How to Solve the Most Common Relationship Conflicts

A marriage therapist's fixes for the arguments she sees the most. 

When you hit a relationship rut—you and your partner argue about the same thing over and over again—it can seem like there’s no end in sight. So how to escape these exhausting conflict loops? On this week’s episode of “The Labor of Love,” host and editor Lori Leibovich talks to Tara Fields, a marriage and family therapist and author of The Love Fix: Repair and Restore Your Relationship Right Now, about the five most common and vexing relationship conflicts—and the straightforward solutions that can help couples sort them out.

1. The Parent Trap. When one partner takes on the role of being the parent to the other, begins micro-managing, and insists on having things done a certain way.

The solution: Begin by identifying where these roles stem from. Is there an underlying anxiety or fear at play? If one partner has become so afraid of doing something wrong, he or she will likely shut down and not take any action at all. 

2. Come Close, Go Away. When one partner begins to feel abandoned—and doesn’t understand why the other needs so much alone time.

The solution: Find the healthy balance of being a “we,” and work to create an interdependent relationship. As a couple, you should be "one," but both partners should also have a sense of autonomy. 

3. Blame Game and the Shame Spiral. When one partner begins to blame and shame the other, often reverting us to our most juvenile selves (name-calling and flaring tempers). 

The solution: Take ownership, practice mindfulness, and do your best not to be reactive. Speak honestly, and say “I’m not feeling good about what’s going on, so when you want to talk about feelings, I’m available.” 

4. Testing, Testing, 1, 2, 3. When one partner has started to feel invisible, so he or she begins testing boundaries—flirting with somebody else, checking in with a former fling, etc.  

The solution: Find the emotional courage to ask directly for what you want. Start an open and honest conversation with your partner, and don't wait for him or her to be the one to do so.

5. Growing Apart. When both partners have begun taking each other for granted, and one person is beginning to grow out of the relationship.

The solution: Be willing to change as an individual as the relationship changes. During major life events, strive to become a team and be there for one another. Start creating the kind of relationship that no one or nothing outside the relationship can destroy.

For more advice, listen to the full episode below. Don't forget to subscribe and review on iTunes!