Arguing is Healthy for a Relationship

I am a passionate person in most aspects of my life. I always have been. I am opinionated, my moral compass rules and I am totally incapable of doing anything to less than a standard of 150%. It can be a blessing, but it can also be a curse. When it comes to work, I throw myself all in. I am the friend that everyone can call on, everyone can rely and depend on, and I am always likened to an agony aunt. Why? Because I can’t say no, because I can never leave a job half done, and because I am passionate about almost everything I do in my life.

As I say, it can be a blessing, but it can also be a curse.

I was never really single, but threw myself from one exciting relationship into another. Why? Because one day I would wake up and just feel ‘bored’. If the passion was gone, even just for one day, I was out the door. Because I cannot stand still. I can’t get stagnant. I need to be constantly challenged.

I am pretty sure that if I look back over all the relationships I’ve had, whenever people asked “why did you two split up?” — my answer, generally, was… “he got boring.” In other words: he stopped challenging me.

Nowadays, that is not the case. I am married to the most passionate, argumentative, challenging person I have ever met. And you know what? 10 years down the line he is still here. Why? Because we fight and we fight hard — in equal measure as we love each other. It might sound like the strangest thing to say, but honestly, we work as a couple because we fight like cat and dog (and make up like rabbits!)

There is a very fine line between a relationship being healthy… and plain destructive. A knife edge that can mean the difference between passion… and violence. But just for argument’s sake, I am going to outline the reasons why a ‘healthy‘ argument can help your relationship rather than hinder it.

First off, and this is a big one for me. Arguing is like a release valve for those who suffer with anxiety and stress. And if you or your partner suffer with either, the best thing to do is get all this stuff out in the open as quickly as possible. Bottling it all up will only result in a massive explosion of emotions and panic attacks. But even if you don’t suffer with anxiety, there are a million reasons why arguing with your partner could help your relationship. If, of course, you do it in the right way.

Arguing doesn’t always have to be negative.
 Arguing seems to make people uncomfortable, but the reality is that disagreements can actually be an indication that a couple feel free enough to have their own opinions and are willing to share them.

Think about it. You are in the beginning flushes of a new relationship and your boyfriend announces “I think a mum should stay at home, cook and clean and look after her husband.” In your mind you are screaming ‘You misogynistic asshole! Who the hell do you think you are?’

Although your mind is screaming, your face says something else entirely. You smile, nod and agree. Mainly because you don’t want to cause a fight. In your mind you fast forward a few years. You are ready to have a family together, and in your head you see yourselves calmly talking about how the roles in the relationship will change. Right?

Wrong! Reality check. If you can’t discuss these things before you get to that stage of commitment, the likelihood is that you will have wasted years of your life waiting to get to the point where you can have the discussion to end up leaving the relationship because it is a non-negotiable in his book.

Solution: Have it out now! Clear the air, scream and shout if you need to. Show each other what you are passionate about, what you feel, what your beliefs are and why! If you can’t share the issues that are important to you, it is highly likely that the relationship is not a good fit.

You might find that fight may make or break your relationship, but either way it will be the most important fight you will ever have.

Arguing means the lines of communication are open and a desire to ‘discuss’ the things that are important in your relationship.

In relationships where the silent fights dominate, you tend to find two people who are scared to express themselves and worry that opinions will not be heard or understood. That in itself is incredibly unhealthy.

Lack of commitment
 Lack of arguments can also signify a lack of commitment. For those who don’t care about the longevity of their relationship (and just feel like they are treading water) are much more likely to just keep their heads down to avoid the fights as much as possible. They often give in to the other person’s desires despite the negative impact on their own life. It is so destructive.

Testing a relationship
 Women have a tendency (and yes I realise many will scream at me for saying this) to create a fight just to see if you actually care! Half the time a woman may not even be that bothered about the white curtains she is insisting you buy over the green set you like — but she will fight for them. Why? Because she wants to see if you have the ability to compromise. She may even scream that she is ‘leaving you’ after fighting about you cancelling a dinner with friends, but in reality what she is saying is, “I want to know that you will fight for me.”

These fights in a relationship help determine dominance, independence and an understanding of whether you can rely on each other. These kind of fights should only really occur in the beginning stages of a relationship — if you are still having these fights well into a long term marriage, that is not a good sign. But otherwise, it is more than normal for these fights for dominance to take place. They can often make the most passionate of fights and break up routines.

