19 Types Of Relationship Fights That Mean You Should Probably Break Up
Experts weigh in on when to call it quits.
Although arguing with your partner can be normal, fighting every day in a relationship or fighting over certain topics — such as your core values — shouldn’t be ignored. In fact, experts say there are some common relationship fights that mean you should probably break up with your partner. But how much arguing is normal in a relationship?
As psychotherapist Cherrelle N. “Juice” Shorter, LCSW-S, points out, research by Dr. John Gottman found that 69% of conflict experienced in relationships is never-ending, meaning problems rooted in fundamental differences between the individuals involved. “There are just some things coupled partners are not going to agree on,” Shorter says. “While this may sound like an omen to some, many have found comfort in this as they realize that conflict is not unique to their relationships. When handled correctly, conflict can lend itself to mutual understanding and compassion, and can promote an overall sense of unison or ‘togetherness.’”
While fighting with your partner isn’t always a sign of the end, how you fight, how often you fight, and what you fight about can make a huge difference between a lasting relationship and one that will eventually fail. One or both partners having a fear of confrontation can affect how disagreements are handled, as well. "So often, the conflict is much worse in our heads than in reality," Nance L. Schick, attorney and conflict resolution coach, previously told Bustle. "Our brains play trick on us, triggering the amygdala’s fight or flight response when there is no immediate threat of harm." That fight or flight experience can lead to even minor conflicts escalating.
According to Shorter, many couples struggle with knowing how to deal with conflict in a productive way, which leads to frequent tiffs over the same issues. “This revolving door of conflict contributes to either one or both parties feeling unheard, and if that persists long enough, can result in a breakup or at the very least, general dissatisfaction with their partner and the relationship,” Shorter says.
If you are fighting with your partner a lot about important things — like fidelity, money, marriage, life goals, jealousy, and the like — now might be the right time to examine whether the relationship is truly working. If a fight is ensuing over any of these 19 reasons, it might mean you should consider breaking up, according to experts.
1. When One Partner Is Regularly Dishonest
Of course, there will be white lies here and there (e.g., “that new haircut looks great, babe”), but for the most part, couples should strive to be honest with one another. If you and your partner are regularly fighting because one of you is dishonest when it comes to the big things — such as where you spent the night — signs could be pointing toward a breakup.
"Relationships thrive when there is cooperation and a mutual exchange of curiosity and admiration," relationship coach Sara Russell tells Bustle. "If someone is acting unilaterally, and so focused on themselves that they can’t also take into account your experience and feelings, you may consider why you are in the relationship, and if staying is worth it." Consistently leaving space for open and honest communication, without judgment or shaming, can lessen the chances of dishonesty on either side.
2. When You & Your Partner Want Different Things From The Relationship
When you and your partner find you’re constantly fighting about what comes next, it’s time to take a closer look at whether you’re with the right person. While it’s typical to have unique, individual goals, there are some factors that just won’t end well if they are too different. "It is inevitable that couples will argue and disagree, neither of which is necessarily cause for breaking up," licensed psychologist Chloe Greenbaum, Ph.D., tells Bustle. "However, two individuals should rethink their relationship if they find themselves arguing about fundamental, irreconcilable, and unchangeable differences in the values they hold important, which may include themes such as monogamy and the desire to have children."
To prevent major conflict from popping up later on, it’s always a good idea to establish your non-negotiables and clarify what your vision for the future of the relationship looks like in the beginning. This ensures that you and your partner aren’t on two completely different pages, and can help to prevent a hurtful breakup down the line.
3. When You Feel As Though Your Values Are Being Compromised
When fights start to pop up because you feel your values are being compromised in your relationship, it’s a major flag. As Samantha Daniels, dating expert and founder of Samantha’s Table Matchmaking, tells Bustle, "No two people need to be carbon copies of each other, and it’s certainly OK to differ on your opinion about certain subjects, but if you can’t find any common ground on your values regarding things like child-rearing, trust, loyalty, and family, the relationship will have a hard time lasting." If you start to feel like you’re doing all of the compromising and your partner isn’t meeting you halfway, this could lead to resentment. When you’re in a level-headed mindset, it may be a good idea to open up a dialogue with them about these different values and how you both can play your part in making them work long-term.
