Why Couples Fight



The pattern in the fight.

Most couples have just one fight. Their fight has a pattern, and this pattern simply moves from one disagreement to the next disagreement in the relationship.

Getting to the bottom of this pattern is the way to break the cycle of fighting. ‘Intimacy From the Inside Out’ is a type of couples therapy that begins with identifying the pattern of the fight.

Where does the pattern come from?

The pattern is rooted in emotions, thoughts, and actions that have existed in each member of the couple for a long time. Despite the fact that these emotions, thoughts, and actions cause conflict between the couple, it is very difficult to do anything about them until we understand and heal the underlying cause. The cause is our parts.

Parts theory helps us understand the root cause of fights

‘Intimacy From the Inside Out’ therapy is based in parts theory. Parts theory holds that each of us has scores of different parts in us. These parts each think, feel, have beliefs, carry out everyday actions, and are relationally sophisticated. You may have experienced this if, say, you were invited out by a dear friend at the end of a long work-week. You might say to yourself, “Part of me wants to see my friend, and part of me is too tired to go.” You might feel these two parts having an internal wrestle because they have polarized thoughts and feelings.

Our parts act like a family system inside of us. Some of our parts work together as allies, some criticize each other, and some get us in trouble, just like in our real-life families.

‘Intimacy From the Inside Out’ therapy recognizes 4 types of parts:

    1. Exiles.

Exile parts are very young, painful parts of us that were overwhelmed emotionally by some early childhood experience. Exiles have been pushed down to the basement of our psyches and feel powerless, small, and helpless. They are dying to get out and tell their stories,

    1. Manager Protectors.

Manager Protector parts work to keep the Exiles locked down in the basement so we don’t have to feel their pain. These Manager Protectors keep us from feeling judged, humiliated, embarrassed, or criticized.

Common, everyday Managers include spending a lot of time trying to look good, worrying about a tidy house, exercising a lot, or working hard to be a good employee. These Manager parts are often socially acceptable, but they drain our creative energy and cause us stress.

    1. Firefighter Protectors.

If the pain of an Exile gets too strong because it is triggered by some situation or memory, the Firefighter Protectors take over.

Firefighter parts are the emergency workers: they move in fast and they aren’t concerned about who or what gets hurt. They are concerned with stopping the pain. The Firefighters include anything we do compulsively—i.e., we can’t stop ourselves—like over-working, over-drinking, over-shopping, over-talking, over-sexing, and over-eating, over-volunteering, over-drugging, over-exercising, over-caring, over-gambling, and over-cleaning.

    1. The SELF.

The SELF is our best or highest self—courageous, compassionate, curious, creative, calm, capable, clear, confident and connected. Everyone has a SELF: we are born with it, but it gets buried under all the Protectors. The SELF will emerge when we attend to the Protectors. The SELF is meant to be the leader of our internal system.

All parts, even addictions, are trying to help solve a problem

For me, the most compelling aspect of ‘Intimacy From the Inside Out’ therapy is that ALL our parts, even addictions, have our very best interests at heart and are trying to help us. The Managers and Firefighters developed their strategies when we were young. These were the best strategies they could think of.  But now that we are adults, these strategies may not be serving us, and, in fact, may be causing problems for us.

We attend to the Protectors by acknowledging and respecting parts, especially Protectors

Managers and Firefighters have worked long and hard to protect us. They deserve our acknowledgement, recognition, and deepest appreciation and respect.

Once they feel known and understood, Protector parts tend to relax and let the SELF take on some of their job. When the SELF is in the lead, a person has more psychic choice and options about how to see a situation, how to react to a situation, or what to do about a situation.

The healing component

A beautiful aspect of ‘Intimacy From the Inside Out’ therapy is that it has a specific healing component. In the therapy, we use a process to rescue and heal the young Exiles from the basement of our psyches. This often results in a dramatic increase in intimacy and satisfaction in the relationship.

It’s the Protectors who are actually doing the fighting

It is not the highest SELVES of the couple that are fighting, it is actually Protectors who are doing the fighting. One person’s Protectors will trigger the other person’s Protectors, and vice versa, and the fight is on.

‘Intimacy From the Inside Out’ therapy helps the couple identify the Protectors that are doing the fighting and heal the Exiles they are protecting. This allows the SELF of each member of the couple to emerge. Once the SELF has enough traction in the therapy process, couples learn the skills to communicate courageously and with kindness and empathy with each other.

Attachment theory turned inwards

Attachment theory usually focuses on the parent-child relationship or on the attachment relationship between a couple. ‘Intimacy From the Inside Out’ therapy is attachment theory turned inwards—the focus is on attaching to ourselves. We become the primary caretakers of our own emotional well-being. Our partners become our secondary caretakers. When we have the capacity to take care of our own emotional life, we will have the capacity to be the secondary caretakers of our partners’.

Stop fights and renew the love in your relationship

When couples come to know their parts, my experience is that they stop fighting and feel hope about their relationship. And they feel relief to know that they are not bad partners; they know that it’s just their Protector parts doing their (misguided) best to save the partners from pain.

Take advantage of my free, introductory 15-minute session to see if ‘Intimacy From the Inside Out’ therapy could increase the love and well-being you feel in your relationship. Or book an appointment online if you are ready to try ‘Intimacy From the Inside Out’ therapy.


At Naturmend, your mental health is as important to us as your physical health. Doctors know that stress, addictions, marital problems, and challenges with your children can all have an effect on your physical health. The chemicals in your body that are activated by problems in your life can take their toll on you. Naturmend has two mental health clinicians to help you feel better emotionally, thus improving your physical health.


Our registered clinical counsellor Lucinda Flavelle specializes in parent consulting and coaching, individual psychotherapy, and couples counselling. As a result of therapy, you will find yourself relieved of the burdens you were carrying, confident in your new way of being, and with a renewed sense of optimism and purpose about your life.



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