Why does disconnection happen during fights?Trauma and early childhood experiences can shape how we show up to conflict—whether through withdrawing or bearing down to win the fight. Disconnection can happen during heated arguments or during simple disagreements about trivial everyday matters like furniture preferences, dinner, or divvying chores. Relational conflict and the pattern to disconnect can be cyclical, though. Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist Stephanie Macadaan said, “Most couples get caught in a cycle of conflict that they repeat over and over again, whether it's about big things or little things. They are usually playing out dynamics they learned growing up, often from a defensive or guarded position. The cycle usually ends with each feeling unheard, misunderstood and frustrated which gradually increases disconnection.” There’s also science to support why we disconnect in relationships during fights. Our nervous systems are wired to protect us when there is a real threat and when it perceives a threat. In a heated conversation, the nervous system could perceive a snappy retort from your partner as a threat, causing a shutdown.
If you or a partner have ever felt disoriented in a heated discussion, the nervous system likely has something to do with it.If your nervous system perceives a threat each time there is conflict, whether or not there is a real threat, it’s understandable why someone might disconnect. The prefrontal cortex goes offline during fight or flight, which means that high reasoning goes out the window. High reasoning involves big picture view, connecting concepts, and problem-solving. If you or a partner have ever felt disoriented in a heated discussion, the nervous system likely has something to do with it. If you’ve ever implored your partner “just hear me” or “why can’t you understand what I’m saying?”, the nervous system also accounts for why they might not be able to listen or respond to you at that moment—the prefrontal cortex is offline, and they are in fight or flight.