If my time as the Houston relationship counselor has taught me anything, it’s that couples argue. And most of the time this is just part of a normal, healthy relationship. Disagreements are a necessary part of open and honest communication. However, when those disagreements start to turn into perpetual fights, it can lead to real marriage problems.

The interesting thing about most ongoing fights between couples is that they follow the same pattern. The instigator makes a critical statement and the other partner responds in either a resentful or contemptuous manner, making the instigator defensive. To combat this, they continue attacking, which causes their partner to ignore them – essentially “checking out” of the conversation – and of course this makes the instigator even more frustrated. Why aren’t they even listening to me?

You probably recognize the above pattern, and you can see how repeating it constantly would damage a relationship and create marriage problems. Thankfully, the Houston relationship counselor can help.

Recognize the Cycle and Break It, Says the Houston Relationship Counselor

Even the best of us will find ourselves going down this path from time to time, but there are ways to avoid it, and by recognizing what we’re doing, we even have the power to stop it in the middle of a fight.

Timing is everything. If your partner has hurt you in some way or done something you don’t like, the Houston relationship counselor will tell you that it’s important that you talk about it. However, that doesn’t mean you need to do it while you’re still hurting or angry, or when your partner is stressed or tired. Take the time to let both of you calm down and try to enter into the discussion without criticism.

It’s about you. This may seem like odd advice when you’re trying to take each other’s feelings into account, but go into the conversation from the perspective of how things make you feel. Instead of yelling about them always going out with their friends, for instance, say that you miss them and wish they were around more for you to spend time together.

“Winning” the argument may be losing the war. Remember that this is about your relationship, not whatever individual issue you’re dealing with right now that’s causing the marriage problems. If your partner says something unintentionally mean, don’t take that as an opportunity to fight fire with fire. Arguments are emotional, and mistakes happen. Instead, stop for a second and then let them rephrase. You both want the same thing – to improve your relationship.

Walk away… but come back. If things get too tense, sometimes taking a breather is the best course of action. This will help keep the argument from escalating further and give your spouse the opportunity to apologize if they feel they’ve said something they didn’t mean. But if you do put the conversation on pause, make sure you come back to it or you’ll only make things worse.

Breaking the cycle requires that both of you be committed to the cause of altering the way that you communicate with each other and dealing with your disagreements in a healthier way. If you feel that you and your partner just can’t accomplish this on your own, don’t be afraid to seek out the Houston relationship counselor.