If you tiptoe around issues or stuff your feelings down to avoid an argument with your spouse, you’ll want to read this. Couples who fight often love each other more, according to experts. Find out why! Then, check out a few tips for keeping the fight healthy and civilized.
Studies Say Couples Who Fight Often Love Each Other More
You’d think that frequent fighting is a sign of incompatibility, not deep and true love, right? However, numerous studies show just the opposite. Couples who fight in a civilized way tend to have more loving and long-lasting relationships than those who never argue at all.
A few years ago, the internet was all abuzz about one particular survey that showed that 44% of married couples believed that regular fights (more than once a week) kept their relationship healthy. Of course, one survey is hardly proof of anything.
So, let’s see what other experts had to say about fighting couples. Then we’ll talk more about that “civilized way” comment and how to keep a fight from crossing over into “there’s no coming back from that” territory.
Couples who argue are more invested in the relationship
A 2010 University of Michigan study found that “conflict patterns” predict divorce. In other words, the way you fight determines how long you’ll stay together. While newlyweds who yelled or called each other names tended to have fairly high divorce rates, another interesting pattern emerged. Relationships in which one couple tried to discuss an issue in a civilized way and the other totally retreated had higher divorce rates overall.
Let’s pretend that you’re the one who retreats. While you may think that you’re giving yourself a chance to cool down, your partner thinks it means you’re not as invested in the relationship. When one person feels like they’re putting more into the marriage than the other, it can lead to resentment.
Fighting shows that you’re in a real, mature relationship
Steven Stosny, Ph.D. writes on Psychology Today that fighting is a sign of a more mature relationship. He talks about how we fall in love in the “toddler brain,” which is responsible for things like emotions and impulse control. Think of it as the “love at first sight” part of the brain.
While love at first sight and “I just met you, and this is crazy…” is the driving force behind pretty much every RomCom and romance novel, it only lasts if it moves beyond that impulsive toddler brain and grows into something more real. Part of that is acknowledging that you don’t always agree on everything and learning how to respectfully argue.
Airing your marital grievances keeps your heart and back healthier
Here’s an interesting one! Turns out that getting things out in the open in your marriage can actually protect your heart AND your back, according to a 2016 University of California study. The heart part makes sense. Rage and stress can wreak all sorts of havoc on your poor cardiac system. The big shocker is how shutting down or “stonewalling” during arguments can lead to a bad back.
“Conflict happens in every marriage, but people deal with it in different ways. Some of us explode with anger; some of us shut down,” lead researcher Claudia Haase said. “Our study shows that these different emotional behaviors can predict the development of different health problems in the long run.”
The solution? Civil fights. Don’t rage against your partner, but don’t hold all of your emotions in, either.
A good fight may even help you live longer
If all of the above isn’t enough to convince you to let your feelings flow, maybe this will. A 2008 University of Michigan study shows that couples who fight don’t just have healthier relationships; they may actually live longer!
According to researchers, “Couples in which both the husband and wife suppress their anger when one attacks the other die earlier than members of couples where one or both partners express their anger and resolve the conflict.” So, not only will your marriage be healthier, but you’ll be around a lot longer to enjoy it.
Let’s recap the benefits for couples in love who fight often
Let’s quickly recap the benefits of arguing in a relationship, especially for those of you who basically just skimmed all of the above and want to know the bottom line.
Couples who fight often (in a civil way, of course):
- Are better at communicating with each other
- Are more passionate about each other
- Stay together longer
- Have more respect for each other
- Tend to be in a more mature relationship
- Are healthier and may even live longer
How to fight with your partner the right way
As you’ve noticed throughout all of this, we’ve talked about “civil” and “respectful” fights. Let’s discuss what that means and how to keep your arguments from turning into something ugly and harmful.
No violence or name-calling!
First things first. Never, ever, ever, ever, ever (times a million) result to violence when fighting. That goes for both men and women. Contrary to popular belief, women can be the aggressors, too. Sadly, society brushes it off as “cute” or “funny” when they see a woman pummeling her spouse in a fit of anger. It’s neither. It’s abuse and assault, plain and simple. Emotional abuse is just as bad as violent physical abuse, too so don’t resort to name-calling either.
Focus on what you can solve first
A 2019 University of Tennessee study shows that couples who fight often and still love each other focus on what they can fix first. “If couples feel that they can work together to resolve their issues, it may give them the confidence to move on to tackling the more difficult issues,” says Rauer, one of the lead researchers.
Start with the things that have quick and easy resolutions. This shows you that you can work together and respect each other, which makes it easier to tackle the big stuff. In other words, don’t just let the little things go, use them as a learning experience.
Money, for example, is often the root of relationship fighting for many couples. Maybe you think he spends too much on, say, Star Wars collectibles while he thinks your “latte a day” coffee habit costs a lot more in the long run. Agree that each person gets X amount of dollars a month for their splurges.
While that won’t solve all of your money arguments, it will at least fix one of them AND show that you really can work together to figure things out in a mature way.
Listen without interrupting
A good chunk of civilly fighting in a relationship is knowing when to stay silent. When a couple argues over each other, neither side feels heard because neither side is actually being heard. Each of you should have a fair chance to state your case without interruption. Listen to each other, then respond.
I know it’s hard sometimes. When someone says something that we object to, it’s difficult to keep our mouths shut. It’s in our nature to want to correct them immediately. You’ll have your turn, though. By actively listening, you’re showing that you respect and value each other’s feelings. Which brings us to…
Respect and value each other’s feelings
Sure, actively listening goes a long way towards showing respect, but you actually have to feel respectful and truly value each other’s feelings. Remember, you love this person! Before you speak, consider two things. First, how would you feel if your partner said this to you? Second, how would you feel if someone else said this to your partner?
Try holding hands
Here’s a surprising little trick that does wonders- hold hands! Experts say that couples who fight often while holding hands tend to have less intense fights. The simple act of physically (and lovingly) touching each other reminds your brain that you’re not in danger from your partner. That, in turn, soothes your “fight or flight” response.
Avoid “absolutes” in your argument
Absolutes are words like “always” and “never.” For example, “You always leave the gas tank on empty!” or “You never do anything romantic for me!” First, these statements are rarely true. If he filled the tank or brought you flowers even just one time, they’re totally false statements. Second, since they’re rarely true, they make the other person feel like you don’t even notice the things they do right (in your eyes, at least).
Let it go and move on
Once you’ve resolved a fight, do like Elsa says and let it go. Don’t bring it up in subsequent fights or resurrect it the next day because you thought of something else to say. Leave it in the past, where it belongs.
Long story short, couples who fight often love each other more as long as it’s done respectfully. Remember, your goal is to hear each other and resolve a problem, not hurt each other and get the last word in. In other words, fight fair.