Today in unsurprising news: couples argue! Today in surprising news? Research shows that couples who fight
as often as once a week tend to have stronger and long-lasting marriages. Once a week sure sounds like a lot of arguing, though.
So how do you differentiate between a healthy argument and a full-fledged dysfunctional fight? Here's what couples in healthy relationships
are doing right when it comes to those inevitable spats.
1. They can compartmentalize the issues.
Healthy couples recognize that the core issue is often less critical than the importance they are according it. Does it really matter who finished the milk and placed the empty carton back in the refrigerator? Couples who sense that they're getting angry for an insignificant reason know when to take a break from the fight. Instead of arguing over something trivial, they know that saying, “This is getting out of hand. Let’s discuss this later” will help avoid turning it into something bigger.
2. They take a break.
Sometimes it’s better to take time off and cool down. Healthy couples use this time to assess whether it’s really worth it to ruin an afternoon fighting about the remote or about what to do over the weekend. However, they don’t just walk away or shut down (this means no silent treatment!). They communicate that they need to take a step back, and then they take a break to think about the actual issue so they can calmly discuss it when the time is right.
3. They communicate the core issues—respectfully.
Once both parties have calmed down, they zero in on the actual issue
. Is it really as bad as it seems? Is the anger stemming from the issue at hand, or from other pent-up unresolved issues? In which case, they know to first deal with the current issue and then calmly explain what else is causing hurt feelings. Healthy couples know that talking gets the point across much more effectively than yelling, crying or being cold. They also avoid accusatory statements, using "I" statements instead. Saying "You always" or "you never" places too much blame on the other person—it's way more helpful to say, "I
feel like you don't always" etc. It's best to be completely honest in the least hurtful and most constructive way. And to listen to what the other person is saying.
4. They assert themselves without attacking.
Couples who have learned how to argue well know that standing up for themselves doesn’t require being up in arms against one another. It's possible to be assertive without attacking or turning the argument into something bigger. They recognize that being on the same side
is more important than winning the fight, being right or driving home the point. When the main objective is to resolve the fight and not hurt the person they love, they know that being nasty will only prolong the arguing or cause an even bigger blow-out.
5. They readily admit when they're wrong.
It’s as simple as this: When one person has no problem telling the other what they did wrong, then they definitely shouldn’t have a problem accepting their fault in the argument. There’s always a huge tendency to get defensive at each stage in the argument, but healthy couples have learned how to sincerely apologize for mistakes or oversights (Not "I'm sorry you feel that way" but rather, "I'm sorry I said that to you") so they're able to move on.
6. They make up!
Nothing heals like togetherness, kindness and generosity after a bad fight. Once the discussing and apologizing has happened, strong couples go out of their way to do something special for the other person. It could be watching her favorite movie, going to the game with him, cooking his favorite meal or giving her a massage. Every little thing counts—and adds up to an even stronger bond in the end.