Struggle is strength

December 2013

“Do you remember what our last fight was about?” I ask my husband. He flosses his teeth. A precise job with such a scary elongated brush that he knows how to squeeze between his teeth.

“No. Why?” He snuffs and spits a little. Then we both get quiet. We haven’t argued in a long time. How lovely.

But we’d never have gotten this far if we hadn’t had those fights. That’s why we’re here to encourage all the couples who are arguing at this stage. Don’t be afraid of the arguments. Arguing is fuss. Fights have a function too.

Why arguing in an open relationship is helpfull:

  1. You argue with the person you love.
  2. Consciously or unconsciously you test each other. Will they stay with me, even if I’m so ugly?
  3. Arguing causes discharge. By throwing out what’s bothering you, you feel relieved.
  4. Arguing creates awareness. You get to know the other person, but also yourself. Your own bad sides, your role in the whole. As a result, you make choices and you experience more and more clearly how and who you want to be.
  5. Arguments make for a change. Some ingrained habits that were part of your monogamous relationship no longer work. New skills are needed to regain balance in the open relationship. You’ll teach them to yourself.
  6. Arguing is done with a (good) goal: Every time you take a step forward after an argument, it gives you confidence. In each other. And also in yourself.

A few tips

Via Google you can find all kinds of nice ways to fight well. They are wise, they are true, but the beginning of an open relationship can trigger such intense emotions that you will eat these tips rather than apply them.

That’s why here are a few basic rules:

  1. Speak up! What you don’t pronounce is stuck in the air, piling up or taking on a life of its own.
  2. Don’t just make the accusations, find out what this does to you. Investigate your feelings. What do the comments (or the silences and distance) of your partner do to you? And what does your behaviour do to your partner. Find out if you can also name and express those feelings.
  3. No violence!
  4. Not in front of the kids.
  5. Get help if you find yourself stuck in it.

Keep in mind Pavlov

Everyone is probably familiar with Pavlov’s investigations in which the dog who normally drooled alone at the sight of meat eventually began to drool at the sound of the bell. A bell that always rang before he got the piece of meat. With humans this also is the case.

In a negative way: If an argument always takes place in a fixed place, or at a fixed moment, that place or moment can become “infected”. The fine (sleeping) room becomes the arguing room, which you only have to see to get a stomach ache. Bringing the children to bed becomes a task, because you know that the quarrel is always afterwards. So make sure there is variation in the surroundings and time of day. Walking as variation helped with us. The outside air, the movement, the silences, no distractions by the children. When you move, you also create serotonin. The “happiness” hormone.

In a positive way: Everything that happens with a fixed regularity gives a grip and therefore often also a rest. Preparing breakfast for everyone on Sunday, the kiss before you go to work. A fixed day for your lover. This way everyone has something different. Cherish this. It helps.


Fights come and go. This is also the case with my husband and me. It is nice for us to realize that arguing is no longer a weekly (daily) part of our relationship. But we are no longer afraid of it.

We recognize the patterns in the arguing and dare to be vulnerable. Even when we are hurt. Next to that we know how to make each other feel safe, or to make amends. And last but not least: we are capable to give ourselves a time-out.

We have mastered these new skills through our open relationship and also by arguing about it. It doesn’t mean, of course, that you necessarily have to have an open relationship to develop this. A relationship with one person can sometimes give enough inspiration :-))

7 Years after the writing of this blog

My husband and I just spend a month together. The relationship with his girlfriend ended after 5 years. We are now in an open relationship for more than 10 years. It has brought us nice moments, but it has also brought us quite some suffering too. Sometimes this suffering took years.

This month is used to evaluate our open relationship. Will we continue? If so, some things really need to change. Every morning we hiked for 5 kilometers. 5 kilometers where we addressed all the topics that had caused pain in the past, ripping open this pain again, looking at it, going through the emotions from angry to vulnerable. It was not easy. It was intense. But we are trained in this by now and the minute we reached home, the conversation ended, we are also capable to do that. We even hugged if necessary and told each other we knew the topic was not finished yet. We knew there would be another day, the next day. And we also knew this whole process would take a month, just like when we started it.

The month has now passed. We will continue. We are still a bit nervous. When you sail the ocean the first time, you are enthusiastic. When you have sailed it twice and had it ended in a shipwreck both times that needed severe mending, than you feel as if you are tempting the gods. Still, we want to try it again. This time we know everything that can go wrong, but we also know, that speaking up is not a ‘nice-to-have’ in an open relationship. It is a ‘must-have’. And if you get stuck: call or whatsapp me: +31 6 4158 7202. 

Rhea Darens

EFT-relationship counsellor

+31 6 4158 7202

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