It is a sad predicament when a couple fights over who is “right” and this becomes more important than anything else.
Sometimes this happens when the couple have given up on ever being close to their partner, but they are still needy of the other. These people stay together trying to salvage what is left of their wounded egos by having fights about power: who is more right, who is on top.
It can be helpful to have this pointed out, because often the couple is aware of being unhappy but not fully aware of what they are doing. It can be a hard pattern to break, worse when one person is better at self awareness than the other. What is needed is both people to become aware first is when the power fights get started, and second what is underneath their jabbing at the other – what is motivating the criticism and put downs. Most often it is feeling hurt, and not feeling safe enough to admit it.
In therapy session, if the therapist can demonstrate that safety will be provided, the couple can more likely begin to discover the underlying pain and hurts. Family of origin habits of relating often show up here. For example: if they learned in their families of origin that no one is interested in their feelings, they are naturally reluctant to say how they feel. They have a whole world of expressing emotion to learn about. Healing individual hurts from childhood are often a part of couple therapy. This can be done quite successfully with the couple therapist in the presence of the partner when there is enough trust in the relationship. Often seeing your partner working on themselves brings up compassion and understanding; with other couples it may be necessary for each person to see a therapist separately to do their own work safely.
Power fighting sometimes happens at the end of a relationship, and yet alternatively, coming in to a professional can make this unhappy situation the beginning of learning to be truly intimate.