Tired of Having the Same Old Fights? This Exercise Can Help

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Tired of Having the Same Old Fights? This Exercise Can Help

By Leslie Becker-Phelps, PhD


Even in good relationships, there may be some problems that seem to just keep repeating. Feeling taken for granted or being smothered. Explosive jealousy. Or, maybe it’s recurring misunderstandings. If you want to finally leave these problems behind, try seeing your communication patterns from the outside.

Imagine you are watching your relationship, as you would watch a movie. Observe what you and your partner say and do. Notice particular recurring themes of conflict. As movies sometimes do, see your “story” from different perspectives: through your eyes, your partner’s eyes, and maybe even the eyes of an outsider.

In my book Insecure in Love, I recommend an exercise I call “What Would a Fly on a Wall in Your Home See?” It suggests some specific questions you might find helpful to consider:

  • How do you and your partner affect each other’s feelings and actions?
  • What patterns do you notice?
  • How does this interaction reinforce your beliefs about how worthy of love you are?
  • How does this interaction reinforce your beliefs about how emotionally available your partner is?

After reflecting on this for a bit, you might expand your insights by focusing on one example of your typical conflicts. Rewind the scene back to when you were getting along, and then watch it play out again. Can you see where things began to go wrong? Can you identify what seemed to be causing the escalation? For instance, you might notice that you perceived your partner being condescending, which triggered a hostile response in you that then caused your partner to explode. With this kind of clarity, you can consider alternative perspectives for understanding the situation and more constructive ways of communicating and responding.

Of course, there are two of you in your relationship. So, if your partner is willing, work together on trying to make a change. Choose a calm time to talk about improving your relationship. You might also find it helpful to reflect separately on the questions above and then share your insights with each other. With time, an ongoing conversation, and sincere efforts, you will hopefully co-create a healthier, happier relationship.


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