Is is Healthy for Couples to Fight?

The difference between a healthy fight and a doomed relationship.

Photo by Jonathan Borba on Unsplash

Where We Go Wrong

It is easy to be your best self on the good days…but how do you behave when things get hard? Your character is revealed in the most challenging moments, not the best.

Your Fights Are Boring

Couples in long-term relationships often fight about the same subjects, over and over. You left your towel on the floor again. You didn’t clean the bathroom. You left the cap off the toothpaste. Whatever. Cue the eye roll. It is boring and it doesn’t go anywhere. These are simply topics. They are repetitive and unproductive because they aren’t the main event.

“Bickering is chronic, low-intensity warfare.” -Esther Perel

There is something greater lying under the surface of these superficial arguments. Constant complaining in your relationship is recognition of the fact that you are not getting your needs met. Stop in that moment and think, is this really about a towel?

We Don’t Say What We Mean

So much of our behavior in relationships is built the collection of our past experiences. We learn to fight by observing how our parents interacted with one another and by experiencing the dynamic of past relationships. We play out a dynamic we witnessed and try to turn our relationship into some ideal version. The fact is, you don’t know what it was like to be inside that relationship or if it is anything you would want. So instead of idealizing, spend some time figuring out what a successful relationship looks like for you.

“Vulnerability is terrifying and feels dangerous. It is not as scary, terrifying, and dangerous as getting to the end of our lives and asking what would have happened if I’d shown up?” -Brene Brown

So often, we don’t ask for what we really need in relationships out of fear. Fear of having the real conversation. And ultimately, fear that by showing up in the truth of who we are and by asking for what we really need, the relationship will end. If you can’t be yourself in your relationship, then what are you doing there anyway?

We Don’t Apologize First (or at all)

When we fight, we have the need to feel heard. So instead of showing up with empathy, looking for solutions, we are looking to win. But in a true partnership, can you really win if your partner is losing? The purpose of a relationship is growth…together as a couple and individually.

“To apologize — there is nothing weak about it. Whoever apologizes first is always the stronger one.” -Esther Perel

The truth is that it takes more strength to apologize, to be vulnerable in a moment when you feel weak and unsure. So often, we put up our defenses and lash out like a cornered animal. But does that ever get you what you truly desire?

What Healthy Fighting Looks Like

Having bad habits in relationships is something that can be repaired. By raising our emotional intelligence and how we relate to one another, we can improve how we fight. But there is a difference between healthy and productive disagreements that lead to better understanding of one another and constant tension where one person seeks to exert control over the other.

So what is a bad fight?

Bickering: When you criticize with no apparent point. Just picking and picking at your partner. Anything can lead to a disagreement because extreme dissatisfaction is bubbling just under the surface all the time.

So what is a good fight?

Getting on the Same Page: According to Perel, in intimate relationships, couples need to balance their ideal of togetherness with their need for separateness as individuals. Intimacy in a relationship means while you may need or want different things at different moments, you also need your partner to hear and understand your perspective. Fighting to provide both freedom and understanding to one another is worth it. It is a pulling away and coming back together that keeps a long-term connection strong.

Writing about the beautiful journey of life and love. We are all figuring this out together

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