Sometimes it can feel like you and your partner always seem to be fighting over something.
It could be because you left a plate in the sink when the dishwasher is literally right there! Maybe it’s you asking why they spent $100 on Amazon. Anything can lead to an argument when you’ve been in a relationship for any length of time.
But how much is too much when it comes to fighting in your relationship?
There are many factors to consider when trying to answer this question. How often you argue with your partner isn’t as important as how you argue with each other. There are both healthy and unhealthy ways you and your partner might fight, and knowing the differences between them matters.
Before we go on, if you find yourself fighting with your partner and it escalates into a physical or emotionally abusive conflict, seek help immediately. If an altercation turns physical, get out of harm’s way and contact law enforcement through emergency services. If your partner becomes emotionally abusive during an argument, confide with someone you trust and consult with a professional as soon as possible.
There is never an acceptable reason for a fight with your partner to progress to one of these extremes, and you shouldn’t be willing to accept it if it does.
With that addressed, let’s consider why arguing with your relationship partner can be healthy and conflict isn’t always bad.
Why Do Couples Fight?
There will always be reasons to fight.
When you have two unique people with different views in a relationship, they will not always agree. Most of your non-working and non-sleeping time is probably spent with your partner, which means you will inevitably do something that bothers the other. Any time this happens, it can trigger an argument seemingly out of nowhere.
You might start bickering over something as simple as forgetting to turn off a light. Suddenly you’re in a full-blown argument about one of you feeling like they do all the housework. Next thing you know, you’re both steaming mad, and you’re not sure what you started arguing about in the first place.
If you and your partner keep getting into fights and never seem to find common ground, you need to determine the root causes of the conflicts. So what are some of the most common triggers of arguments in relationships?
- Poor communication: If you and your partner are trying to manage your differences instead of resolving them, you need better communication. Having healthy communication can prevent the same conflicts from reoccurring.
- Selfishness: We can all get wrapped up in our own needs sometimes and forget that our partner has their own needs and desires. Selfishness is one of the most common causes of conflicts in relationships and cuts both ways. Even if you don’t feel like you’re being selfish, your partner might think that you are.
- High expectations: We might have inflated expectations of our partner in the relationship, and we tend to feel betrayed and hurt when they seem unable to meet those expectations. We need to keep our expectations as realistic as we can without trying to demand massive change from our partners.
- Criticism: Constructive criticism is good, but criticism that comes across as demeaning to our partners is not. Constant criticizing and nagging are bound to lead to conflicts since the one being criticized probably feels hurt and inadequate and can become resentful.
The key to keeping conflicts between you and your partner healthy is being able to communicate. Relationships have their challenges, but they’re partnerships where you need to be able to talk openly and honestly with each other. You can’t reach a compromise if you both dig in your heels and stop talking to each other.
With that, it’s time to learn some reasons why a bit of conflict isn’t the bad guy in your relationship:
#1: Arguing Can Strengthen Your New Relationship
Fighting in the early stages of a relationship can seem troubling, but it might not mean it’s doomed. While most new relationships are relatively great due to being in the honeymoon period, occasionally, some can experience a few early arguments.
You’re both learning about each other and sharing new experiences as a couple. You both also tend to be putting your best foot forward in the earliest weeks of a relationship, paying close attention to what each other is saying.
But fights can still happen because you’re two separate people with differences that might sometimes clash. In the early stages of a relationship, these arguments can be bigger than you could’ve imagined because you haven’t learned how to communicate with each other yet.
Partners learn how to reach a middle ground to resolve fights as a relationship progresses. It’s unrealistic to expect that level of depth in communication when a couple has only been together for months. But if you can find ways to reach this type of compromise early on, it will strengthen your bond and help build a solid foundation going forward.
#2: Better Lines of Communication with Your Partner
You can’t ask a brick wall a question and expect it to give you an answer.
You may think that not arguing with your partner is good, but that isn’t the case. Not fighting can actually mean there’s a lack of communication between you. It’s virtually impossible to agree with your partner 100% of the time, and the occasional conflict can be productive if you can talk to each other openly.
Healthy conflict resolution requires you and your partner to be able to communicate effectively with each other. If you don’t, you’ll find yourselves in an endless cycle of fighting that never seems to stop.
One person can’t resolve a conflict, and you can’t expect someone to know what you don’t or won’t tell them. If you’re not willing to discuss your individual needs with each other, you will find yourselves not talking at all. Next thing you know, you’re on the path to splitting up because of your inability or unwillingness to communicate.
