In this video, Adam D. Blum, MFT, the Founder of the Gay Therapy Center, reveals how to reduce fights with your partner in your LGBTQ relationship by understanding what is really going on beneath the surface of the fight.
Have you ever wondered why you’re always fighting with your partner and why it seems like all those fights are always about stupid things?
The reality is that fights, even if they’re about things like toothpaste, are because tender, vulnerable feelings are being triggered. We all have them, and these feelings, if we had to put them as a question, would look like the following questions.
- Does he really love me?
- Is he really going to stick around?
- Does he really care about me?
These are vulnerable questions, right?
How do we know that humans have these vulnerable feelings?
There’s been 40 years of research done, and it’s called attachment theory research. What it has shown is that we have this built-in need to be attached to others. It’s very advantageous for human beings to be attached to others, especially if you’re a toddler.
There was some research done in Russia many years ago. They found that little kids in orphanages were dying at alarming rates, even though they had plenty of food, medicine and shelter.
They did some research, and they found out that the caregivers in these orphanages weren’t holding and touching the children, and that was the reason these kids were dying.
Essentially, they were dying from a lack of attachment.
That shows us that this is a built in need. This is as important as food and shelter. This is some of the underlying system that gets played out in adult love. It’s good to know, be aware of it.
Why are relationships so hard?
Relationships are driven by these core attachment needs. So what does this look like in a grown up love?
Let’s say your partner forgot to bring him the milk even though you reminded him. The real reason was because he was overwhelmed at work, stressed out and just got spacey. However, that’s not how you experienced it. You got really angry about it. Why?
Well, it felt like he wasn’t listening to you, it felt like he wasn’t paying attention to your needs.
Those are the attachment needs underlying the fight.
Let’s take a look at another example.
Let’s say your partner is yelling at you, “You didn’t text me to tell me you would be late.” What is your partner really expressing to you from an attachment perspective? They’re saying, “I felt abandoned, I felt all alone.”
These are pretty important issues. Attachment is life or death for human beings at a young age. We bring these attachment needs into our adult loves.
How can understanding attachment needs help your relationship?
I want you to start looking at your relationship through this lens of attachment theory. It’s going to soften some of those rough edges and avoid some of your fights.
When you’re mad at your partner and he pisses you off, I want you to first ask yourself these questions: Is it true that he’s the enemy? Is it true that he’s trying to do evil here?
Of course the answer is always no, or should mostly be no. That’ll give you a little break, a little time then to say, “Okay, what’s really happening?” Then, you can search for those attachment needs within you.
Let me give you an example.
Not long ago, my partner was driving the car, I was the passenger. I told him to turn left, and he turned right. And I was enraged by this. Because I had been studying attachment theory, I asked myself, “Well, what’s going on? Why am I so mad about such a silly little thing?”
I searched for the attachment triggers, and I realized oh, well, I felt like he wasn’t listening to me just now.
You might be wondering, what’s wrong with that? When you feel like someone’s not listening to you, it’s easy to feel like they really don’t care about you, or they really don’t love you.
Is it true that my husband doesn’t love me? No, that’s not true, and that is something I know. So I was able to come back to that truth at that moment. Rather than yell back at him and get really bitchy, I was able to save the evening and let it go.
I want you to try this kind of thing at home with your partner. Typically, when your partner does that annoying thing that he does all the time, it’s really not about you. When he does that, it’s typically about some of his own vulnerable feelings, like fear, overwhelm, being hungry, tired, anxious, or afraid that you don’t love him.
That’s what those annoying behaviors are really about.
When we look at it through that lens, we can be a little softer. The next time he gives you major attitude about something, you can say to yourself, “Oh, I bet he feels like I don’t love him right now.”
Imagine if you were able to do that?!
Then you’d have some empathy for him. You know what it feels like to feel abandoned sometimes. You’d be less likely to fight back and to escalate and to create a big fight. If you remembered, “Oh, he probably just feels insecure about me loving him right now.” Because that’s what’s true. That’s what’s really happening.
We’re not empathy machines
We can’t always empathize with all of our partner’s attachment problems and attachment fears.
That’s not realistic. However, I think we can resolve our conflicts more quickly and more often, if we think about what’s happening between us from this attachment perspective, and start talking about it from that perspective with our partner.
The conversations get so much deeper, and so much more interesting if we start to talk about how we feel dropped emotionally by our partners, rather than staying exclusively focused on the dirty dishes in the sink and the crime of those dirty dishes. Think about it!