4. When One Of You Has Jealousy Or Control Issues
Jealousy has a bad connotation for a reason — it can play against a relationship in a major way. Fights due to jealousy can tear a relationship apart and may even lead to controlling behavior. As David Simonsen, Ph.D., licensed marriage and family therapist, tells Bustle, "If you're in a relationship where you are constantly fighting about feeling controlled, you shouldn’t be together long-term. It usually means your partner doesn’t feel confident about themselves and needs to control you to feel better about themselves." It may take some time, but talking to a mental health professional about those feelings of jealousy and insecurity might be necessary for you or your partner to heal and release the need for control.
5. When Your Goals For The Future Don't Align At All
When two people have hopes and aspirations that differ, it’s difficult for a relationship to overcome it, particularly when it starts causing huge arguments relevant to the topic. For instance, money tends to be a source of problems for many couples. If one partner wants to save money for a future with kids and a nice house, but the other wants to spend it on traveling or material items, it's going to cause problems. "If you find yourself consistently being questioned on how you spend money, this is a relationship to get out of," Simonsen says. "You need to find someone that you are financially compatible with. If not, there will be constant fights and hurt in the relationship."
While some goals simply aren’t compatible, if you can find enough commonalities with your partner on where you see yourselves in the future, compromise is possible. Try having a sit-down conversation where you each make a list of your most important goals and see where you stand.
6. When One Of You Isn't Committed With Your Time
Are you and your partner fighting a lot over the fact that friends, work, and hobbies take priority over spending time together? If so, the relationship may not last. As Susan Trombetti, matchmaker and relationship expert, tells Bustle, “Relationships take time and commitment, and just saying you're committed doesn't cut it. You have to walk the walk and talk the talk." If your partner wants to spend their time working extra hours or going out with friends over you, they may not be as serious about the relationship as you are. This can only change, though, if you and your partner communicate your needs — so don’t be afraid to speak up when you feel that you need more quality time.
7. When You Say Things That Are Mean Or Extremely Hurtful
Everyone makes mistakes and sometimes you really can't help what you say in the heat of the moment. But as Cheryl Muir, dating and relationship coach, tells Bustle, sure signs of unhealthy conflict are when one or both parties inflict damage, create a deliberate lack of safety, or make comments that threaten the stability of the relationship. In short, during fights you say and do things you know will hurt your partner deeply.
"At best, this shows there is deep inner work to be done if this person is willing," Muir says. "At worst, this is a sign you’re in an unhealthy connection." For times of conflict, it may be helpful to establish ground rules for those conversations. For example, agreeing not to talk over each other and not to make any personal attacks can hold each of you accountable to keep things fair.
8. When Your Partner Blames You For Everything
If your fights stem from being consistently ignored, belittled, disregarded, or criticized, it may mean the end of your relationship. "Partners who repeatedly blame the other person, while refusing to take any responsibility for their own actions, are not safe," Jana Edwards, a licensed clinical social worker who specializes in treating couples, tells Bustle. This includes people who insist on being the victim in the relationship instead of taking responsibility or clearly stating what they want. According to her, "Safe relationships don't require mind-reading. They require a willingness to have conflicts that adhere to safety rules."
Agreeing to use “I” statements — like “I feel [emotion] when you do [negative behavior]” — during disagreements can help both of you get in the habit of owning your own feelings and lessen the chances of casting blame.
9. When One Of You Can’t Keep Your Eyes From Wandering
If you and your partner are fighting a lot over one of you having a wandering eye, you might want to reevaluate the relationship. As Christie Tcharkhoutian, Ed.D., licensed marriage and family therapist, tells Bustle, "It isn't likely that a relationship will last if a partner consistently betrays the relationship, either through emotional or physical infidelity, without remorse or working with a therapist to stop these behaviors.” Being honest about how this makes you feel with your partner and establishing fair boundaries to prevent the temptation might repair the existing damage.
