‘Not Again!’… Why do arguments spiral out of control so quickly?


Arguing, rowing, disagreements…call them what you like, but all create fracture, rupture and sheer exhaustion for many couples who come to see me. Why is it so hard to slow down and change the inevitable outcome of ‘yet another row’? Knowing what lies ahead, how come it seems so challenging to try and approach difficulties differently? The essential truth is that, if nothing different happens in the way you think and talk, the same inevitable outcome will reliably be there.


After the meltdown the night before, we resolve the next day to handle this better, try and be kinder, make some progress somehow. But sadly, the next argument usually and dependably seems to repeat the whole traumatizing event again. Things just seems to roll out of our control ending up in a familiar state of impasse, disconnection and upset.


Why does this happen and what can be done?


Usually the initial impetus to argue about anything starts from a place of feeling misunderstood and/or misheard. Even from a young age, experiencing not being fully understood creates huge disturbance in us. This can quickly lead to frustration. Once we feel fearful, distant and anxious we have already entered a part of our brains concerned with safety and reactivity. The journey into this tense and reactive state instantly tunes down the thinking rational cognitive side of our brains…our brain doesn’t want us to ‘think about to much’ if we might be in danger. So what’s this got to do with arguing? What does this mean? Basically when we argue our ‘old brains’, our ‘fight or flight’ areas are being over stimulated allowing adrenalin and cortisol to be released and rush round our bodies. We then find ourselves even more tense and edgy, just where we don’t want to be when approaching the next tricky conversation with our partners. What I’m saying is that diffusing fighting needs different strategies rather then simply hoping it will get better and resolving to be nicer.


Identifying that it’s usually the same fight or argument is common; either the subject is cyclical or the actual way discussions move is repetitive in nature. The constancy of this erodes and shakes the very foundations of relationships, leaving partners fearful, preoccupied and at work and constantly turning over events and conversation in their heads.


So how might counselling work to resolve this?


Firstly we will make the situation safe for both partners. We may need a set structure of agreements to get this started, but both partners will construct a way forward which both are happy with. This can then be implemented as needed. It’s like constructing a joint path away from conflict towards a more mediated conversation.

Secondly we will tackle our personal responsibilities here. As mentioned before, we need to learn how to understand what is happening in our minds and bodies, calm our systems and self-regulate ourselves. We can learn how to do this by some mindful inquiry, awareness of breath and moving from a place of ‘fight/flight’, back into a rational and calm mind. There are always two players in any one argument. Understanding how and why arguments started and escalated, while using the skills you’ll learn will also help you remain in your calm brain. Naming the goals you have together will also help you keep the future in mind. This is your relationship, life and future. What is it you most want? Keeping this in mind can also help diffuse rising tensions


Our third approach is to start acquiring the skills we need to mediate and manage discussion more thoughtfully and productively. I use certain structures that enable a slower, warmer and more connected way of communicating to be learned and practiced. These skills increase trust and openness while lessening defensiveness and disengagement.


This really can be done and so many couples I’ve worked with over the years have changed their whole relationships by evolving new and positive ways to communicate. This can happen in a matter of just a few sessions. If you have a positive desire to see change and move in to a better relationship and quality of life, do get in touch.


I look forward to hearing from you soon.






North London

T: 07909 910 624

E: karen@karenaramtherapy.co.uk