We had a stupid fight

-- Question for John --

I have been with my boyfriend for a year. Four days ago we had a stupid fight, which I admit I overreacted a lot. When he left he said he forgave me, until the next day when we talked, I knew he was still mad. I asked him if he wanted time away from me (thinking he’d say no) and he said yes. He said that I have him on a leash, and that he never gets to hang out with his friends.

And when he comes home from work he doesn’t feel like calling the second he walks in or running to my house. So, he said he wanted to spend less time together. I admit I did have him on a leash, I just expected for him to be with me. After trying to get him to talk to me (and let me say he is the worst at communicating) I agreed. The next day he called me as soon as he got home, asked to go to the mall with him and came over.

He’s been doing the same things he always did after he threw that big fit. I am not telling him to do it anymore. He is confusing me so much. I will say when he calls, he sounds so depressed, I know there is alot going on in his life right now, so I don’t know if it’s directed toward me or if he’s just annoyed in general. I love him very much and believe we are meant to be together, it feels so right and I can’t picture him not being in my life. What do you think is going on with him, and what should I do??? Please help me, I don’t want to lose him.

-- Answer from John --

Let me be direct with you on this, because you are experiencing the number one reason couples don’t make it.

Fights and conflicts can eventually ruin a relationship, no matter how much love is there. Love is not enough. It is destructive to keep reacting. Sooner or later, things get said or done that can never be taken back. I have worked with many people after breakups, and most of them deeply regret having said or done certain things when they were arguing — and they would give anything to be able to go back in time and have done something different.

The important difference between couples that split up and those who stay together, is NOT that couples who stay together have less issues that could lead to fights. All couples have about the same amount of issues to deal with. The difference is that couples who stay together have learned better communication skills to handle their issues. Couples who learn these skills that help them respectfully overcome their problems will stay together and have lasting love. Couples who just keep reacting either sink into permanent unhappiness or eventually split up. It’s a question of being soulmate, cell mates, or ex-mates.

Since all couples have problems from time to time, if you want longterm happiness together, then I suggest you and your partner have a very open, honest and caring conversation about using your current situation to inspire you to learn better skills for communicating. Learn some new communication tools that will support you to keep your love positive and strong. How you communicate with each other, and the emotional intelligence you develop, determines whether you can build a rock-solid relationship — or just end up on the rocks.

I would suggest that you sit down together with your partner and make an agreement to learn new communication skills that will help you better resolve conflicts. You have an incredibly important opportunity here to develop new skills. Do that, and you dramatically increase your chances to beat the odds and to enjoy a relationship filled with lasting love and happiness.