So How Do You Fight Fair?
These tips should help you find a way to argue in a positively — but remember, each relationship is different and although these are tips, there is no one hard and fast way to make it work for all. The most important thing to remember is that as long as you are trying, there is still something worth fighting for. It’s the day you give up trying that you have to worry!

1 — Speak up — Sooner rather than later.
This is a point that even I had to learn pretty quick. For the first few years of my relationship with my now husband, I would hold everything inside. All the little things that annoyed me, instances when he would upset me and issues that I always felt he ignored. Then, 6 months after he left the toilet roll empty in the bathroom, I would scream at him for doing it again, as well as bringing up all the times he had pissed me off since. The poor guy was utterly confused and left wondering if he was sharing a house with a psychopath!

Lesson: Let it all out, when you are angry. Even if it seems small. Don’t let it build up for months. The likelihood is that the moment you get it out, it’s over and done with. If you let it fester, just like letting bread prove, it will only get bigger while you are not looking.

2 — Timing is everything
 If you know something is eating away at you, similarly to ‘Speak Up’ — pick your moment. Picking a fight in the middle of a supermarket is not the best idea — or at a dinner party with friends. But then again, neither is just before bed. You may think ‘the kids are asleep, let’s get this out in the open’ — but in reality you will both end up arguing to the point where either you can’t sleep, or you go to bed mid-argument. Neither is a good option. Make sure you are calm before you air your issues. Make sure you have time to talk it all through — and have the space to get out everything you are feeling.

3 — What is the argument about?
 Although arguing can be healthy, you need to make sure you are fighting about the right issues. Constant bickering over small problems can be just as much of an indicator of a broken relationship than not arguing at all. Constant validation or pushing someone away is unhealthy for you and your partner. Establish what the argument is all about from the onset.

4 — Be specific
Once you are in the middle of a fight — stay on point! There is nothing to be gained from starting one fight, to then roll into another without resolving any of the issues. The only outcome is a resentment which builds up and gets nothing fixed. So if you are angry about something, get it out, get it sorted and move on. It’s futile to take what could be a 10 minute argument… only to turn it into a whole weekend of sleeping in separate rooms!

5 — Never involve others
This is your fight. You and your partner’s. Don’t involve other people, no matter how strong the temptation is. The mother-in-law is entitled to her opinion and the ‘evidence’ you have could well be valid, but bringing it up will only inflame the situation (and let’s be honest here — you know it, or you wouldn’t do it!). By keeping it about the two of you and no one else, you are much more likely to find a resolution.

6 — Remember Respect.
 Respect is a massive thing for me — it is something I have written about on countless occasions. A relationship cannot and will not last without a certain level of respect. I don’t mean opening the door for a woman, I mean listening to each other and talking to each other in a respectful manner. The one time, above all, that you need to remember this is when you are in the middle (and most heated part) of a full blown argument.

Remember to try and stay calm. It’s not always easy, but resorting to mean names, threats and spiteful sarcasm will only make matters worse. Words stick and what you say in an argument cannot be taken back, so have enough respect for your partner, as well as yourself, to fight fair.

And if all else fails, and your partner doesn’t fight fair… be the bigger person, because that’s always fun at the end of the fight to say ‘you were out of order and I kept my cool. Who is the child now?’ — Okay, no, that is totally against anything we are trying to say here, but you get my point!

7 — Two ears and one mouth. Use them in that ratio.
Listen twice as much as you talk. You may learn a thing or two. You may be angry and see things from your point of view, but your partner has the right to an opinion too. So listen and try to understand. Communication may be key, but you can’t communicate without listening.

8 — Never walk away
If both of you believe you are right, don’t keep fighting just to prove the other wrong. This is about finding compromise and understanding, not proving each other’s faults and failings. But if you get to a stalemate, do not, under any circumstances, walk away. For one, it makes you look like the one in the wrong (and no one likes that) but more importantly, it makes it harder to solve the situation. At least while you are fighting you are talking. Walking away creates silence and silence is always harder to break than someone’s resolve.

Arguing is Healthy for a Relationship if you choose to fight fair. In all honesty, who doesn’t love a little bit of the ‘make up‘ that you can have after the fight…?

Originally published at on February 22, 2016.

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