In unhealthy relationships, what we are fighting about is never really what we’re fighting about. That argument over which way the toilet paper hangs is probably more about a “meta” issue: power, balance, control and unresolved issues with others in our lives (usually our early caretakers).
We argue about the house being kept a certain way. How did your parents or your partner’s parents keep the house? What was going on there? How are you working that out in your relationship.
What about money, sex, child-rearing? What about gift giving, going out, spending money on “non essentials”? What about criticism and power struggles?
What were your fights about? Can you trace them to something in your past? His past?
What about interaction during an argument? Is one an aggressor? Does one retreat or go silent? Where does that come from? Does one person “keep it up” while the other tries to make peace? Is one person always the one who apologizes? Where does this come from?
In order to break the “ let’s fight about everything and nothing ” mode in future relationships, it’s important to choose your battles.
Learn to do this in non-romantic relationships: friendships, work, acquaintances: ask how important is this? is this what I’m really fighting about? and to figure out what this particular battle reminds you of (some un-won battle in childhood/adolescence?). Start to step back and see what you’re fighting about and when and then decide: Is this really worth it? Do I really care about this?
Sometimes when we step back the other person “ups the ante.” After all, they have a stake in the ridiculous fight as well and haven’t made a commitment to changing anything. You may well be drawn back into it because the other person has figured out how to “hook” you back in. It’s easier to see and sense this dynamic in work relationships and friendships when you can step back and see it for what it is…the emotional involvement is not as intense and your reaction can be more measured. Learn to step back and see what is going on.
It takes practice but watch for the hooks and remain committed to not fighting about stupid things.
Journal about your feelings when you’re not fighting…what is coming up for you? Probably a lot of discomfort.
Let that be okay.
Write about it and you may discover what all this “nothing” is really all about.