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Arguments in a relationship: Unhealthy versus healthy disagreements

Updated on July 6, 2011
Such arguments can be the result of the "fear dance" or several other reasons.
Such arguments can be the result of the "fear dance" or several other reasons.

Too much of one thing is good for nothing; the same principle applies to arguments in relationships. It may be natural, exciting and necessary to disagree every once in a while.

However, the nature of that disagreement determines whether it is the type of argument that heals or the type that destroys. The aftermath of such heated discussions are more important in determine the effect.

Arguments that are too frequent and apparently trivial are usually the result of either not knowing how to communicate properly or deep-seated problems in the relationship that create constant friction. The typical heated discussion arises when partners perceive that their buttons are being pushed and allow emotions to fuel the discussion, which easily turns into a battle of wits or worse.

Dr. Gary Smalley, in his book The DNA of Relationships, suggested that unhealthy arguments are defined by what he referred to as a “fear dance.” This occurs when core fears are touched or “hot buttons” are pushed (whether deliberately or inadvertently) in the course of a discussion. This explains why an innocent discussion on a relationship issue can turn into a nasty one if one or both partners don’t realize what is unravelling. Control over yourself and your emotion is critical to avoiding such deleterious discussions.

Arguments can also result from common misunderstanding or various problems with communication. Sometimes it may just be a case of different communication styles or habits. Paying insufficient attention to communication basics is also another issue. Nothing is patently wrong with making assumptions, since they facilitate communication. However, failure to clarify interpretations or assumptions, before responding to them, smacks of arrogance or ignorance.

The DNA of Relationships
The DNA of Relationships

This book seeks to empower couples when they are communicating, so they can pick their arguments carefully and approach them in a positive, constructive way.


Lingering relationship issues or those that are unresolved are also a factor in relationship conflict. I’m sure many persons have a burning issue concerning their relationship or partners, but they just postponed raising it for fear of "rocking the boat."

Such issues are difficult to broach when things are going smoothly, but they can be quickly unloaded in the context of an argument. Yes, that always seems to be a fine time to raise the fact that your partner flirts a lot or is sloppy. However, it leads to a degenerative argument that does not constructively address the underlying issues – the issues behind the issue.

Usually, one partner needs to be the “bigger person” in an argument. That partner should realize when things are going well beyond the desired threshold and be able to rein things in. The way to go about that is not by retaliating. This is what is meant by empowerment. Even if the other person is actively trying to hurt you, recognize it for what it is – retaliation by a disempowered individual. Remember that heated discussions can easily turn volatile and some persons have low ignition points (unfortunately).

When two persons are together for long period, disagreements and conflict are expected. Every so often, even the most calm and serene individual might fly off the handle. After all, we all have our moods and moments. Even so, frequent, destructive arguments are not healthy for relationships. They affect intimacy and the bond between partners.

Dealing with disagreements in a mature manner and controlling emotions can go a long way in reducing the harmful arguments. There might be the odd quibble, but life would be mundane without those, wouldn’t it?


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