If You're Not Fighting, You're Not Doing It Right
What We're Supposed to Think
The idea of arguing with your significant other most likely makes people cringe. The very acts of screaming, cursing, and throwing things possess enough violence to convince most that simply biting your tongue and suffering through a difference in opinion with your partner is the most ideal choice. The majority of people in relationships and marriages seem to believe that the more complacent the relationship, the happier the participants.
This is pretty much the silliest thing I've ever heard.
Society would like us to think that the modern day relationship consists of two people who are very cooperative and respectful towards one another at all times. Fights and arguments aren't normal, society says, as it repeatedly jams these perfect notions down our throats in every way it can.
This is one reason why some of us that sinking feeling whenever we watch romantic movies that feature "perfect" relationships. We sit and think to ourselves, "Is that really how it's supposed to be?" while Allie and Noah from "The Notebook" slap the crap out of each other and then make out approximately five and a half seconds later.
The answer to your question is no, that is absolutely not how it's supposed to be. If your relationship is so great that the tiffs between you and your partner last for a mere five seconds before leading into a heavy petting session, then you're probably not in the right place. (But you're welcome to stay and read awhile all the same).
What Is Love?
Love is so many things to so many people. From all of the world, in both ancient and modern cultures alike, love has been the most prevalent concept of human emotion to ever be translated across thousands of languages, from the most primitive of cave paintings to the most elite of college psychology textbooks.
Love is simply what we are, and what drives us.
When we're children, we develop an idea about what love is and what it will be in the future. Our parents influence this notion as well; their interactions, their arguments, their signs of affections towards one another will one day shape how we ourselves behave in a romantic relationship.
As we progress through life, that same idea of love will evolve. The opposite of our parents' behaviors might seem more attractive: boys who probably shouldn't be brought home to visit Mom, or girls who possess different ideals than what we're used to. The environment shapes what we find attractive, and this is especially true during the tumultuous times of adolescence.
By the time we make it to adulthood, our concept of love is so different from its original form that it's probably unrecognizable. Now, we value things such as kindness and motivation. Security and safety are crucial talking points. The desire to create and foster a family might top the list.
Just as we've evolved over time from our childhood selves into full-fledged adults, our future partners have also undergone this transformation based on his or her own experiences. We seek out people who compliment who we are as individuals. Love revolves around finding someone who provides the last few pieces to your one-thousand pieced puzzle, that vast masterpiece of the journey on a path that has delivered you safely into the hands of the one who loves you too.
Why Do We Fight?
We understand love now as an emotional component as opposed to a chemical one. Yes, there is a biological background to "falling in love" and "falling out of love". Our bodies respond biochemically in the form of neurotransmitters to an escalated argument or confrontation, or to the intoxication we feel when we interact with our partners. But to most of us, the chemical means behind the concept of love is lost in translation more often than not.
Irregular fighting with your significant other is okay; it really is. I promise. Considering that a relationship consists of two different people who come from two different walks of life, arguing is sometimes even completely necessary. Because whereas "love" and all of its components can be described as being chemical in nature, our fighting typically stems from our emotions and the fact that we feel as if they're being trampled on. Fighting- in this sense- is synonymous with feeling.
Arguments within a relationship usually originate from a different in values; one of us wants a baby, a job change, or an unexpected lifestyle change that our partner does not approve of. Our values change over the course of our lives, and sometimes our significant others struggle with those changes. If our core values change significantly enough, our partner might lose sense of what caused them to love us in the first place.
This all sounds very catastrophic and permanent, but it isn't. As human beings, we are wondrous works in progress. We change and fluctuate and learn as we live our lives, and no one person experiences something in the exact same way as another. This too leads to disagreements.
The important thing to remember is that contrary to popular societal beliefs, relationships are based on shifting ground. The foundation of our relationship is not solid. As we change, our relationships change. As our partners change, we change to accommodate their change.
A little confusing, yes. But this explains why we argue with the ones we love from time to time. We fight because it's natural; we argue because we still care.
Fighting = Communication
Sometimes we fight with our partners as a way to communicate our feelings as opposed to attempting to learn more about the person we're with.
When we're frustrated, tired, or sick, our ability to tolerate things that we can normally handle decreases significantly. Sometimes the slightest things might blow you over the edge, causing you to lash out at someone around you for no reason.
