Most of us consider fighting a negative aspect of our relationship. After all, who wants to argue and bicker with their significant other? However, experts agree that a couple’s arguments can be quite beneficial for romantic relationships. And research supports this. One survey of nearly 1,000 adults found that couples who argue tend to stay together longer.
“Learning to negotiate the inevitable friction and disagreements that arise in any close relationship is essential in any healthy partnership,” explains Michele Moore, licensed professional counselor, certified coach, and relationship expert at Marriage Mojo. “In fact, research has shown that it's not the frequency of conflict, but the manner in which conflicts are resolved, that makes or breaks a relationship.”
Arguing is inevitable, but it’s all about how we argue and how we view conflict that makes the biggest impact. If we’re able to see it as a positive rather than a negative, we can use it as an opportunity to learn more about our partner and what he or she cares about most, according to Moore. “During conflict, we have the opportunity to support our partner in his or her attempts to become vulnerable to us and the chance to become closer afterwards by participating in ‘make-up’ efforts like hugging and appreciative language,” she says.
One of the main elements she focuses on with her clients is not just how to "fight fair," but how to do so in a way that limits damage to the relationship. “Habits such as becoming defensive, stonewalling our partners, or even lashing out can set a relationship back significantly and then it takes much more effort to get back to baseline,” she adds.
If you and your partner have or are having any of the following couple’s arguments, here’s how experts say you can use it to your advantage to help your relationship grow.
Arguments about money and finances
This is the most common topic for couples to fight over—married or not. “It’s wonderful to be proactive about how money is spent or saved, but most people truly don’t know how they really feel until the other person has done something that upsets them,” says Dawn Michael, Ph.D., clinical sexologist, relationship expert and author of My Husband Won’t Have Sex with Me. Although fighting over money in any capacity can feel uncomfortable, it inevitably leads to a better understanding of how each of you prefers to handle it.
Arguments about communication
Through the years, and even decades, couples will have to talk about the way in which they talk to each other. “When people don't know how to lean into hard conversations constructively, negativity in a relationship increases,” explains Lisa Marie Bobby, Ph.D., L.M.F.T., dating coach, founder and clinical director of Growing Self Counseling & Coaching, author of Exaholics and host of the Love, Happiness and Success Podcast. “Then, when topics do come to a head, there is often a lot of negative energy around them and the couple begins fighting with each other about the way they're communicating, rather than the problem itself.”
Arguments about sex
Sex is so important to a relationship, but many couples can get stuck when focusing on the frequency, according to Anita Chlipala, licensed marriage and family therapist and author of First Comes Us. “You should instead be talking about what sex means to you (playfulness, closeness, being accepted and desired, etc.) as well as the kind of sexual expression you prefer,” she says. “When sex is done right, it's one of the most vulnerable ways you can be with a partner and can deepen your relationship.”
Arguments over how to spend time
A common couple’s argument is how each person is going to spend their time and whether or not their partner will be involved in each and every activity, according to Moore. “Some come into a relationship with the expectation that all the things they did as a single person will continue as-is, while others assume that their partner will now join them in every hobby, interest and social event,” she says. “When these understandings conflict, it can be tricky to negotiate a compromise, but this couple’s argument is important because it sets the groundwork for everything that comes after it and makes it possible for each person to make commitments without the fear of hurting or angering their partner.” In most cases, she recommends reaching a healthy balance of time spent together and time spent apart.
Arguments about raising children
Child rearing can be a couple’s argument that if not resolved can turn into years of pain for parents and children. An argument that gets resolved and brings out the difference in parenting styles may help to get the couple talking and finding a happy medium where both parents feel heard and can work through the issues.
All in all, a couple’s arguments of any kind can help teach you both how to argue, which is incredibly beneficial—and adding in marriage counseling using an app like Lasting can really help you learn to fight fair and grow your relationship. “Knowing how to argue and resolve the problem that the couple is arguing about is extremely important as well as how they conduct themselves in the argument,” says Dr. Michael. “A healthy argument is one where both people are respectful, get their point across and resolve the issues.”
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