Unhealthy: Some couples who never fight will simply hide their differing opinions and emotions, creating a situation that leads to distance and frosty disengagement. The partners, feeling alienated, sadly drift apart.
Healthy: Some couples who don’t typically fight have learned how to actively listen and to express their opinions and disagreements without expressing contempt for the other person. This seems ideal, but is difficult to live up to when emotions run high.
Unhealthy: Some people who argue and fight do not listen to each other. They attack and defend. As a result, mutual negativity and contempt for each other grow until the relationship is nothing more than a bitter struggle.
Healthy: Some couples who have disagreements and lose their temper care deeply for each other and desire to put right any harm done.
Attempts to Repair
What’s more important than avoiding conflict is the earnest attempt to repair hurt feelings after a disagreement—and the sooner the better. Loving couples have empathy for each other, and will therefore, hasten to apologize for harsh words or losing their temper.
Having fights is not necessarily harmful to a relationship as long as there is not abuse or a pattern of criticism and contempt. Getting past the hurt feelings caused by arguments occurs best when each person’s overriding concern is for the well-being of the other and the relationship, which rests on the well-being of both partners.
More important than whether a couple fights is how often and quickly they try to repair their relationship after disagreements. Phyllis Diller might have been right when she said, “Never go to bed mad. Stay up and fight.” Some fighting, unless it’s constant or cruel, can be fine as long as couples strive to make peace soon afterwards.
Honest disagreement is often a good sign of progress.
by Alison Poulsen, PhD