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#3: Listening to Each Other Better
While communication is key in any relationship, it is also a two-way street.
If you’re not actively listening to what your significant other is trying to tell you, you’re not being a good partner. You’ll also find yourself in more arguments that will seem to be caused by minor things. Nitpicking and nagging are often caused because one partner isn’t really listening to what the other is trying to tell them.
Nitpicking is pointing out little faults in your partner, such as criticizing how they dress. Most couples who have lived together for a length of time experience nitpicking in their relationship from time to time. Nagging is where you continually chastise your partner over how they do or don’t do something. Nagging is typically a result of not properly listening to what your partner is trying to tell you. Actively listening to what your partner is telling you and taking care to act on their requests can help strengthen their trust and will go a long way towards reducing arguments.
Just to be clear, there is a qualification for this: If you or your partner are having to nag the other about something like the example of the trash, that should be an easy fix. But if the nagging criticizes how you do it or is about changing yourself fundamentally, there could be deeper issues. These issues might require some counseling to solve and keep your relationship healthy.
#4: Fights Can Relieve Tension
Even if conflict isn’t happening regularly in your relationship, little things can still add up, building tension under the surface. But when fights eventually happen, you can be surprised by your partner as they start unloading the things that bother them.
Maybe your partner is uncomfortable with you leaving the door open when you use the bathroom. Healthy conflict can bring these issues out, leading to you realizing you need to close the door when you get the call to nature. This can make you feel relieved that you have solved a problem affecting your relationship.
Similarly, your partner feels like a load has been lifted off of their shoulders. Instead of ignoring the things that bother them, they know they can call your attention to them. The sense of relief you both get from resolving these seemingly small issues can ease the tension that arises throughout the relationship.
#5: Arguments Can Deepen Your Love
Fighting can be good in a relationship because it can enhance your love, believe it or not.
A healthy fight can stoke passion as you both get riled up over the course of the argument. Once you and your partner resolve the issue, you can find yourselves energized by adrenaline as your body releases endorphins as part of the fight or flight reflex.
So what can you both do with all of this energy? It is safe to say the term makeup sex was probably created by someone who had a healthy fight with their partner! These intimate moments you and your partner share can help boost your love life and strengthen the passion in your relationship.
Some couples use makeup intimacy to avoid further confrontation, which is not healthy. But conflicts are essential to strengthening the intimacy in a relationship and are part of your growth process as a couple.
#6: Conflicts Can Help You Celebrate Your Differences
You and your partner are human, each with strengths and opportunities. We tend to build ideal images of ourselves and our partners in our minds, and we can forget that no one is perfect. Healthy fighting can shake us back to reality.
Some conflict is good for a relationship because it can show your partner that you’re not infallible — you’re a human being with baggage and faults just like them. It can also reveal your partner’s personality and help you see them more deeply.
Sometimes we can expect people to act like us and forget that we all have our quirks. Some people can wonder why their partners can’t do things the same way they do and build expectations because we think our way is best. But our arguments in a relationship can point out how flawed these expectations are.
It’s easy to think your partner knows all your likes and dislikes, moods, and needs. Some even expect that their love interest can read their minds and tell when they’re unhappy about something. While you might be able to perceive their unhappiness, you can’t tell why they feel that way if they’re not telling you.
When your partner disagrees with your point of view or attitude, you can suddenly realize they’re a different person after all. This stage of a relationship can be scary as you question whether you can cope with their personality, but continuing to see new things about your partner as you grow together can help you find common ground for the development of the relationship.
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#7: Conflict Can Help You Trust in Each Other
When your partner complains to you about something, take it as a sign that they want you to adjust and become a better person and partner. Keep in mind that they could have just ignored things, but that could mean they care less about you.
Occasional arguments show that your partner is in the long haul with you and they want you to be in their life long-term. If you both can argue over and come to a resolution about what little things seem detrimental to your relationship, you can trust that bigger issues can be addressed as they come up, too.
Partners willing to endure uncomfortable fights have a high chance of sticking together. This strong level of communication can also prevent misleading each other or wondering if your partner is hiding something from you. You have to be able to trust each other to keep your relationship strong and healthy fighting builds this trust.
#8: You Can Have Healthy Fights
It’s not that you and your partner are fighting; it’s how you’re fighting!
