Why Even Couples In Happy, Healthy Relationships Argue (And How They Do It The Right Way)

Photo: reshot / Bato Budaev
How To Have A Healthy Relationship By Practicing Effective Communication Skills During Arguments
Love

No matter how happy you are as a couple, there will be days when arguments, disagreements, and fights happen. Anger can overtake sense, and even your otherwise healthy relationship will hit some snags.

Relationship problems are normal — but learning effective communication skills and how to argue smart instead of just arguing can help keep your connection with your partner happy and whole.

RELATED: 3 'Love Language' Communication Skills That Will Make Your Relationship Last

Why do happy couples fight?

It's true. Happy couples really do fight sometimes.

All couples (even happy ones) get triggered, feel threatened, wake up in bad moods, and have strong opposing opinions at times. And these are the sorts of things that lead people to argue and fight.

Occasionally, happy couples even act like bratty kids, slam cupboard doors, stomp away in a huff, roll their eyes, yell, and go to bed mad. So don’t freak out if that happens in your house once in a while.

Being happily married doesn’t mean that spouses never act out or have those momentary meltdowns.

Thankfully, it’s possible to be happily married and imperfect! That should give us all a bit of hope.

It turns out that fighting is part of our evolutionary wiring. Fighting is natural.

Dr. Stan Tatkin explains that the human brain is built more for war than for love. Because of this, he encourages couples to not avoid conflicts or arguments. Instead of repressing the desire to argue, Dr. Tatkin says that couples need to learn to “fight well.”

Fighting well, or "fighting smart" is what differentiates how happy couples fight versus how unhappy couples fight.

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Here are some of the core elements of fighting well:

  • Understand that you and your partner have different brains and they’re wired for war
  • Learn to read your partner by focusing on his/her facial and body cues
  • If you see or hear that your partner is upset, lead with relief or respond with an act of friendliness
  • Argue when you’re eye-to-eye and face-to-face
  • Never fight over the phone, via text, or in the car
  • Remember your goal is to end the fight with a win-win

Another element of fighting well has to do with the proportion of positivity to negativity during conflicts. Dr. John Gottman’s research shows that in stable and happy marriages, there is a 5:1 ratio of positivity to negativity during conflict. In contrast, unstable marriages have an 8:1 ratio.

Dr. Gottman explains that positivity during an argument or fight includes:

  • Softening the start-up of a conversation that’s likely to cause conflict
  • Interjecting humor
  • Soothing yourself and your partner
  • Delivering and accepting attempts at repair
  • Compromising on the issue you’re fighting about
  • Addressing emotional injury that occurred during the fight

Now we know the answer to the question: If they’re so happy, why do happy couples fight? Basically, it’s that fights come about naturally in all intimate relationships.

The goal isn’t to never fight, but to learn how to fight well. Done well, fights can lead to greater understanding and intimacy.

RELATED: 8 Ways The Happiest Couples Communicate With Each Other

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Dr. Lynda Spann is a relationship therapist and coach. For more information, visit her website.

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This article was originally published at Lynda Spann. Reprinted with permission from the author.