Do you remember the first real fight you had with a significant other? I do. It was in high school, and naturally, it was about something so completely inane that I can’t recall the subject matter. What I do remember is how upset I was, how I thought this was indicative that we weren’t compatible and destined to break up (no, I don’t tend at all toward dramatics ;)). A lot of us grow up believing that disagreements in romantic partnerships are unhealthy. For example, parents will often wait until their children are fast asleep before initiating a shouting match, doing all they can to maintain an image of marital contentedness.
It’s no wonder that, as adults, we tend to shrink away from any intimation of an argument brewing. We then employ a bunch of coping mechanisms to avoid it, including: defensiveness, reticence, playing a martyr, or simply not voicing your feelings at all (which always, always backfires).
But really, there’s no need to avoid a little conflict, so long as your conversations are civil and considerate. Here’s why I think disagreements are a good thing:
1. Disagreements test the strength and durability of a relationship.
If you want a true predictor of whether or not a relationship will last, get into a fight. I’ve dated guys who checked out the minute things became the least bit divisive, which, in retrospect, should have been a sign that they weren’t really ready to commit. By contrast, my current relationship has been through a lot–recovering from an eating disorder, both of us quitting our jobs, etc.–and our relationship feels stronger than ever. Be with someone who isn’t afraid of tumult; it’s a natural part of any relationship.
2. Disagreements with our partners can help prepare us for disagreements in the “real world.”
Of course, there’s nothing fictional about a relationship. What I mean when I say “real world” is that, by their nature, relationships allow us to finesse our argumentation skills each time we get into a heated debate. Even if you’re quibbling about something insignificant like taking out the trash bin when it’s full (ahem), you can try out different tactics and compromises that you can utilize at work, with your annoying Internet provider, etc.
3. Making up is fun.
One of the best parts about arguing with a partner is the reconciling period that follows. Yes, the make up sex is great, but there are even more benefits after the dust settles. There’s something about being vulnerable with your thoughts and emotions that can bring you that much closer to a significant other. At a very basic level, you and your partner accept and love each other despite the occasional (or frequent) misunderstandings or upsets. That’s pretty special.
4. Arguments add dimensions to a relationship.
Do you know any two people who are perfectly happy together all the time? Of course not. Some couples fight more than others, sure, but no partnership is without it’s share of upsets. Rather than cringe at the thought of not seeing eye to eye with a boyfriend or girlfriend, try to think of these times as adding some texture to your relationship. As you continue dating, you’ll learn about each other’s idiosyncrasies and what buttons to avoid pushing; if done the right way, this will not only add color to your relationship, and maybe a little fun along the way 🙂
Do you think that arguing with a significant other is helpful or hurtful to the relationship?
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Photo: mbtrama via Flickr