While there are many unique reasons couples may lash out at one another in specific circumstances, there do tend to be a few universal and overarching themes to the majority of fights during a marriage.


If you’re out on a date with your mate and he’s distracted, staring at the pretty girl at the next table, you may notice yourself feeling demeaned, self-conscious, and out of control. This is jealousy. To reassert control, you may often use strategies from your childhood that helped you feel secure. Though these strategies can lower your anxiety, they may alienate your mate.

A healthier way to deal with jealousy is to use my empathic process, a vehicle of communication designed to invest both partners in problem-solving without defense. By descriptively explaining to your mate your feelings, your history, and your family of origin, he will better know you and what triggers your feelings of jealousy. Then together, you can find your way back to each other, keeping an eye always on what is going on emotionally, rather than projecting your feelings of insecurity onto your mate. And by helping each other – in a sense, healing childhood wounds – you will grow together.

Money is a typical problem that all couples have to navigate at one time or another. You bring to your relationship your own particular expectations about money, based on your family of origin.  Now, creating a new union, you have to also create a new perspective on money that satisfies, and works for both of you.

Again, by using my empathic process, you can hash out together a structure for budgeting and expenditures that you’re both invested in. It is important to follow the rules of engagement, however: no defending, just active listening and communicating in a safe environment. This will involve you and your partner in a mutual and positive outcome. In the final analysis, you’re creating a new family, with new traditions, and a new model for finances that will work for you and your mate.


Again, it’s important to recognize that you and your partner come from two different family structures, with different parenting philosophies and experiences. By using my empathic process, you can come together to form your own style of parenting, that takes the best from each family of origin, while healing and repairing those unsuccessful childhood patterns. In the end, my empathic process will give you a model from which to better understand your partner, communicate clearly, and co-create your own mutual parenting vision.

Intimacy… it’s never about what it’s about.

Many times you have a fight because you don’t feel seen, heard, or valued.  Intimacy is lacking in your relationship and you don’t know how to reassert it. This lack of intimacy can cause hurt, injury, and in the end, fighting. By pushing against your partner to prove his love for you, you may find yourself raising the ante and escalating your fight until finally someone yells “uncle.” It’s best in this situation to step back and hold the tension. Remember, a lack of intimacy is often a need for control, and your partner may be creating space and distance to reduce his or her own anxiety.

This is your most dangerous fight. As fights escalate, you may hear yourself repeating parental messages in your ear, things you promised yourself you’d never say… the hurtful things meant to bruise and force your partner to change his or her behavior while reconfirming his or her love. However, phrases such as “pack your bags,” “I hate you,” “I never want to see you again,” or “I want a divorce,” can actually force you into a situation from which there is no return. Ironically, all these phrases are the double-speak that you learn in childhood that actually mean the opposite. Internally, you are crying out: “fight for me,” “show me you love me,” and “stay.”

Never leave the field of battle. Never leave your bed. Never threaten divorce. The underlying promise of marriage, is that you’re there for the duration, no matter what…that you love one another. Remember: that this is your best friend.

On the other hand, a positive behavior modification model can help here to lower the decibels, stop the fight, put space and distance between you and your mate, and give your body a chance to biologically calm down your flight or flight system, and hold your tension. For example, tell your mate that you are going for a ride, going for a walk, going to a movie, taking a cold shower… remove yourself temporarily from the situation. And, above all, keep a sense of humor. Once you’re cool and calm, go back to the kitchen table, the heart of the house, and use my empathic process, remembering that this is the person you love. Look for the positive characteristics held by your mate, those aspects of him or her that you love. Here is where you can change behavior: sincerely compliment the positive, the behaviors that warm your heart. And try whenever possible to overlook the small stuff, the minutia that can be thrown into the negative bin. You will see a change in your partner’s behavior when you change yours.

Why does this keep happening?

The reason we keep having the same fight over and over again, is that we’re projecting out onto the other – your friend, partner, or mate – your own feelings or patterns of interacting learned in your family of origin. However, the pointing finger always has three fingers pointing back. The key to healthy interactions is to take back your projections, integrating them into your psyche, where you can choose to override those childish feelings that compel your behavior. The way to do this is to first recognize those familiar patterns, acknowledge them, and finally own them. Then you can discern what is really going on, instead of swimming around in the reactive soup of a potential argument or fight.

