Dear Em & Lo, My BF and I Are Fighting – Are We Doomed?

photo by Victoria Peckham

Dear Em & Lo,

Lately, my boyfriend and I have been getting into a lot of fights. We’ve just reached the end of our honeymoon phase and we’re starting to get to know each other more and more on everyday terms.

Our last really big fight just happened very recently, and it was instigated by me. I called him out on being a little two-faced with his friends, particularly one of his closest girl friends. I also let him know the reasons why I occasionally felt insecure and even jealous towards them. These feelings had bugged me all night and when I told him, I was really upset. I know that I should’ve been nicer, but all my sympathy flew out the window when he read into my accusations wrongly. Now he thinks that I’m accusing him of just being a sex beast when I didn’t! He also says that he doesn’t want to confide in me anymore because this is what happens and he regrets it. All I told him was that I didn’t want him exaggerating his distatste for his friends because that’s just being dramatic and confuses and hurts me and takes my trust away.

Now we’re not talking, and I don’t think we really trust each other anymore. Is our relationship doomed? Who’s right and who’s wrong? How can I fix this without having either of us grovel in begging for forgiveness?

— On the Rocks

Dear OTR,

The most important thing for you to realize is that it’s totally healthy to fight in a relationship — in fact, we’d be suspicious of a couple who never fought. But what’s key to the success or failure of your relationship is to learn how to fight fairly. Oh, and the other important thing to realize is that groveling and begging for forgiveness are occasionally necessary for the sake of the relationship. Not a regular basis, but sometimes, you just gotta do it. Sorry.

So, how do you fight fairly? Well, the first thing is to make sure that the thing you are asking/nagging/complaining about is actually the thing you’re mad about. In the case above, it seems like you tried to soft-shoe your way into things by accusing your boyfriend of being two-faced, when what you really wanted to say was that you occasionally feel jealous of his female friends, and when he pretends that he can’t stand them — when you know that he can — it only makes you feel worse. Nobody likes to feel blind-sided in an argument.

The second thing is to — ahem — stay calm and don’t let your emotions fly out of control. Sure, easier said than done, you may think. But your best shot at this is to bring things up as and when they piss you off, rather than saving up a zillion tiny things for a rainy, messy, all-out-screaming-match day. Staying calm will also help you listen to your partner, so you can better understand whether or not they are hearing you. By the way, the staying calm thing applies to both of you. Clearly your partner failed here, too — but that doesn’t necessarily mean your relationship is doomed, just that you’re rookie fighters. As you practice fair fighting, you should both get better at this.

Speaking of, the best way to get your partner to fight fairly is to lead by example. The more fair fighting rules you follow yourself, the harder it will be for your partner to fight dirty.

Another rule? Don’t let the fight escalate to issues that are unrelated. If your partner mentions something that pisses you off, let the fight be about that issue, and that issue alone. Don’t retort with “Oh yeah, you think I’m messy? Well, you smell!” Or something equally mature.

Finally, you don’t have to decide who’s right and who’s wrong in order to end a fight. You just have to agree to compromise — or agree to disagree. And then you have to have really hot make-up sex.

Go! Fight! Compromise!

— Em & Lo


  1. … A no-nonsense approach from Johnny there!

    Arguing sucks. Of course love is important but harmony and friendship should be equally desirable. Give it time, cool down. You always have a choice when you’re in a relationship: Do I still actually want to do this? Ask yourself that very seriously to check up with yourself. Are you happy?

    Go hang out with your mates, or enjoy the company of others for a bit. Try not to bitch about him to other people as girl mates can sometimes really indulge in it and can actually accidentally make you feel worse.

    Be nice to him, so don’t ignore any contact he makes, but just give it space for a few days. After a bit he might text or call you asking to meet up; or maybe he won’t (we can all be stubborn sometimes…) so try to hook up and if he’s calm then start talking. Make sure you blooming well listen to what he says and don’t take every comment personally. If you love him then look behind any harsh or hurtful comments and try to understand what he’s actually trying to express. If he’s rude, just stay calm and say ‘please can we keep this calm. I want to sort things out’.It goes without saying that you gotta stay calm. It helps to say ‘I feel’ when expressing yourself, eg. “I feel as though our trust for each other has been rocked”.

    I go out with one of the dirtiest fighters. He is very intelligent and he wants to win. Sometimes even if I stay calm he is still really hard to get anywhere with. That’s just the way he is, I think because his dad used to argue with him like that, in a kind of nasty intellectual debating way. It is difficult to keep your cool, believe me, I know this! But hey, life is good. Love is good. Love is about wishing each other happiness. And remember that you can get out if you want to (gosh, aren’t we western ladies blessed!:)).

    People are full of issues; you are, I am, he is, Em and Lo are (ssshhh, it’s a secret). Learn more about yours from this, try not to take them out on him. He can’t solve your issues. Don’t think he can. And, in the same way, you can’t solve his. Hopefully you will be able to talk this through a little more. And when you do, acknowledge your own faults honestly. Don’t let him press on them too much, but definitely accept responsibility where it’s due. Hopefully he will do the same, taking lead from your shining example. You ain’t gotta bow down or nothing, just be honest with yourself and with him. Then, once you have accepted the deeper causes of your argument, you can choose or decide together what you are both gonna do to try to not let those things get that way again.

    And then, you will probably argue sometime again. But arguing is not bad!!! People are mirrors to each other, and when we are extremely close to someone, they reflect all sorts of weird things that we didn’t know existed. It is uncomfortable at times but it is, in my opinion, the true meaning of love. How you move through these phases and progress together is also an indicator or love. We have no perfect other half, there isn’t a perfect man out there who you will never argue with. Couples who have gone out for ten years or more and are happy have usually had to go through lots of painful patches together. When you healthily and constructively work through those hard times, the love that waits on the other side is incredible 🙂

    Good luck.

  2. You, and perhaps your boyfriend – I don’t know, I didn’t get his side of things – are doomed not just now, but in all your relationships.

    You are two drama queens and dirty fighters. If only one partner is a drama queen and dirty fighter, the other, rational partner is doomed to abuse at the hands of the nutcase. If BOTH partners are drama queens and dirty fighters, things can get REALLY out of hand – maybe even physical – which is always a great delight to drama queens. Then they can say they were abused! Yay, peak-level drama!

    Here’s the main way I know you – probably your BF too, but you for sure – are not relationship material:

    Citing your feelings as a mitigating factor, you say you know you weren’t nice. You say you instigated the fight. And then you conclude by asking how to fix this without apologizing.

    Why do you see an apology when you know you behaved badly as “begging” or “grovelling”? I’d just call it the right thing to do.

    What is it about you that can’t stomach saying, “I was upset last night, and I wasn’t nice. I’m sorry.”?

    I’m less charitable than Em&Lo. I see this as a major personality flaw – a big, childish, immature defect in your brain – which will prevent you from being happy in ANY relationship. This is something you need to work out by yourself. Break up, says I, and don’t enter another relationship until you think you’ve got this under wraps.

    Or, do what most people do: keep it up, get married, then have a horrendous divorce. Start dating again, and repeat.

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