10. When One Or Both Of You Isn’t Happy
When you’re fighting with your partner every day, you may forget what you were arguing about in the first place. “People are not generally angry for the reasons they think they are,” Edie Weinstein, a licensed social worker who specializes in helping couples, tells Bustle. “Fights about money, intimacy, housekeeping responsibilities, or raising children often have their roots in either or both feeling unheard, unseen, and unappreciated."
If feeling underappreciated or unseen in your relationship is making you feel unhappy, it's important to talk to your partner about it. If nothing changes, then it may be time to consider breaking up.
11. When Your Lifestyles Are Incompatible
Differences make a relationship interesting. But if your differences are causing a lot of tension in the relationship, it may be a sign that you and your partner are incompatible. As Lisa Concepcion, relationship coach and founder of LoveQuest Coaching, tells Bustle, constantly fighting over your lifestyles might mean you should break up.
For instance, if you tell your partner you need to be in bed by a reasonable time every weeknight and they respond by arguing, you may want to rethink things. Although it may seem like a simple issue, Concepcion says it could be indicative of something more. “If one person wants to party until two in the morning on a Wednesday night while the other person is in bed at 10, they are obviously in different seasons of their lives,” Concepcion says. When you and your partner have incompatible lifestyles, someone may have to change. This necessary compromise might be possible with intentional conversations, especially mediated (like in couples counseling).
12. When You’re Fighting With Your Partner Over A Ton Of Small Things
In relationships, disagreements are inevitable. But according to Lesli Doares, marriage coach and author, fighting is always a choice. “No two people will ever agree on everything, no matter how much they love each other,” she says. “How they handle those disagreements will determine the health and success of the relationship.”
It’s always important to be upfront with your partner if you have any major concerns in the relationship. But you don’t have to turn every little issue into a big argument. If this is something that happens regularly in your relationship, it may not be the right one for you. “Giving yourself permission to act any way you want, regardless of the harm to your partner and relationship, is common but ultimately destructive,” Doares says. “Anger is always about you. You choose it. You control it.” If you’re always angry at your partner because you have resentment over a big issue that has yet to be resolved, it may be wise to consult with a mental health professional to see if your irritability comes from resentment in the relationship or a projection of your own internal struggles.
13. When You Simply Communicate Differently
While it’s unlikely that each person in a couple will have the exact same arguing style, many people can learn to understand the other’s way of communicating and be fine. However, in some cases, your communication style is so different that you just aren’t compatible and you won’t ever be able to healthily deal with issues.
"For example, one person may need to just hash the problem out right away and be done with it. The other person may not ever want to discuss a problem and just bury it," Laura F. Dabney, M.D., a Virginia-based psychiatrist and relationship therapist, previously told Bustle. Couples counseling might be a necessary resource for both of you to work on healthier communication skills.
14. When You Don’t Feel Like Yourself Anymore
If when you argue with your partner, you find that you’re having trouble understanding your own behaviors or you feel like you’re losing track of yourself, that’s a pretty big sign that something is wrong. “If you find yourself unrecognizable to yourself and loved ones, it may be a sign you should break up with your partner,” psychologist and breakup coach Joy Harden Bradford previously told Bustle. “We all change in some ways in relationships, but the changes shouldn't be so drastic that there is little to no trace of the person you were before.”
Feeling unlike yourself can be a difficult thing to recognize, which is why checking in with your family and friends when you’re not doing well with your partner is a must. This could also be a sign of gaslighting from your partner, so consulting with people outside the relationship might help you gain some much-needed perspective.
15. When One Partner Keeps Threatening To End The Relationship
If your fights regularly include name-calling, cursing, low blows, or attacks on each other’s character, you may be on the brink of breaking up. Although some people say things they don’t mean in the heat of the moment, threatening to end a relationship can be unkind and manipulative.
