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Marc Muchnick Ph.D.
Marc Muchnick Ph.D.

How to Start a Fight: 5 Ways to Sabotage Your Love Life

Relationship regrets and how we get in our own way.

Have you ever noticed how despite our better judgment, we sometimes do or say things that we know will cause friction in our relationships? While at some level we realize this type of sabotaging behavior will only lead to tension and drama—including the possibility of a breakup—we go ahead and press each other's buttons anyway. Why do we do this? Are we just gluttons for regret? As a follow-up to my "No More Regrets in Love: Putting a Stop to Annoying Behaviors" post last week, here are five sure-fire ways to start a fight and put the kibosh on your love life:

1. Bring up old dirt.

The past is the past, right? Not necessarily. The hurt doesn't always go away with "I'm sorry." The reality is that digging up what got us into a fight last time may very well get us into a fight this time too. Bringing up old dirt is grounds for battle, so if you dare head down this path be ready to go at it (or take cover). If you prefer a more peaceful existence, however, then stop dredging up the past and move on. Let bygones be bygones and put your focus on moving your relationship forward.

2. Hit below the belt.

We all know that rubbing salt in someone's wounds is not admirable behavior, but at times it may be tempting nonetheless. The bottom line though is that hitting below the belt will always put your partner on the defensive and inevitably end in confrontation. Being reminded of when you've fallen short of the mark, when you've been at your lowest point, or when you've felt vulnerable will only create a downward spiral and cause pain for you both. As one of my esteemed colleagues once told me, try giving each other a way out with dignity—you both deserve it.

3. Say you'll do something, then don't.

When we don't do what we said we were going to do, this sends the message that we are aren't serious about keeping our commitments. Trust and respect are also at stake when our actions don't match our words. So the next time you say you're going to be somewhere on time, or do your share of the housework, or take care of making plans, or work on doing your part in the relationship—actually make sure you do it.

4. Be hyper-critical.

Setting unrealistic standards can doom a relationship. Why then do we sometimes expect perfection? We all have our quirks and limitations, but over-obsessing on what's not up to par with your partner is a recipe for unrest. The ultimate result of nitpicking and being overly critical is resentment, negative energy, and emotional retaliation. To avoid this rut, we need to stop trying to hold others accountable to a standard to which we're not willing to hold ourselves. Try letting the little things go and recognize the beauty of imperfection.

5. Forget important dates.

This is perhaps the easiest way to start WWIII with your mate. After all, how hard is it these days to remember a birthday, Valentine's Day, or the anniversary of the day you started dating or got married with the built-in calendar that comes with every cell phone, PDA, or personal computer? If you're notorious for forgetting, check out the countless varieties of free date-reminder software that you can access in seconds with a quick Google search. Or if you're still a pen-and-paper dinosaur like me, be sure to write these important dates down in BOLD red ink in your day planner or on your wall calendar.

Your Turn

• What are some of the things you do that tend to start a fight in your relationship(s)?
• If you stopped doing those things, how might your relationship(s) improve?

I am the author of No More Regrets! 30 Ways to Greater Happiness and Meaning in Your Life. Find more information here.

About the Author
Marc Muchnick Ph.D.

Marc Muchnick, Ph.D., is a psychologist on a mission to help people live life with no more regrets.

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