All couples fight! We have heard it most of our lives. Therapists, self-help gurus, relationship professionals and even pastors believe it is a natural part of a couple’s life together. It’s normal. Everyone does it.

Learn how to fight fair!

Fighting fair to resolve conflict!

8 Commandments for fighting fair!

These are only a few of the titles of well-meaning books or blogs. For sure, all couples do have conflict. But think about the meaning of the word “fight”: a violent confrontation or struggle; to attempt to harm or gain power over an adversary by blows or with weapons. Few of us would seriously consider that couples conflicts should become violent or attempt to gain power over their spouse. Much less to treat them as an enemy.

 Maybe it’s just semantics, but let’s change the idea of fighting fair or resolving fights. Rather, let’s understand what is really underneath the conflicts and help couples manage what is underneath. That way they don’t have to fight. Research has shown most conflicts are not resolvable, they are perpetual.  So instead of trying to find tools to fight fair, let’s address the root problem- our desires and emotional needs.

Long ago, James the Apostle gave us the wisdom.

What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you?”

Virginia Satir, well know family therapist and author found

The problem is never about behaviors; it is always about deeper issues that create that behavior.

Over 40 years of research on couples led John Gottman to say

Behind every complaint there is deep personal longing.”

Desires of the heart

Mark and Debra Laaser in their book The Seven Desires of Every Heart say having our desires fulfilled validates our existence; the depth of who we really are. When our desires are fulfilled we enjoy better, more intimate relationships with God, ourselves and others. Understanding our desires helps us connect with others too.  These desires are deep; we don’t necessarily understand them on a conscious level. We FEEL them, and ache for them to be fulfilled, but don’t always know the source of the ache.

The 7 Desires of Every Heart:


  • Heard and Understood
  • Affirmed
  • Blessed
  • Safe
  • Touched
  • Chosen
  • Included

 When our desires are not met or fulfilled we have pain, loneliness, feel rejection, are frustrated, get angry and this causes us to act out behaviors that may be unhealthy or may have negative consequences. In other words, we “fight” to get our needs met.

Emotional needs

Professionals who work with couples will generally help them understand both their partner’s and their own emotional needs. Below are some of the most common needs people identify as being important in their marriage:

  • Admiration
  • Affection
  • Commitment
  • Conversation
  • Financial Support
  • Honesty, Openness
  • Sexual Fulfillment
  • Personal Space
  • Respect
  • Shared Activities / Recreational Companionship
  • Physical Attractiveness
  • Domestic Support
  • Family Commitment

Now what ?

Rate your top needs from 1-10 and have your partner do the same.

Talk about their importance in your marriage. Doing this will help you understand one another and get “inside their Movie Theater”.  Understanding the desires and needs we have and expressing them helps us bring to the surface what is underneath and that can cause conflict. Then we can work on meeting each other’s needs so they don’t bubble up into a “fight.”