There are healthy ways to argue in your relationship to ensure the conflict is productive. Furthermore, these steps can help prevent hurt feelings and help you and your partner reach a compromise in resolving the issue:
Kevin VanDerZwet Stafford, Director of Clinical Training, Couple and Family Therapy Centre at the University of Guelph, has developed a list of six keys to having a healthy argument:
- Argue in good faith: When you enter into a disagreement, it’s important to realize that you have each other’s best interests at heart. Treating your partner as an adversary isn’t going to help resolve an argument. Even in heated arguments, you and your partner need to trust that you care about each other and your feelings.
- Timing is everything: If you’re going to address an issue with your partner, make sure you have time to listen to the response. Bringing up a problem five minutes before you’re about to leave for work doesn’t leave time to resolve a disagreement. Instead, make sure you and your partner have time to commit to a discussion before tackling a serious issue.
- Keep it out of the bedroom: The bedroom may be the only place where you and your partner can find privacy in your home, but you shouldn’t argue where you sleep. If you’re arguing in the bedroom, it can affect your ability to get rest. Instead of bringing negative energy into your sleeping area, choose a quiet place in the home away from distractions.
- Control your emotions: There tend to be two types of arguing styles: people who need time and space before dealing with an issue and those who need to discuss the situation right away. If you and your partner have separate ways of fighting, part of the argument can become understanding why you each deal with the issue differently. The important thing is to temper any frustrations you each may have to keep things from potentially getting hurtful.
- Stay on topic: One of the biggest mistakes couples can make in arguing is getting off track. If a disagreement about cleaning grows into an argument about the in-laws, dinner choices, or anything else, your chances of resolving anything are slim. If you see the discussion getting off-topic, gently remind your partner of what your argument is really about and guide things back to the topic at hand.
- Lay the groundwork: Couples need to discuss strategies for dealing with arguments before they occur. You both may be reluctant to revisit issues when times are good because you don’t want to risk triggering another fight, but that can help strengthen your relationship.
Healthy fighting can ease the tension around issues and prevent you from hurtfully lashing out at each other. Following the above steps can prevent hurt feelings and any potential resentment a fight could cause. It can also help ensure that you’re both holding to any conditions you agreed to in resolving the argument.
#9: Healthy Conflict Keeps You from Avoiding the Inevitable
Sometimes, you or your partner might have concluded that the relationship is simply not working. You might be fighting over every little thing because you’re avoiding the bigger issue of ending things. Trying to salvage a failing relationship isn’t always possible, and that’s okay. But how do you know if the relationship is worth fighting for?
If you think it’s time to go your separate ways, here are some signs you should look out for:
- You don’t feel like yourself in the relationship. Disliking yourself or feeling like a different person in a relationship is not a good sign.
- You can’t get over small irritations. If you can’t seem to tolerate the annoying little habits your partner has, it may be time to say goodbye.
- You feel like you’re carrying the relationship. A severely one-sided relationship can be extremely exhausting and may not be worth the effort.
- You don’t feel like your partner truly loves you. Naturally, you shouldn’t stay in a relationship if you don’t feel loved. Just make sure you’re not setting unrealistic expectations from your partner based on bad experiences with former partners or family.
- You’re not confident in your own feelings. If you’re not certain that you love your partner, you’d be doing both of you a favor by leaving the relationship. You just need to have done everything to save it and have reached the end.
- You make too many sacrifices in the relationship. If you feel as though you’re carrying the bulk of the responsibilities in your relationship, that’s a serious reason to consider breaking up. Making too many sacrifices can cause you to harbor a lot of resentment towards your partner and not just fall out of love with them but potentially grow to dislike them entirely.
Deciding to end a relationship can cause feelings of failure, but you can’t blame yourself if you come to this conclusion. If you’ve attempted counseling and still feel the ways listed above, you have to do what’s best for you both. It’s unfair to each of you to stay together at the expense of the happiness and fulfillment of either of you. Doing this will only lead to feelings of resentment and can cause any argument to escalate.
Find Ways to Fight Healthy and Reach Compromise
Arguing with your partner from time to time isn’t always a troubling sign. As long as you and your partner are having healthy and productive fights while respecting each other, fighting can strengthen your relationship. Actively listen to what your partner is telling you and be willing to compromise to find a middle ground in resolving issues.
Doing this can help your relationship achieve greatness!
Want more relationship help? Lori Gottlieb shows some red flags to look out for and discusses the keys to a healthy relationship here. You can also check out Not Convinced? Here Are 7 Signs You’re In a Toxic Relationship to see if your arguments might be a sign of bigger trouble.