In Relationships, Is Not Fighting Still Fighting?

When I talk with couples, what I hear sometimes is “Well, we’re fine – we don’t fight.” Or, “there’s nothing really wrong with our relationship. We never argue.” Or,  for the couples that knows something’s wrong, I may hear “we just never talk about.”

There may be a problem with “not fighting” or “never arguing” in your relationship or marriage. For a lot of couples, when there’s problems in the relationship, too often one or both partners fall into a withdrawal pattern, and push aside the issues that they’re having with the other. This creates deeper problems, as constant problem avoidance festers and grow over time.

Men’s Avoidance and Emotional Withdrawal

Men can be notoriously consistent in relationship struggles by withdrawing emotionally from their partners and “checking out.” We come to know the “man cave” metaphor in popular culture, but do we realize that men hide when there are problems or difficulties in their marriage? I hear men taking about not wanting to get into a fight, not wanting to upset their wife, girlfriend or partner, or feeling afraid of their own anger. They may be too ashamed to talk with their partners, and hold or stuff the problems they’re having. This can be a slippery slope to other problems.

The Effects on Your Partner

The partners of the emotional withdrawers often complain that they “can’t access” their partners, or talk about feeling unloved or disconnected from their guy when he’s emotionally withdrawn. This creates other problems. The partner who has such a difficult time accessing their withdrawn partner will react in their own way, creating problems on top of problems. A vicious, negative cycle thus ensues, and the withdrawn partner continues to distance himself.

How to Help Yourself

Consider that the storyline you’ve been telling yourself about your relationship might be flawed. Every couple gets into a reactive cycle, so it’s important to come to understand your own. How do you contribute to it? Do you withdraw and avoid conflict? Do you end up pursuing a hard to reach partner in the distance? Considering that by “not fighting”, you still may be locked in a struggle, albeit a silent one.


About Jason

As "The Man That Men Will Talk To," Jason Fierstein, MA, LPC is a private practice counselor and psychotherapist for men and couples in the greater Phoenix, Arizona, area. He works with struggling men to find happiness in their lives, and with their wives.
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