Unless you’re the kind of person who deliberately bumps into others on the sidewalk just so you can start an argument with them (and if you are, please know that I despise you), you probably don’t like arguing.
Most of us aren’t wired to seek out confrontation; in fact, we’re far more likely to avoid it. In most cases, that’s a good thing. But when it comes to relationships, avoiding an argument isn’t always the way to go.
If you’re part of a couple that argues all the time, you probably don’t have a healthy relationship. However, your relationship isn’t necessarily healthier if you’re part of a couple that never argues. Here’s why arguing can be good for a relationship.
You’re Acknowledging a Problem (And Working to Fix It)
As tempting as it is to pretend that we’re living in a storybook romance where it’s sunny every day and puppies fart rainbows with an adorable little toot!, that’s hardly ever the case. (But if you’ve got a line on a puppy like that, let me know.)
Sometimes, when we get irritated, we try to sweep our annoyance under the rug. We tell ourselves it’s because it’s “not worth” bringing up, but that’s not the real reason we do it. We do it because we want to maintain the fantasy that we’re in the perfect relationship.
But perfect relationships aren’t born – they’re made. And it takes a lot of hard work to get there.
Too often, we avoid confrontation because we view it as a sign that something is wrong, but that’s the wrong approach. Instead, try looking at it as an opportunity to fix something before it morphs into a larger issue. I know that sounds new-agey and kind of dumb, but there’s truth to it.
Put it this way: if your car starts making a terrible sound and rattling on the highway, do you keep driving and pretend everything’s fine? Of course not – you try to figure out the problem so you can correct it. The same goes for relationships.
You’re Expressing Yourself
A lot of relationship fights occur when one or both partners feel they’re not being heard. When we feel that way, we start to feel that not only does our partner not know how we feel about something, but that they don’t care.
This, of course, is unreasonable: how can you expect someone to care about something if you can’t even be sure that they’re aware of it in the first place?
The funny thing is, we don’t have the same approach when it comes to positive feedback – it’s only when it’s negative that we suddenly become gun-shy. But arguing gives you a chance to express how you’re feeling about something, and it gives your partner an opportunity to understand your perspective.
Telling your partner you love them is an expression of a positive feeling; a lot of people think that positive feeling is what strengthens their connection to their partner. But it’s not the positive aspect that strengthens the connection – it’s the act of expressing yourself that does it.
You’ll Stop Being Annoyed So Often
Couples that argue a healthy amount – and do so respectfully and calmly – also don’t have to deal with feelings of vague annoyance whenever they’re around their partner.
An argument brings things to a boil, but it also lets things simmer down a lot more quickly. It’s like heating water in an electric kettle: it comes to a boil quickly, but the boil also stops pretty quickly. When you avoid arguing, though, that water isn’t cool and calm; instead, it just simmers.
When you decline the opportunity to speak up about something that’s important to you, you don’t just suddenly stop caring about that thing. Instead, every other little thing your partner does can start to piss you off, even if you normally wouldn’t even notice those behaviors on their own.
Why? Because in your mind, you’re still frustrated about the larger problem, only you’re not doing anything to address it. Having the argument might make your emotions come to a boil, but you’ll feel a lot better about things once it’s over.
You’ll Stop Arguing About Insignificant Things
There’s a difference between healthy confrontation and unhealthy confrontation.
Healthy arguments are respectful and mostly calm. Unhealthy arguments – the kinds that pop up because you didn’t speak up for yourself when you first got annoyed – are not. That’s the thing: not all arguments are created equal. Arguing with your partner about something big (a career decision, a specific pattern of behavior, et cetera) is a good and healthy part of a relationship.
On the other hand, arguments that are mean, overly emotional, and often about insignificant things that don’t really matter aren’t healthy ones. More than likely, they’re signs of a deeper problem in the relationship that you don’t know how to address.
Healthy arguments wipe the slate clean: you’ve brought up the thing that’s bothering you, you’ve discussed it with your partner, and you’ve gotten it off your chest. Once you do that, you feel a lot better, which means you won’t feel compelled to nitpick every little thing your partner does that you don’t like.
You’ll Be A Better Partner (And Person)
Communication is the foundation of a healthy relationship.
Arguing with your partner doesn’t mean that your relationship is in trouble or that it’s a sign of things to come; in fact, it’s the opposite. Arguments can help you and your partner become more aware of the things that bother each other, which makes it easier for both of you to avoid those behaviors in the future.
Not shying away from confrontation can not only make you a better partner, it can make you a better person. Knowing how to argue is a skill: it requires empathy, patience, and consideration of someone else’s perspective. And even if the relationship doesn’t last, those characteristics are the kind that will serve you well in all your relationships – not just your romantic ones.