Why Do We Keep Having The Same Arguments?

You want to have a conversation with your partner and feel heard and listened, but it always degenerates into the same arguments. You may have tried talking calmly, you’ve tried yelling, and you even may have tried the silent treatment. You feel stuck. You are tired of asking yourself, “Why do we keep having the same arguments?”

The result of arguing about the same topics over and over is that your frustration level increases and you may feel drained. Usually couples become concerned and worried when they are stuck in circular conversations that lead nowhere and appear to provide no resolutions to their issues.

What Are The Causes Of Arguments

Your argument might be about anything, such as feeling that it is the 100th time you told your partner to pick up their dirty clothes from the floor, being kept in the dark about the flood of Amazon packages arriving all week, inappropriate texting on social media, or not listening to you.

No matter what the topic of the argument is this time, Dr. Stan Tatkin, founder of PACT and author of We Do, indicated that memory, perception and communication are the cause for arguments.

We rely on our memory yet it changes according to our current state of mind and therefore is unreliable. For example, if you are feeling negatively about yourself, you might interpret your partner as being reluctant to spend time with you. But that might not be the case at all. Due to your emotional state, you may perceive your partner’s actions negatively.

Perception is impacted by our state of mind and our memory. For example, you had a long drive home and there was an accident on the road, so you arrived home 45 minutes late. When your partner asks you, “What happened?” you could either interpret this question as an attack,  or  that he cares about you and is truly interested in why you arrived home late. It depends on your feelings before you enter your home.

Communication is a series of signal-response cues given and received by your partner and you. We all make many errors sending and receiving verbal and nonverbal communication. How you interpret a word, facial expressions, tone of voice and many other cues, can cause miscommunication.  For example, the word “fat” (usually referring to someone who has needs to lose weight) and “phat” (which usually means an attractive person) sounds the same when said, but has 2 different meanings. Unless you know the context of how it is being used, you could be offended if someone told you, “You’re phat!” (and you thought they meant fat).

Why Couples Have The Same Arguments Over And Over Again

Dr John Gottman stated, “Acknowledging and respecting each other’s deepest, most personal hopes and dreams is the key to saving and enriching your marriage.” You probably want your partner to support and encourage your hopes and dreams just like your partner wants you to support his hopes and dreams.” Couples have the same arguments over and over again when their dreams are not validated and respected.

Arguments and conflict occur when couples ignore or dismiss their partners dreams and hopes.

Dr. John Gottman, explains that there are 3 types of problems: solvable, unsolvable and gridlocked perpetual.

Solvable problems vary from couple to couple, but they can find a solution to their issue. Housekeeping, intimacy and money can be a solvable or perpetual problem. It depends on whether or not there are deeper meanings for each partner around the topic.

Perpetual problems are “problems that center on either fundamental differences in your personalities, or fundamental differences in your lifestyle needs.” Perpetual problems will cause repeated arguments.

Gridlocked perpetual problems differ from perpetual problems because the issues have been poorly addressed  or one or both of the partners have a hidden agenda or agendas.  Dr. Gottman connected repetitive arguments with unfulfilled dreams.

How Do I Stop Having The Same Arguments

Five steps to decrease the incidents of having the same arguments.

  1. Listening to your partner. When your partner starts talking, even if you disagree strongly, listen rather than talking over him. The same arguments might sound different if you just listened. Of course, you need to be heard too. Take turns sharing your thoughts and feelings on the matter.
  2. Become a Dream CatcherYou can begin by discussing dreams and hopes that you may have avoided or ignored in the past.
  3. Discuss your views without criticism or blame. Your goal is to try to understand each other’s ideas without judgment. Find one part of the dream or hope that you can agree on or resolve.
  4. Soothe each other. When you have the same arguments over and over again this type of communication (or lack of communication) is usually very stressful for a couple. It is likely that one or both of you may get angry or not be able to continue the conversation and shut down.

According to Dr. Gottman’s research, “if your heart rate exceeds 100 beats per minute, you won’t be able to hear what your spouse is trying to tell you no matter how hard you try.”

Before you start talking about the unresolved topic, you should decide how you will soothe or deescalate yourself. You could ask your partner how you can soothe him/her too.

  1. Gridlock issues may be unsolvable-Your goal is to try to stop hurting each other by not having the same arguments without resolution. You can ask yourself, “Is there any way to create a win-win solution around this issue or any small part of this issue?’ You will want to be as flexible as possible.

Arguments and disagreements are inevitable in any relationship. When you have the same arguments over and over again with no resolution,  you will inevitably feel drained. You can learn the steps to stop or diminish having the same arguments as soon as you’re ready.

Additional reading to support your relationship as you explore options for couples therapy and healing:

What Causes Resentment In A Marriage (Plus How You Can Heal Resentment In Yours)

How Often Do Couples Fight And Should You Be Concerned?

How To Discuss Relationship Problems Without Fighting

How To Communicate With A Man That Won’t Communicate

ADHD & Relationships


Lisa Rabinowitz

Lisa Rabinowitz, LCPC is a certified Gottman therapist working with couples in the US and internationally. Lisa has worked for many years with couples who have both diagnosed and undiagnosed ADHD. Her certifications and experience uniquely qualify her to support couples with relationship challenges that often feel insurmountable. Please reach out for a free 20-minute consultation with Lisa today.

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