Every couple fights. It’s an inevitable fact, ranging from doozies you remember for years, to minor spats over taking out the garbage. The fact is, though, that rarely are disagreements actually about the subject at hand. Anger is hard to express in a healthy way for many people, both to themselves and to their partner. Not only that, but in order to express anger without being destructive, you also need to understand what truly made you angry in the first place.

Understanding Your Role in the Argument

When you fight with your partner, you’re also effectively a cog in the argument machine. The longer you refuse to take a step back, the longer it will keep going. Acknowledging your role in the argument is important, says Paired Life, as is setting aside your own point of view and trying to see it from your partner’s. The fact is that in the heat of the moment, anger can blot out love, which means that you effectively stop listening to your partner is saying.

You’re also subconsciously closing lines of communication and ignoring the true reasons behind why a fight escalates. The anatomy of an argument isn’t about the argument, but rather about a gap in emotional needs.

Fights Are Always About Neglected Needs

Fights Are Always About Neglected NeedsYou may know this familiar scenario: someone forgets to take out the garbage the night before trash collection, and then your household is left with a smelly bag for another few days. The irritation builds up and feelings of resentment and frustration fester. You start thinking about all the other little things he or she does that cause you constant annoyance, how you have to do everything in this relationship, and for some people, rage builds. Or maybe you want to cry because you don’t want to say anything about something so silly, even though it causes you stress.

Sound familiar? These are all common scenarios for many couples, but it’s never really about taking out the garbage if it inspires an outright fight. The real core of the fight is about feeling emotionally neglected and invalidated by your partner. However, it’s much easier to channel that frustration or rage into a tangible, demonstrative event. When you’re ready to meet your partner halfway, Bustle recommends giving yourself a cool down period, and then be ready to swallow your pride and actively listen.

Learning How to Talk About Anger

Most people aren’t born with the natural ability to express or even talk about anger. On top of that, we’re taught unhealthy approaches to anger, such as ignoring it, indulging it, or being unable to admit we were wrong without shame. All of these attitudes are damaging and only lead to bigger fights. Engaging in marriage counseling can help you work through anger and develop skills of how to emotionally process and validate both your own feelings and those of your partner. This is important because not only does it center you as an individual, but also allows you to communicate about what’s really going on when you get upset. It can be painful to the ego to drop your own issues and put your partner first by asking what it is they feel they’re missing in their emotional needs. But this is the first step toward truly understanding why arguments start, and also how to resolve them.

The anatomy of an argument is layered and complex, but at its core, it’s always about unmet needs. You need to ask what your partner really needs from you, and if they’re getting it. Talking helps. Understanding your partner’s stance and showing compassion for their feelings even when you’re incensed can make a huge difference and repair fissures formed by anger in a relationship. It’s okay to be angry, but if you’re committed to your partner and your shared love, you need to also be willing to accept their anger as valid and work through it together.