5 reasons why your partner is picking fights for what feels like no reason – and how break the cycle

"Starting a fight can seem like the easier way to create a get-out plan"

Unhappy couple having constant fights with one another
(Image credit: Getty Images)

It’s normal to have some disagreements in a relationship, but if you're finding that the bickering between you and your partner is pretty constant as of late, that’s just plain stressful and not good for either of you. 

The on-off fighting loop between couples might prompt a relationship check-in to make sure you’re still on the same page or if you’re finding that the six small things that happy couples do aren’t factoring into your day-to-day relationship, you might think that there’s no way back. If this sounds familiar, we totally sympathise, as it can be wearing and dejecting when you’re constantly butting heads with your partner.

Michelle Elman, a boundaries and relationship expert, and author of The Selfish Romantic: How To Date Without Feeling Bad About Yourself, says by learning the tools to help diffuse arguments, you'll give your relationship the space it needs to heal: "When you're in a relationship, it’s inevitable that conflict will occur, but you have to be careful that conflict isn't constant, as continuous bickering can lead to a breakdown of trust and communication. Instead, we need to allow time between the ruptures to repair, and so if you can deescalate arguments, your relationship will benefit."

5 reasons why your partner is picking fights for what feels like no reason

When you’re stuck in constant fights with your partner, it might seem like arguing is just bound to happen – and you may even start to resent the person you’re with. Don’t panic, as Michelle has shared her tips for how to steer clear of these shutdowns in a relationship but first, let’s dive into why your partner might be picking fights seemingly out of the blue.

1. Tit for tat

The give-and-take approach of going tit for tat is where one person’s actions, whether positive or negative, prompts a comparable response from the other, leading to a cycle of retaliation when it’s the latter. Sometimes, people pick fights to even the score, Michelle says, and describes a familiar scenario: “If you have complaints about me and my behaviour and I don't want to address that, picking a fight can serve as a great distraction to not take accountability for my actions and instead move the conversation onto your behaviour instead.” In practical terms, using this tactic leaves both sides without a resolution, making the argument feel like it’s dragging on endlessly, if you’re unable to deal with one issue at a time, she adds. 

2. Your upbringing

We know that childhood memories can shape who we are, so if you come from a family where having to fight for attention was normal, you’re more likely to bring that baggage to your relationship. Michelle explains: “If you were brought up in a household where the loudest person or the most disruptive person gets the most attention, you quickly learn that if you want to feel seen and heard, then a fight is the way to do it." This will continue into adulthood and your romantic relationships if you don't recognise this behaviour, she warns.

3. Confusing intimacy

Past relationships also have an affect – and some people might misinterpret the heightened emotions and passion that come with arguments as a form of connection. “If you have had a number of romantic relationships where fights were the only time you had a conversation, it can be really easy to confuse that as intimacy,” Michelle points out. “Therefore, when you would like more intimacy in your relationship, it also works the other way around. In order to change the dynamic, you need to recognise this pattern and instead ask for the intimacy you crave.”

4. Something sits underneath it

It’s common to pick a fight over the really small things, like your partner leaving the washing up to you again or having to deal with the mental load of the relationship on your own. Michelle says there’s probably something deeper going on underneath: “The larger issue can seem more scary and daunting to address, but the feelings surrounding that topic tend to manifest into small niggles and bickering until you're both ready to talk about what the problem really is.”

5. You want to break up

Anyone who’s come to the decision that it’s time to end a relationship will know that it’s an extremely difficult conversation to have, especially if you’ve been together for a long time. “When we don’t feel valid enough in our reason to break up, starting a fight can seem like the easier way to create a get-out plan,” explains Michelle. “It's a way that we unconsciously boost our validation around the fact that we’re making the right decision, when the reality is, they can still be a good person and there doesn't need to be anything particularly ‘wrong’ for them to not be a right match.”

Couple having another argument for what seems like no reason

Couple having another argument for what seems like no reason

(Image credit: Getty Images)

How to improve communication and trust in your relationship

There are so many ways to improve communication and trust in a relationship, such as being consistently transparent with your partner, actively listening to understand their perspective and knowing when to apologise and forgive. “One of the best ways to improve communication and trust is to start off with the basis of the benefit of the doubt,” Michelle suggests. “If you’ve known someone for a while and chosen to be in a relationship with them, they deserve a little grace, and when you enter conversations, if you are able to do it, assuming the best, then it can start the conversation off in a more productive way. 

“When it comes to trust, this is a slow builder and takes conscious action in order to improve over time and it's not always the big stuff. It can be the small throwaway comments that can deteriorate a relationship if you keep going back on your word, so within relationships, it’s so important to say what you mean and mean what you say.”

So, now we know the real reasons behind why your partner might be picking fights for what seems like no reason at all, remember that relationships wane in strength and stability, and they require continuous improvement. By being open to learning and adapting, as relationships evolve, ensuring ongoing growth and connection.

In other wellbeing news, these 4 behaviours can spell disaster for any relationship (and we're all guilty of #3) – here’s how to combat them and does your relationship past the Beckham test? Ask your partner the questions doing the rounds on TikTok right now.

Boundaries and relationship expert Michelle Elman
Michelle Elman

Michelle Elman is a five-board accredited life coach, boundaries expert and broadcaster (regularly appearing on This Morning). Internationally recognised, she with has more than 250k Instagram followers and is the author of several successful books including Am I Ugly, The Selfish Romantic, The Joy Of Being Selfish and, most recently, How To Say No.

Daniella Gray
Family News & Wellbeing Writer

From building healthy family relationships to self-care tips for mums and parenting trends - Daniella also covers postnatal workouts and exercises for kids. After gaining a Print Journalism BA Hons degree and NCTJ Diploma in Journalism at Nottingham Trent University, Daniella started writing for Health & Wellbeing and co-hosted the Walk to Wellbeing podcast. She has also written for Stylist, Natural Health, The Sun UK and Fit & Well. In her free time, Daniella loves to travel, try out new fitness classes and cook for family and friends.