You might be surprised to learn the answer…
Haven’t we all known that couple who never fights, and then shocks everyone by splitting up, seemingly out of the blue? But they were the perfect couple! we think. What could have gone wrong?
Chances are, not fighting in the relationship was one of the things that was wrong. Healthy couples fight; they might even fight a lot. Psychologist Ramani Durvasula, Ph.D., author of Should I Stay or Should I Go, tells Glamour that “Fighting means you care about the relationship. When fighting goes away completely, sometimes one or both people have checked out.” Besides, conflict is inevitable in relationships. Being able to navigate it is one of the hallmarks of a strong partnership. But if you and your SO fight all the time, does that automatically mean you have a healthy relationship?
So how do you know if your fights are a sign that you’re in a toxic relationship, or if they just mean you’re really good at calling out and resolving your issues? Is there a magic number of fights you should have per month, in order to maintain a great relationship? Should we all start keeping a spreadsheet to track how often we fight, in addition to how much sex we have and how many times we tell white lies to our partner? Do relationships really have to be so complicated?
It’s not about a number
Just like how often you have sex, how often you fight doesn’t necessarily matter. It’s all about the way you fight – just like it’s the way you make love that matters. One night of really good sex a week (hopefully with more than one kind of orgasm) is better than five quickies that don’t even get you off. And a huge fight that gets to the heart of an important issue and ultimately helps you clear the air and move forward together – but that drags on for weeks and manifests as multiple fights – is better than a one-time, terse agrument that cuts one of you to the core and never gets resolved, but festers like a splinter wedged deep underneath your skin.
Therapist David Klow tells Glamour that no matter how often you and your partner fight, the key is being able to come to a resolution and make up. “Couples who are able to go through conflict into harmony end up having productive fights, which leads to greater intimacy,” he says. Not to mention, they get to have some pretty good make-up sex, as well. And Durvasula stresses that fighting in a relationship isn’t something to be afraid of. “Don’t let arguments scare you. Just pay attention to the quality of them.”
Fights to avoid
Now that we’ve established that fighting – even frequent fighting – can be perfectly healthy in a relationship, here’s a caveat: there are some kinds of fights you should never have with your partner. These are fights that will never turn out well, and will only chip away at your bond. The worst kind of fight? Fighting over text. You can’t see each other’s faces or hear each other’s tone of voice – and that’s never going to end well. So next time you get the urge to fire off a nasty text to your SO, send it to yourself instead. It’ll get it out of your system, and chances are, you’ll look back at it and be relieved you didn’t actually send it.
Other toxic types of fights: fights that happen in public, fights that are little more than screaming at the top of your lungs, and fights that neither of you seem to know the point of. If you don’t know what you’re fighting about, there’s almost certainly an underlying issue that might be best addressed in a couples therapist’s office. And as for fighting in front of other people and yelling – just don’t do it, tempting as it may be. Take a breath and put the fight on hold until you’re in private, and you can manage to speak without screaming.
Fighting the good fight
So there’s no magic number to tell us how often to fight. But when we do fight, how should we do it? Whether you fight once a day, or once a month, having some ground rules can ensure that you’re fighting fair, and that your fights won’t destroy your relationship. The first one should be that the two of you are a team. Lydia Netzer, who wrote a viral blog post about how she’s kept her marriage going strong for fifteen years, puts it this way: “You and your spouse are a team of two. It is you against the world. The team is not adversarial, the team does not tear its members down, the team does not sabotage the team’s success.” Remember – it’s never you against your partner; it’s the two of you against whatever problem you’re having.
And speaking of problems, here’s another thing to keep in mind. Relationship expert Dr. John Gottman, author of The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, says about two-thirds of the problems couples face are unsolvable – but don’t let that get you down. In fact, you could choose to see it as encouraging. “If you can accept that many of your problems aren’t going away, then you can focus on what to do about those issues when they come up,” writes Certified Gottman Therapist Zach Brittle. “Quit trying to solve the problem. It’s wasted energy. Instead, focus on achieving perspective, empathy, and, ultimately, dialogue.”
When you consider that most of your problems are going to be ongoing, it’s not surprising that they might crop up again and again, requiring a lot of “dialogue” that could feel a lot like fighting. But if you face your issues as a team, refrain from name-calling, yelling, angry-texting, and other toxic fighting habits, as well as committing to an effort to recover from every fight in a healthy way, don’t worry about how often you are fighting in a relationship. Instead, focus on how you fight. And while you’re at it, get some fun sex toys for all the make-up sex you’ll be having.
Image via weheartit.com, tumblr.com, gfycat.com, tenor.com.
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