There are two statements with regard to fighting that are commonly shared with me. The first is stated in a way meant as a testament to the health of the relationship: “We hardly ever fight.” The second is meant to indicate that something is wrong and needs “fixing”: “We never used to fight.” The thing both have in common is the belief that fighting is bad or wrong. According to relationship coach, Steven Lake (2014), “As long as couples respect each other, fighting in and of itself is not a threat to the relationship.”
I’ll give you a minute to let that settle in.
Ready? Okay. To answer your question, this is not the opinion of just one man, there is actually some very good research behind this. Relationship experts, John and Julie Gottman, have found from studying thousands of couples that it is not how frequently you fight, but rather, simply how you do it that determines the success of your relationship. For example, if you scream an obscenity at your partner for leaving dirty dishes in the sink next a perfectly working dishwasher for the 100th time, that will probably be received poorly. If you were to, instead, take a deep breath and calmly remind your partner that it is really upsetting that this behavior continues to happen, you may actually be heard. According to clinical psychologist Lisa Blum, Psy.D, “what ruins relationships is not resolving your fights,” (Tartakovsky, 2016).
The alternative, bottling your feelings up inside until you are so resentful you can’t see straight, is not only harmful to your relationship, it is harmful to your body. There is a reason people feel “a weight has been lifted” when they share their feelings. It helps to relieve tension and stress and the toxic hormones that accompany them in your body.
What stops you from fighting? If you, like many, are conflict avoidant, it could be really helpful to take a look at what fears or beliefs are holding you back. Do you think your partner should “know you” or “know better by now”? Unfortunately, your partner cannot read your mind and frequently does not know how you feel, what is upsetting you, and/or what to do about it. Being vulnerable and sharing these things are actually a great opportunity for creating trust and closeness in your relationship.
Written by Alexis Anttila, MA, LAMFT
Lake, S. (2014, September 27). 7 Reasons why fighting is good for your relationship
Tartakovsky, M. (2016). 8 Surprising myths about relationships. Psych Central. Retrieved from https://psychcentral.com/lib/8-surprising-myths-about-relationships/
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