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Cyclical Arguments

Most popularly, couples enter couples therapy for “communication issues.” They complain they can’t help but argue over stupid stuff. Sometimes it seems they just can’t see eye-to-eye on almost anything.

        “It seems like everything is an issue with her.”

        “We fight about the smallest things.”

Rarely, if ever, are these cyclical arguments about something important. Most likely, they are triggered by fairly innocuous stimuli, like groceries or who’s going to take the trash out. It’s one false move and there we go, back into our negative cycle.

Content vs. Process

Wondering how you argue over stupid stuff and suddenly end up contemplating divorce? It has a lot to do with the process of how you and your partner communicate, and very little to do with the content of what you are actually talking about.

As we can all agree, arguing over stupid stuff like dishes is little grounds for a break-up. However, depending on how this emotional distress gets shared, it may seem fitting.

Constantly feeling criticized, misunderstood, invalidated or even belittled are all toxic emotions that can erode at your security in your relationship.

Here’s a comical example of the content vs. process argument at play.


Focusing on the pattern can help you to stop arguing over stupid stuff.

When you notice you and your partner escalating in an argument over stupid stuff, it’s important to take a step back and see if you can recognize anything familiar about this scenario. Not the issue of the dishes themselves, but what is happening emotionally in your communication.     

        How is your partner feeling?

        What do you notice about you own inner experience?

        What story do you tell yourself?    

Usually, most couples are so caught up in the reactivity of the argument that they lack the awareness of the repetitive nature of their communication. It’s crucial to notice when you are back in your negative cycle.

Reacting vs. Responding

If you find you and your partner tend to argue over stupid stuff, you most likely are reacting instead of responding. Neither of you are communicating in a way that can help to de-escalate the situation and meet each other’s needs.

Reactive emotions or secondary emotions escalate arguments. These emotions are more about defending and protecting than they are about comforting and securing. Unfortunately, couples who argue over stupid stuff tend to be great at sharing these type of emotions, but very poor at sharing and responding to others. Think anger, defensiveness or blame.

Vulnerable emotions or primary emotions de-escalate arguments. These emotions tend to be about asking to get needs met or reaching for security. They are usually disarming and inviting. Think fear, sadness or shame.

Next time you find yourself about to argue over stupid stuff, it’s important to do a check in about what is and what is not being communicated in your conversation with your partner.

Arguing over stupid stuff? Dive deeper!

Arguing over stupid stuff is a sign of an unmet attachment need. Let’s take the example of the dishes. Sure, it could be about household chores or brands of dish liquid, or there could be a deeper pattern at play.

Do you know what the dishes means to your partner?

What’s the narrative they tell themselves about you or the relationship when this happens?

Does your response validate that catastrophic conclusion or debunk it and comfort your partner?

Understanding the primary emotions and deeper parts of your negative cycle can help you de-escalate to be more validating and securing.

If you and your partner are struggling with constant arguments over stupid stuff, schedule a session at Cycles Couples Counseling and let us help you find some relief. Let’s do something different!

Learn more about Couples Therapy in California.

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