According to India Simms, licensed marriage and family therapist, you can disagree without bringing one another down. “Frequent arguments can be healthy as long as you are able to find resolution,” Simms says. “If you're in a relationship and your arguments tend to hit below the belt, this could be a sign to break up.” This is where the aforementioned “ground rules” can come in handy; when you have a heated conflict, agreeing to not interrupt each other, raise your voice, or make personal insults can keep communication healthy.
16. When It’s The Same Fight Over & Over
If you’ve ever thought to yourself, “My partner and I fight a lot over the same old things,” and nothing has ever changed, it could mean things are moving toward the end. According to Daniels, the key ingredient in any relationship is the ability and the willingness to work through issues. "If your partner is not interested in trying to work things out and turns a deaf ear to your concerns... this is a relationship that will not sustain the test of time and one you should leave," she says. A refusal for either party to change hurtful behaviors might require you to reconsider what you’re willing to accept, and potentially consider ending the relationship.
17. When You Start To Lose Your Desire
Although many couples often forget to make it a priority, feeling desire for your partner is a crucial element to a healthy and mutually fulfilling relationship. “It's common for couples to simplify the struggle of different levels and types of desires but there is usually so much more to this pain point,” says Vanessa Bennett, LMFT, a psychotherapist and co-host of the Cheaper Than Therapy podcast. “Not feeling seen or appreciated, adopting a parental dynamic — where one partner is the parent, the other the child — not feeling emotionally safe... these are only a few issues that can lead to loss of desire.”
When you and your partner begin to feel resentment or even have arguments attached to not feeling desired in the relationship, consider ways in which you can boost intimacy and set aside intentional time to reignite the passion you once felt for each other. Having sex more often or romantic date nights may seem like small steps, but might just lead to great results.
18. When You Have Opposite Attachment Styles
Overcoming an anxious attachment style is difficult enough, but Bennett explains that having both an anxious attachment and a partner with an avoidant attachment style can cause extra complications. “Pretty typical for people on one side of the pendulum, those anxiously attached to be partnered to those on the other side of the pendulum, avoidantly attached,” she explains. “This dynamic is hard to work with, but not impossible — and yet for many, it can be what breaks a relationship.”
In this “opposites attract” situation, Bennett says that, “One person's response to a desire for closeness and intimacy leads the other partner to shut down or run which then increases the other's need for closeness and reassurance. Without a lot of self-awareness and communication, this can be a huge barrier.” To mitigate some of these issues, tools like seeing a therapist or resources like the book Attached: The New Science of Adult Attachment and How It Can Help You Find — and Keep — Love can help.
19. When You’re In Codependent Patterns
Codependency may be a buzzword in the modern therapy world, but its effects can impact most relationships in some tough ways. “Across the board, every client I have ever worked with struggles with codependency in their relationships,” Bennett tells Bustle. “We are told through media and society that love should be codependent. We should lose ourselves, that someone should complete us, that we should give up our lives and our dreams when we find ‘the one’ — this leads to incredibly unhappy, unfulfilled, jealous, and anxious partnerships.” These negative feelings can easily bubble up and cause some nasty fights with your partner, too.
Rather than give in to what could be sneaky codependent tendencies, taking time for yourself or fostering the relationships you have outside of your romantic partner (with friends or family) might encourage you to balance your energy and attention, rather than spend it all on your partner.
Sara Russell, relationship coach
Cheryl Muir, dating and relationship coach
Susan Trombetti, matchmaker and relationship expert
Lisa Concepcion, relationship coach and founder of LoveQuest Coaching
Cherrelle N. “Juice” Shorter, LCSW-S, psychotherapist
David Simonsen Ph.D., licensed marriage and family therapist
Jana Edwards, licensed clinical social worker who specializes in treating couples
Chloe Greenbaum, Ph.D., licensed psychologist
Edie Weinstein, licensed social worker
Christie Tcharkhoutian, Ed.D., licensed marriage and family therapist
Lesli Doares, marriage coach and author
Laura F. Dabney, MD, Virginia-based psychiatrist and relationship therapist
Joy Harden Bradford, psychologist and breakup coach
India Simms, licensed marriage and family therapist, owner of The Haven Center for Therapy & Wellness, LLC
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