This is totally normal and not the sign of a break up heading your way. 

If handled gently and with love, these fights can become the growing pains needed to form a new union that encompasses a conscious approach to relationships that can heal each partner’s childhood wounding… together.


  • Dr. Gail Gross

    Author and Parenting, Relationships, and Human Behavior Expert

    Dr. Gail Gross, Ph.D., Ed.D., M.Ed., a member of the American Psychological Association (APA) and member of APA Division 39, is a nationally recognized family, child development, and human behavior expert, author, and educator. Her positive and integrative approach to difficult issues helps families navigate today’s complex problems. Dr. Gross is frequently called upon by national and regional media to offer her insight on topics involving family relationships, education, behavior, and development issues. A dependable authority, Dr. Gross has contributed to broadcast, print and online media including CNN, the Today Show, CNBC's The Doctors, Hollywood Reporter, FOX radio, FOX’s The O’Reilly Factor, MSNBC, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Times of India, People magazine, Parents magazine, Scholastic Parent and Child Magazine, USA Today, Univision, ABC, CBS, and KHOU's Great Day Houston Show. She is a veteran radio talk show host as well as the host of the nationally syndicated PBS program, “Let’s Talk.” Also, Dr. Gross has written a semi-weekly blog for The Huffington Post and has blogged at EmpowHER.com since 2013. Recently, Houston Women's Magazine named her One of Houston's Most Influential Women of 2016. Dr. Gross is a longtime leader in finding solutions to the nation’s toughest education challenges. She co-founded the first-of-its kind Cuney Home School with her husband Jenard, in partnership with Texas Southern University. The school serves as a national model for improving the academic performance of students from housing projects by engaging the parents. Dr. Gross also has a public school elementary and secondary campus in Texas that has been named for her. Additionally, she recently completed leading a landmark, year-long study in the Houston Independent School District to examine how stress-reduction affects academics, attendance, and bullying in elementary school students, and a second study on stress and its effects on learning. Such work has earned her accolades from distinguished leaders such as the Dalai Lama, who presented her with the first Spirit of Freedom award in 1998. More recently, she was honored in 2013 with the Jung Institute award. She also received the Good Heart Humanitarian Award from Jewish Women International, Perth Amboy High School Hall of Fame Award, the Great Texan of the Year Award, the Houston Best Dressed Hall of Fame Award, Trailblazer Award, Get Real New York City Convention's 2014 Blogging Award, and Woman of Influence Award. Dr. Gross’ book, The Only Way Out Is Through, is available on Amazon now and offers strategies for life’s transitions including coping with loss, drawing from dealing with the death of her own daughter. Her next book, How to Build Your Baby’s Brain, is also available on Amazon now and teaches parents how to enhance their child’s learning potential by understanding and recognizing their various development stages. And her first research book was published by Random House in 1987 on health and skin care titled Beautiful Skin. Dr. Gross has created 8 audio tapes on relaxation and stress reduction that can be purchased on Amazon.com. Most recently, Dr. Gross’s book, The Only Way Out is Through, was named a Next Generation Indie Book Awards Silver Medal finalist in 2020 and Winner of the 2021 Independent Press Awards in the categories of Death & Dying as well as Grief. Her latest book, How to Build Your Baby’s Brain, was the National Parenting Product Awards winner in 2019, the Nautilus Book Awards winner in 2019, ranked the No. 1 Best New Parenting Book in 2019 and listed among the Top 10 Parenting Books to Read in 2020 by BookAuthority, as well as the Next Generation Indie Book Awards Gold Medal winner in 2020 and Winner of the 2021 Independent Press Awards in the category of How-To. Dr. Gross received a BS in Education and an Ed.D. (Doctorate of Education) with a specialty in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Houston. She earned her Master’s degree in Secondary Education with a focus on Psychology from the University of St. Thomas in Houston. Dr. Gross received her second PhD in Psychology, with a concentration in Jungian studies. Dr. Gross was the recipient of Kappa Delta Pi An International Honor Society in Education. Dr. Gross was elected member of the International English Honor Society Sigma Tau Delta.