How to Tell If You're a Fighting Junkie

And How to Kick the Habit

Posted Jul 09, 2012

Millions of couples are addicted to fighting and don’t even realize. The reason is because fighting provides hidden perks that include paying back people who harmed you in the past, and even creating emotional space and distance.

A popular example of Fighting Junkies was depicted in the movie The War of the Roses. You’ve all heard the saying: they were swinging naked from a chandelier to describe a couple having wild sex. Well, in this couples’ final showdown, they ended up swinging fully clothed from a not well-hung chandelier. And, they crash to their deaths!

It’s no joke to say that being a Fighting Junkie will kill you. Couples who live in this climate end up killing each other, if not literally, but because chronic fighting harms health. This means Fighting Junkies end up sicker and die prematurely.

Now let's turn to the question of what causes a person to become a Fighting Junkie.

If you’ve been following me for a while, you know that Old Scars from childhood cause us to unconsciously choose partners who help us to relive the worst, most traumatic aspects of our childhood.

This is called the Repetition Compulsion, and it’s a universal phenomenon. What happens is you choose a partner who emotionally resembles the parent who let you down and harmed you. The unconscious fantasy is that if you try hard enough, and if you’re a good enough person, you’ll be able to succeed in fixing what went wrong in your childhood and achieving what I call your Happy Ending; meaning this time around you will succeed in getting the kind of treatment from your partner that you always needed from your parent, such as love, attention, and so on. And when this happens, you will feel as though you healed your childhood wound.

Unfortunately, this plan never works out! Because your partner is limited and damaged in the exact same way that your parent was, you just end up beating your head on a rock, trying to get blood from a stone. Rather than achieving your Happy Ending, you just get more and more disappointed, injured, hurt and angry. 

But the need to heal is so great, that you feel compelled to never give up, never walk out; you just stay in the ring and keep fighting and swinging. To give up would feel like abandoning the hope of ever healing your Old Scars.

There’s more, as you keep beating your head on a rock, trying to get through to your partner to get him/her to change and give you your Happy Ending, you’re also getting your rocks off because you’re unconsciously venting a mountain of stored up rage toward your parent. Soon, you’ve forgotten what Happy Ending you even wanted. Now you’re just fighting because it’s become familiar to live in a state of war. Unfortunately anger is like a cancer: it feeds on itself. And the angrier you are the angrier you become. Now, you’re a Fighting Junkie!

How To Tell If You And Your Partner Are Fighting Junkies

The first clue is Stability of Conflict, or what I call The Broken Record Phenomenon. This means that you find yourselves fighting over the same topics again and again, year after year.

Other signs include:

You and your partner secretly look for things to fight about and even pick fights.

One or both of you are secretly most comfortable when you're fighting.

You don’t want to let your partner close because deep down you’re afraid that your partner would hurt or reject you, and your partner feels the same.

You’ve been fighting since the beginning of your relationship.

How To Break Free Of This Deadly Cycle

To break free, you’ve got to first admit that you are a Fighting Junkie. It’s like going to an AA meeting. When you stand up to speak, the first thing you say is, “Hi, I’m John and I’m an alcoholic!”

After taking ownership of the pattern, you both need to become clear on your particular reasons for being Fighting Junkies. These include: 1) It’s familiar, 2) It’s a conflict resolution/communication skill deficit; 3) It’s your way to avoid intimacy and closeness because you are afraid to face the loss of love due to rejection/abandonment or death; and/or 4) you fear getting close because you don’t have a strong sense of self and emotional intimacy is synonymous with being taken over.

Once you know the reason why you’re Fighting Junkies, you need to make a conscious choice to face your fears and stop mutilating each other. This process also includes helping each other achieve your mutual Happy Endings. This means that you both vow to help each other heal your Old Scars. If you’re ready to reach for healing rather than the boxing gloves, then my book Kiss Your Fights Goodbye: Dr. Love’s 10 Simple Steps to Cooling Conflict and Rekindling Your Connection will teach you my proven step-by-step conflict resolution program, guiding you on how to help each other heal your Old Scars, overcome all the sources of your fear of intimacy and fill in any conflict resolution/communication skill deficits you may have. 

Avaiable NOW on Amazon, Dr. Turndorf's new book, Kiss Your Fights Good-bye: Dr. Love's 10 Simple Steps to Cooling Conflict and Rekindling Your Relationship.

About the Author

Dr. Jamie Turndorf Ph.D., is a relationship therapist, emotional communication expert, author and advice columnist.

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