What Are You Really Fighting About?

If you've been in a relationship, you've been in a fight. Chances are, it was probably over one of the biggies - money, sex, work, children or housework - and, with a little communication and compromise, you were able to work it out.

But sometimes the same old issues keep coming up, or new problems repeatedly pop up as soon as you've resolved the last one. What's going on?

Secret Conflict #1: A Troubled Past

Sometimes your battles have more to do with the past than the present. Feelings of betrayal or rejection in childhood can follow us to our grown-up relationships and manifest themselves in all kinds of unpleasant ways. That's why, for example, a partner whose parent left suddenly when he or she was a kid may overreact to your last-minute business trip.

Secret Conflict #2: Unresolved Issues

Hear that tick of a time bomb? That's the sound of betrayals, breaches of trust or confidence, or other relationship troubles that aren't fully dealt with. Address that forgotten birthday or ill-advised affair, or risk them reappearing in even unrelated rows for years down the road.

Secret Conflict #3: Bigger Needs

Often the common fight causers - money, sex, household chores - are really just symbolic of a deeper conflict. A fight over who pays for what may be a power struggle. A row over the dirty dishes may really be over the unfilled need for respect or worth. And spats over sex are almost always about one partner's need for more affection.

Secret Conflict #4: Pleasure

Sometimes fighting isn't about conflict at all. For some couples, it's one of the few times they can really share their feelings. Others may just get off on the excitement. Others still may pick fights just to get their lover's attention. And there's always the draw of makeup sex.

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