Relationships can be as confusing as they are rewarding. One minute, everything is as bright and colorful as a Wes Anderson movie. The next minute, you can’t stop bickering over the smallest of things. This can be frustrating, causing you to question why you and your partner fight so much if you’re supposedly in love.
This line of thinking can take us down a dark hole, as suppressing negative thoughts can lead to a buildup of resentment and a possible explosion of emotions down the road. But worry not, because fighting isn’t as bad for your relationship as you’d think. According to a study conducted by the New York Times best-selling author Joseph Grenny, couples who argue tend to be 10 times more likely to stay together than those who never argue.
Grenny found that this was due to the quality of the arguments, not the quantity. Couples who argued successfully, or with good communication skills, were more likely to stay together than those who argued unsuccessfully or not at all. Want to know how your fighting style is affecting your relationship? Here are five questions you can ask yourself to determine whether or not you and your partner are resolving conflict properly.
Do you fight fair?
It’s easy to let your anger get the best of you and say things you don’t mean in a fight. But if you want to preserve your relationship, you have to figure out how to argue in a respectful way. Using “I” statements, such as “I feel upset” or “I feel like I’m not being heard,” allows you to avoid attacking your partner’s character, which is unhealthy for the relationship. Criticizing someone for who they are or name-calling during fights is the fastest way to dissolve a relationship.
Do you finish what you started?
Starting a fight isn’t the hard part; finishing it is. The way you make up with your partner is another important component to whether or not you’re fighting properly. Do you feel like you’ve listened after a fight? Has your partner listened to you? Have changes been made? Or is there lingering resentment? If it’s the latter, you’ll probably see the issue reappear in future fights, causing you and your partner to rehash old subjects or constantly reopen past wounds. This is another way fighting in a relationship can become unhealthy.
Are you being honest?
One of the biggest keys to proper communication is honesty. If you or your partner can’t be honest with each other, you won’t be able to fight in a healthy way. To facilitate an environment where both you and your partner feel like you can be open about your feelings, try to avoid any accusatory or judgmental statements. If you’re concerned about a partner’s habits, frame your worry as an opinion rather than a statement of truth.
Are you being respectful?
When you’re upset, it’s hard to think about anything other than the current problem. This includes your partner’s positive traits, which you may temporarily lose sight of when you’re angry with them. A good way to have a healthy fight is to start with affirming your partner’s positive qualities before diving into the negative points. It’s important to maintain your respect for your partner as a reasonable individual when fighting if you want your relationship to last.
Do you feel threatened?
Fighting can get intense, but it should never be so intense that you feel physically, emotionally, or psychologically threatened. You and your partner should always feel safe during an argument. If your fights devolve into physical or emotional abuse, or you can’t help but feeling like things have crossed a line, you should speak to someone you trust immediately. Whether it’s a therapist, a friend, or a family member, having another person to help you address or understand the issue will be better for you in the long run.