

Even before a topic is discussed, there is conflict. You have a disagreement if you want to spend the holidays with your family but your companion wants to visit the beach.

The way that couples attempt to address the disagreement is where they frequently run into problems.Couples frequently engage in “power struggles,” which I characterize as disagreements over “Whose way are we going to do this: My way or yours?” When taken to the extreme, name-calling, yelling, the Silent Treatment, and even physical violence are strategies to make your partner embrace your beliefs and methods.

There is a recurring motif that I refer to as “Who’s the crazy one here? And it’s not me!” in which one partner in the relationship rejects the other’s viewpoint as reasonable or even conceivable.

The significance of emotional regulation

Squirming, head nodding, rolling of the eyes, and frequent interruptions were signs that Brian and Maggie were objecting to what the other was saying so strongly that their feelings of rage, self-righteousness, and hurt were becoming overwhelming. This was evident even in the first few minutes of the session. To escape the death grip of these debilitating, nervous feelings, each of them NEEDED to oppose the other.

After delivering therapy for almost 25 years, I have come to feel (stronger and stronger) that we humans constantly control our emotions. We manage our emotional state constantly in order to get through each day successfully, perform well at work, and maintain a semblance of happiness and fulfillment in our interpersonal interactions.

To get off topic for a while, emotional regulation, or the capacity to maintain some level of composure in the face of conflict or other stressful situations, starts in early childhood. The idea that a baby can and should control their emotions has been supplanted with the idea of mutual regulation, which states that if Mommy or Daddy can maintain their composure during a baby meltdown, the baby will self-regulate. Even if a fussy, furious, or screaming infant makes Mommy or Daddy concerned, as the baby learns to regulate, the parent can learn to regulate once again to the point where the baby can learn to regulate.

Unfortunately, most of our parents weren’t great at managing their emotions, so they couldn’t pass that knowledge on to us. The parenting styles of many of us included dismissive (“It’s only a shot – stop crying!”), helicoptering/intrusive/domineering (“It’s 8pm, where’s my 23-year-old son?”), spoiling (“I don’t want my kids to hate me so I give them everything”), and even abusive (“I’ll give you something to cry about,” “you’ll never amount to anything,” along with physical violence, screaming, and neglect). All of these parenting philosophies share the commonality that our parents are attempting to control their own feelings of helplessness, inadequacy, wrath, etc. Additionally regrettably, despite our ability to respond quickly to threats, we have difficulty self-regulating (soothing).

Similar to this, Brian and Maggie were attempting to self-regulate. All of the communication, both verbal and nonverbal, to each other and to me was aimed at regaining control in the face of helplessness, sanity in a world that at the time made no sense (“s/he’s crazy!”), and letting go of the pain and suffering that was happening not just in the relationship at the time but throughout.

As a side note, this last point may help to clarify why what could seem like a “small thing” to one partner may seem like a major deal to another. Every interaction has a history of previous discussions and conflicts. As Brian had said, Maggie wasn’t making a mountain out of a molehill. The last shovel of soil was actually just the last insult; the mountain had already been built.

I also want to point out that any interaction between two consenting individuals is an Agreement. In other words, we helped to create this predicament. No one is at fault, there is no right or wrong, and there is no one way to achieve romantic harmony (although, boy, do couples blame one another!).

Where do we go from here?

What are your options moving forward, you and your partner? It is occasionally necessary to involve a third party (a therapist) since the circumstances are so explosive and out of control. However, if you and your partner are not yet hypersensitive to one another but you could very much script out your disputes due to how predictable they are, here are 7 techniques to restore intimacy and find more contentment:

Let each other finish their sentences.

This tip is the top choice since it cannot be underlined enough.

A reaction to what your spouse is saying is what you are preparing when you interrupt. In other words, you stopped paying attention. By presenting a defense or winning the advantage, you’re attempting to control your emotions. Take a lip bite. On your hands and knees. However, remember to breathe. Listen to your partner no matter what it takes.

Ask your partner to take a brief pause if your rage is so intense that you aren’t paying attention. Recognize that your anger is keeping you from hearing. Inform him or her that you would like to listen but are unable to do so at this time. Ask your spouse to continue until you feel your rage has subsided (from an 8 or 9 on a scale of 1 to 10 to a 2 or 3).

Avoid defending yourself.

Although I am aware that this goes against reflex (when we feel attacked, we desire to defend ourselves), perhaps the following will persuade you: Keep in mind that your spouse will frequently use your defense as more justification. Therefore, defending oneself is useless. The heat will just be increased.

Recognize your partner’s perspective as the truth.

Accepting that your partner’s point of view is just as valid as your own is crucial, regardless of how weird, unbelievable, or ludicrous you believe it is. We all embellish the truth and remember things incorrectly, especially when there is an emotional connection to the event.

View “conflict” in a different way

To say that you fear disagreement is to truly misunderstand the point. Conflict already exists before the first word is said, as I have stated. Actually, what you’re terrified of are intensely unpleasant emotions, such as being hurt, rejected, humiliated, or belittled, among others.

Instead, acknowledge that there is conflict and that your inability to address it may be the cause of your issues. In connection with that, constantly make an effort to stay on topic. Try to bring the discussion back to the original topic if you notice it straying from it. You can say something like, “We can talk about that later,” even if it becomes personal. We are now discussing ______.”

Recognize that compatibility is underrated and love is overrated.

This concept is explained by the title of Dr. Aaron Beck’s famous book, Love Is Never Enough: How Couples Can Overcome Misunderstandings, Resolve Conflicts, and Solve Relationship Problems Through Cognitive Therapy.

You should naturally aim for a loving relationship as a pair. But I’ve come to realize that compatibility and love are two entirely different things. Cooperation is the foundation of compatibility. Are you willing to respond “Yes dear” to your partner’s requests for things you don’t particularly want to do—but nonetheless do—about 50% of the time?

If you and your partner are compatible, you should generally agree on 80% of the time. If you divide the difference equally, your spouse gets 10% and you get the other 10%. You each get your way 90% of the time, which is a respectable number in my book. It’s time to consider how compatible you are in terms of values, lifestyle, and outlook if you can only agree on things two thirds of the time or less.

Understand that your partner is not here to fulfill your needs

Recognize that your partner is not there to fulfill your needs, even while some need fulfillment is absolutely natural—for companionship, having a family, and so on. Additionally, you must to be able to meet your requirements through your job, your relationships, a rewarding activity, volunteering, etc.

Consider what you’re actually saying to your partner if you remark, “You’re not meeting my needs,” to them. Look inward to determine whether you might be being too demanding or unreasonable.

Treat your lover (yes, your partner) like a dog.

Numerous couples have objected when I have brought up this idea during therapy. It’s “like a dog?” Here is the justification, though. In other words, many people treat their dogs better than their significant others!

This is the extended version. How does every reputable dog trainer instruct you on dog training? via means of encouragement.

Only the punishee avoids the punisher as a result of punishment. Have you used the silent treatment on your partner? Have you omitted anything from a text to sex on purpose? These are various forms of discipline. Likewise, criticism is. Many people consider criticism to be punishing and emotionally sterile.

Do you recall the proverb, “A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down?” My general rule of thumb for a healthy relationship in this area is to point out four or five positive things your partner does for you or with you for every negative thing they say or do. When someone does something you admire, don’t forget to say thank you.

If you encourage your partner in these ways, they will be more content and happier in the relationship.