In the case that arguing is fulfilling a need to communicate, there are better ways. This is something that I have learned gradually over the years of being involved in two long-term relationships (one temporary, one current). As human beings, we possess the ability to complicate what we mean as it is communicated to other people. We certainly know what we're attempting to say, but oftentimes the people around us cannot decipher our needs or wants.
Fighting solves the communication deficit easily, but only temporarily. We lose our inhibitions during battles with our insignificant others, throwing out words and catch phrases that we would normally blush at. It's very freeing to call your partner the nastiest name in the book and then watch them outwardly cringe. It's freeing to do so because we wouldn't normally do it.
Whereas the occasional argument sometimes does a relationship good, constant squabbling on account of not being able to communicate appropriately will eventually sink that same relationship. It is more effective to simply sit down with your partner before your issues become a mountain and discuss them through one by one.
Tips for Better Communication
At this point, we just need to accept that sometimes, we fight with our partner and there's just no avoiding it. But for those times when a confrontation isn't necessary, here are some tips that have been trial-tested an infinite number of times within my own four-year relationship.
- Never name-call. Name-calling during an argument makes you seem childish and incapable of behaving in a civil manner. Calling someone a nasty name is also very hurtful; imagine how it would feel if the person you loved called you something horrible during a particularly fiery part of the fight? It would feel terrible and it would most likely be something that you'd hold onto for a while, so put yourself in his or her shoes and just don't do it.
- Take the high road. Some people like to fight and argue just to do it. Don't be like those people. If there is any indication that you can remain calm while your partner raves at you like a lunatic, take the high road and do just that. Your partner will wear him- or herself out after several minutes of screaming the skin off of your face, and your calm will perpetuate calm on their behalf. Fight fire with serenity and don't engage if it can be helped.
- And if it can't be helped, don't act out physically. You will regret this one, I promise. Never hit, kick, bite, tear out hair, or do anything else that could harm your partner. This is the lowest that you can possibly go. If you resort to physical violence during an argument, not only have you thrown out your ability to act like a person, but you also belong in jail.
- Choose a neutral setting. There are some places in your home where you feel more comfortable, such as your office or bedroom. Try not to fight in these locations. Arguing in a place that gives you comfort will only ignite the flames. I can tell you that there is a significant difference between an argument that occurs in our bedroom (where I am Queen) as opposed to the living room (where we can sit down and talk like grown-ups). I am also very cognizant that there are neighbors next door, and I don't want to scream my business through the walls. Choose to speak to your partner in a place where you can both relate comfortably, neutrally, and privately.
- Don't bring up the past. Another really great way to lose all credibility is by dredging up something that occurred in the past. Distant arguments, slights, whatever it is is best left in the past when actually happened. Grudges from sometime long ago don't work during a very current argument; in fact, bringing up the past shifts the focus from your present issues to ones that you might have experienced in the past. Prevent this shift and forget the past.
- Walk away. I, for one, am hell on legs when I'm fired up over something that my significant other did. I've recently started taking a break in the middle of the confrontation, leaving the house for a few hours to return and finish the discussion calmly. I utilized this technique over the past weekend; I grabbed my things, told my boyfriend that I would be back, and left the house for two hours. And even though we were arguing when I left, on my way back home I passed him driving. He later told me that he was on his way to come and find me because he missed me.
- Leave things where they lie. After the argument is over, drop it. Let it go and continue to enjoy the fact that you're lucky enough to have someone to love in this life.
- And always, ALWAYS, try to make it work. Don't crap out on your partner because you're arguing a lot. More arguments mean less communication. Take your guy or gal out on a date where you can calmly discuss the things that have been going on. Always try to make your relationship or marriage work; call in a professional if you feel as though it's needed. I promise that it'll be worth it.
A Parting Note
Love is really hard sometimes. Really, really hard. It requires work and maintenance just like your average houseplant. Without love and attention, it wilts in the very window it used to bloom in.
And sometimes it hurts to argue with your loved one and sometimes you feel like it's not even really worth it anymore anyway. Learn from your disagreements and work on what lies at their roots. Argue fairly but infrequently.
Too many people give up on each other these days. I urge you to take a step back and reevaluate your relationship when it's needed, and communicate openly with your partner about something every day. Your relationship or marriage is worth the extra time and work; treasure it always.
And remember, the occasional argument is okay. But only as long as you resolve to grow from it together.
- Council For Relationships - Individual, Couples and Family Therapy and Education
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