How Much Fighting In A Relationship Is Too Much (And What's Totally Normal)?

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fighting too much
Heartbreak, Love

It's tricky.

A little arguing in a relationship is actually a good sign — much better than zero arguing. Why? An occasional argument just indicates that you’re two separate people with your own perspectives and opinions. So, an argument here and there is not a danger sign. It's actually the sign of healthy individuality.

An exception to that would be if you’re in a new relationship and right off the bat, you argue. Without having a looking glass, you have to figure out: Is this the foreplay to a long relationship of increasing tension, unhappiness, and arguments about almost everything due to a mismatch of core values between you (money, education, kids, socialization, etc)? Or is it an adjustment period of two loving partners getting to know each other early in the relationship?

Zero fighting

Zero fighting needs a closer look. If you’ve been married for decades with ups and downs and now you’re both in the golden years, you know each other very well and understand those triggers and differences. You’ve reached that special place where you love each other despite each other’s idiosyncrasies.

However, if you’re earlier-on in a relationship and you never fight, that could be a red flag. Do you get really frustrated or angry but find yourself stuffing it to appease your partner? At the very least, If you don’t speak up, it could be a prescription for future resentments, unhappiness, or poor health.

Never having an argument could also be a symptom that one or both of you are checked out. It takes too much energy to argue, and it’s not worth the bother. Perhaps you stopped trying a long time ago.

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How do you fight?

Determine what you mean by fighting. Do you mean arguing or screaming, going crazy arguing? Or do you mean bickering and nagging?

Are we talking about a verbal knockdown, drag-out fight where all bets are off and where screaming, name calling, pillow throwing, and mean insults are hurled at each other like a snowball fight? That sounds ugly! Not good.

What if it's more than verbal?

Fighting and arguing can be all three: physically, emotionally, or psychologically violent.

Remember that physical aggression such as pushing, pinching, slapping, kicking, choking, punching, (and throwing pillows), is totally off limits. Some couples claim that it’s all in the name of fun. Really? … I don't think so.

Deep down in your gut when you feel that it’s gone too far, you know it and you feel awful. You wish it had never happened. What you say to each other in the heat of the moment is engraved in concrete and neither of you can take back those ugly words.

You’re miserable and feel really strange, like you’re seeing everything differently. You find yourself wondering how you even got to this place in your marriage. You’re numb with anxiety that nothing will change, while simultaneously looking at yourself in the mirror without recognizing yourself!

What happened?

You look at him and he’s not looking back at you. You both feel too awkward to apologize and discuss it. Even though the silence is peaceful, it’s not, really. You want him to make the first move and reach out to you, but then part of you is almost hoping that he doesn’t talk about it.

What’s there to say, anyway? It’s almost like each of you crossed an imaginary line in the middle of the room. You did! Now you’re afraid, things will be different forever; you feel lost, confused, and scared.

For sure, it feels like déjà vu, the same ole’ same ole’. With each go-around of thoughts, words, and emotions the hurt digs deeper into your heart. It feels surreal like you’re watching your marriage and your life spiral out of control into some unhappy place. You can’t believe it’s your life that you’re looking at!

Just like anything else, it's a habit!

After a while, arguing and fighting becomes a frequent way of connecting with people. Relationships can become like that, too. The arguments are all negative, but at least each of you still has the energy (negative attention) to keep at it.

So, you argue, yell, blame, slam doors and ignore each other. The unfortunate part is that it’s the only way the two of you communicate, so you justify to yourself that it’s better than nothing!

The peace after fighting is not part of a healthy dynamic.

After the fighting, you might feel relieved and relaxed — and maybe subconsciously you enjoy that respite because it’s part of the dynamic between you, right? It’s the buildup of tension, the arguing and fighting and then the post-argument feeling of peacefulness. Or maybe you justify it because you’re basically hooked on the makeup sex.

Whatever you call it, or however you describe it, it’s basically a pattern. Patterns are repetitive and not conducive to growth and evolution within yourself or your relationship! Life is not a rewind, it’s an ongoing process of new discoveries within yourself and within your marriage so that you blossom organically together!

Related: How To Find Hope (And More Sex!) In A Sexless Marriage

Now it's time to get some answers.

So, how do you know if you’re fighting too much?

  • Is arguing the new norm for you? Does it seem like everything’s an argument with one snippy remark leading to another?
  • Do you spend more time trying to navigate the relationship than just being yourself? You’re constantly on guard as to what to say and how to say it.
  • It’s been so long that you’ve lost track as to how much fun you used to have just hanging out with each other.
  • Could it be possible that the two of you’ve grown apart? Was everything great at the beginning?
  • You find yourself living with a spouse who’s almost a stranger. He’s stopped showing up emotionally in the marriage. When you look at him you see how unhappy he is both at home and at work.
  • It’s not just him, you look at yourself and you don’t like how you’ve changed in this relationship. You thought you were handling it, but you realize at what cost?

If it feels like a problem, it is a problem.

Perception is the big puzzle piece.

Communicating with each other requires that you honor each other’s perspective.

Begin by letting him know that you hear his explanation of what doesn’t work for him. This technique can calm high emotions down quickly and is done best when each partner has a chance to speak and the other listens.

Each of you owns a piece of the pie.

You each have to own your behavior in this marriage! You can be the first to own your part in this relationship. Ask him what he needs from you to improve this marriage. Then, he asks you what you need from him to make things better between you two.

Example:

You say: “Let’s talk about our last argument.”

He says: ”I was exhausted and grumpy, and I just knew we were going to fight. Next time, how about I agree to tell you that I’m really tired and then I’ll suggest sometimes when we can talk about it later so that I’m in a better mood? What do you think about that? Is that agreeable to you?”

You reply: “Yes, I’m willing to do that. I had no idea you were tired. I just kept thinking about what I wanted to say to you, over and over and I couldn’t wait for you to walk in the door so we could talk. I’m sorry I jumped all over you.”


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He says: “I’m sorry, too. I’m so tired of all of these fights we’ve been having, it wears me down.”

You reply: “I hear you. I really want to make it better between us. I’m so glad we’re talking about this without arguing.” (smile).

Tip: Schedule an agreed upon time to talk and keep the appointment.

It's time to get real.

This is a huge step, but totally doable!

  • Be honest with yourself!
  • Be honest with your husband!
  • Change your attitude and decide to stop arguing!
  • Then make it a dialogue!

Then, take the first two steps together! If things don’t improve over time, consider seeing a professional marriage counselor. Either way, you will be redirecting your marriage into a healthier, stronger more sustainable love connection!

Margot Brown is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist who has helped couples and individuals create happier lives for over 20 years. She’s the author of Kickstart Your Relationship Now! Move On or Move Out. You can find it on Amazon and in local bookstores near you. You can reach her at her website, KickstartYourRelationship.

This article was originally published at Kickstart Your Relationship Now. Reprinted with permission from the author.

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