Why Some Couples Who Fight Last Forever — While Others Crash And Burn


Fighting doesn't mean it's over!

Every marriage has its fights.

When a couple fights, we tend to think there's something wrong.

But the truth is everyone fights.

Even the most devoted and loving couples argue now and then.

In fact, fighting is actually a good sign! It means that there passion and emotions are involved. If there's no fighting, there's a good chance that both parties have grown disinterested in their spouse.

The difference between a fighting couple that lasts forever and a fight that breaks a couple is not in the fight itself but in how the couple handles the fight as studies have shown.

In our latest Expert video, Senior VP of YourTango Experts Melanie Gorman asked a group of relationship Experts what their best advice is to couples to help them better navigate the arguments in their marriage.

The responses from our team of Experts — Debra DupreeCarolyn MeinJohn Gray, and Hans Stahlschmidt  — offer insight into the why, what and how of fighting in a marriage.

The first step is to understand why couples fight.

This doesn't mean the literal sense of knowing what you're fighting about (although that might be helpful as well).

Instead, understand that there is biology at play when a husband and wife fight. When a man gets angry and argues, his estrogen levels (yes-men have estrogen too!) go up, while his testosterone levels go down — and vise-versa for a woman.

This hormonal imbalance explains, in a nutshell, why we are unlikely to be logical in the heat of the moment.

How does that affect us in our fight?

The truth is it affects everyone differently. There are people who are more emotional and those who are more logical.

Knowing which you are and which your spouse is can make all the difference.

As a rule, however (and yes, there can be some exceptions), men will generally play things closer to the chest and women will need to talk it out.

The second step is to determine how your fighting style affects your happiness

One key indicator for whether a couple will stay together isn't whether or not they fight —​ but how.

John Gottman, PhD, founder of The Gottman Institute, discovered that couples who stayed together fought nicer, stating that they are "kinder, they are more considerate, they soften the way they raise a complaint."

One UCLA study about risk factors for divorce determined that a couple's communication patterns were more predictive of major problems than the actual number of disagreements they had.

And this factor continues to be important throughout the life of a marriage, too, not just in the beginning! 

The study explains that "...even couples who are very successful at navigating the early years of marriage can be vulnerable to later dissolution if their interpersonal exchanges are poorly regulated."

In other words, watch what you say in your marriage  and how you say it — if you want love to last. 

The most important thing you can do is understand your spouse, and how they feel safe while communicating.

If they are someone who cares about results, instead of firing back, talk out practical solutions to whatever is bothering them. And chances are, they might need some time to cool down from their defensive fight or flight response before they will be able to listen and constructively work on a solution. Just don't wait too long.

If your spouse is more of an emotional person, let them talk. Often it's not about the solution but about expressing their emotions and needing to be heard.

And know yourself, too. Talk about the type of communication that helps you feel safe, understood and like your problem has come to a positive conclusion.

Fighting is a normal part of any relationship. But if you know yourself and your partner and know how to best handle it when it happens, you'll not only save your marriage — but grow stronger and closer for it.

If you need help getting through a fight, need a safe place to figure out how best to communicate, or are having troubles in any of your relationships, please visit the websites of our Experts and contact DebraCarolynJohn, and Hans directly. They’re here to help.