All couples have arguments, but it’s the way they have these arguments that can make or break their relationship. Marriage and love experts agree that arguments are okay and totally normal in a relationship (they can actually enrich two people’s understanding and respect for one another) —just as long as they do it right. But why do couples fight?
Some couples are really good at arguing
They can get their point across all while staying calm and understanding. The majority of us, however, have a bunch of little habits that can make arguments damaging. During an argument, some couples tend to raise their voice, call each other names, say hurtful things, etc – this is unfortunate when you think about it because these couples just end up hurting each other rather than resolving anything.
Why do couples fight?
Although it’s human of us to feel emotional or get caught up in the heat of the moment, it is important to keep in mind that nasty, rude, or unhealthy argument styles can drive a permanent wedge between you and your partner. “A healthy fight is caused because of differing perspectives or an insignificant slight and can be easily resolved by an apology. An unhealthy fight is about something that can’t be changed or something petty just to cause tension and exert a negative power over the other person,” – Margaux Cassuto~Relationship Expert
Cassuto isn’t the only one who thinks that. Do some research, and you’ll find that experts agree- fighting is an important part of a relationship (as long as it’s done in a healthy way). Joseph Grenny, author of the New York Times Bestseller, Crucial Conversations explains:
“The biggest mistake that couples make is avoidance. We feel something but say nothing. At least until we can’t stand it anymore. So we wait until we are certain to discuss it poorly before we bring it up.” As reported by The Guardian, a survey of 1,000 people suggested that couples who argue are 10 times more likely to have a happy relationship!
Furthermore, a 2010 longitudinal study that followed newlywed couples over a period of time outlined how, when faced with serious roadblocks in their relationships, couples who chose to engage in conflict (even ‘bad’ arguing that includes blaming, etc.) actually reported better marital satisfaction in the end than couples who used more avoiding conflict tactics.
Any long-term couple knows that differences of opinion are pretty much guaranteed. So it makes sense that the couples who are willing to engage with each other and come to terms with their differences feel a lot closer than couples who choose to sweep all of their feelings under the rug.
Advice for couples who fight a lot
1. Take A Moment To Pause
Couples who fight productively tend to be more self-aware. They know nothing good comes out of immediately reacting. So instead, they take a step back before responding. Tip: Taking a second to breathe and be present in the moment, allows you not to react so hastily and to address the issue calmly.
2. Take Turns Talking (not yelling)
Couples who’ve mastered the art of arguing take things slowly by addressing difficult conversations with a soft and comforting tone. They allow one person to speak while the other one (truly) listens/hears them out. Tip: Making the intention to speak calmly and respectfully at the start of the argument dramatically boosts the chances of a favorable outcome, while harsh startups are tougher to process.
3. Be Mindful of Your Non-Verbal Cues
Eye rolling during an argument is not only rude, but it will give your partner the feeling that you don’t care and that they are not worthy to be heard. Tip: Instead, make your body actions reflect how you truly feel about your partner (outside of the argument) Even things that are subtly dismissive can leave an impact!
4. Set Ground Rules
Set some ground rules from the start to avoid low blows or saying something you regret during an argument. Tip: Some rules can be “we will not interrupt each other” “we will hear out each other out” “we will be open to each other’s perspective” “It’s not about being right” “we will listen to each other” “we will find common ground” “our end-goal should be to resolve the problem.”
5. The Right Time
Tackle issues as they come. Sometimes things will bother us, and we leave it to fester inside. By the time the argument is raised, we’ve already set it up to fail. That’s because, after a few days, or even weeks of festering, the feelings regarding the particular issue are now even more emotionally charged. Tip: Avoid arguing over text messages or emails. This can really make things worse and more confusing because the person can’t hear your tone and see your facial expressions, which leaves a lot of room for misinterpretation.
6. Never Forget You’re A Team
Even during the tensest arguments, healthy couples never forget that they’re a team. Your partner is on your side. Don’t lose sight of that. Tip: Always remember that no matter how angry you feel, life and your relationship will continue after the problem. This will help you keep things in perspective when trying to overcome the problem and avoid long-lasting damage.
7. A Learning Opportunity
Take the argument as a learning opportunity. Gain a new understanding of yourself and your partner. Extracting information and insight from an argument will permit growth for both of you. Tip: Don’t waste an argument by not learning from it. When a problem occurs, usually it’s because something is not right. Instead of getting defensive and passing blame, look at yourself first and see if there’s anything you can improve. Self-growth is infinite.
8. Find The Humor
Try to take it easy by taking a lighthearted approach to an issue. Humor goes a long way toward promoting healing. Tip: Life is short! Just laugh.
9. Touch/Eye Contact
Touch can begin a discussion while eye contact can let your partner know that you’re present and listening. Tip: A warm (genuine) touch on the arm, hand, shoulder, etc. will calm your partner, remove tension, and will transfer a feeling of peace to one another.
We know it’s hard to change the way we interact with another person, (let alone change ourselves!) and even harder when you’re embroiled in a heated argument. However, we are here to tell you that it is possible and ultimately worthwhile.
Arguing can make a couple stronger and even more unified, but only if both sides see arguing as an opportunity for growth, not a chance to hurt one another. So make the intention to change how you argue, even if it’s just 2 out of the 9 tips above. Just work on it, because we guarantee you’ll reap the benefits.
For more tips on how to argue with your partner, see the video below!
- “25 Ways to Fight Fair” For Your Marriage.
- “7 Signs You Are Having Unhealthy Fights With Your Significant Other.” Womanitely. Diana White. July 2, 2014.
- “Beware Of Mistaken Marriage Advice That “All Couples Fight”. Psychology Today.Susan Heitler Ph.D. June 24, 2013.
- “7 Things Couples Therapists Wish You Knew About Healthy Fighting Vs. Hurtful Fighting.” Bustle. Kristine Fellizar. January 26, 2018.
- “Here’s How Healthy Couples Fight.” Relevant. Dorothy Greco. June 1, 2017.
- “How to Argue with Your Partner in a Healthy Way.” Greater Good. Peter Jaret. October 12, 2017.
- ‘Healthy Fighting vs. Unhealthy Fighting: What’s the Difference.” The Date Mix. Ashley Papa. December 23, 2017.
- “The Difference Between A “Healthy” & An “Unhealthy” Argument.” Refinery 29. Maria del Russo. August 21, 2017.
- “Common Bad Habits That Can Make Arguments Worse.” Bustle. Carolyn Steber. March 1, 2017.