Arguments are a healthy part of any relationship. However, most relationship experts are more concerned about couples who don’t argue than those who do. Dr. Mark Borg, a relationship expert and coauthor of Relationship Sanity, says that arguing can be one of the most effective ways to get to know someone in potentially intimate relationships. In many ways, arguing can be the key to intimacy. It is the way to see the other person as they really are. Only by accepting each other’s true selves (which means, at their worst, showing those aspects of us that no one else will accept and tolerate) can we feel fully accepted. Dr. Borg and other relationship specialists see argumentation as an opportunity for you to discover more about yourself as a couple as well as who you are individually.
It is important to remember that conflict is normal and healthy in any relationship, especially romantic. While you can try to understand your partner better and decrease the amount of conflict, it is likely to continue. Dr. Borg explains that there are certain dynamics in a relationship, such as power and intimacy, that are not intended to be resolved and will not be. They are always changing and are a major reason that romantic relationships are so compelling.
Although arguments can indicate dysfunction in a relationship, others can signal that your relationship is healthy and moving forward. It is more common for couples to fight about small, less important issues than those who are fighting over big, complicated ones. If a couple gets into a fight over something small like grocery shopping and it becomes a major argument, it’s not really about the groceries. David Klow, a marriage and family therapist and owner of Skylight Counseling Center, says that it was likely to be about deeper issues in the relationship that were not being addressed. It can be easier to address these dynamics when the fight is not about anything.
As trivial as this may sound, money is a major reason couples fight. However, it can also signal a healthy relationship. Klow says that money can mean many things and can often be loaded with excessive emotion. Klow says that if a couple can find healthy ways of talking about money, even if it involves arguing, it could lead them to a more balanced approach to managing their finances. A trivial argument that couples have is often a sign of a healthy relationship is the division of household labor. For example, who is doing the dishes? Klow says that it is a sign of power dynamics and how the couple plans to manage their lives together. “It’s normal for a couple to argue over who should do the dishes. It is a sign they are trying to figure out how to manage their daily lives together.”
A healthy relationship will also include fighting over professional achievements and goals. Illi Walter is a licensed marriage- and family therapist. “Couple relationships can help you grow,” she says. Your career and professional choices will be no different. You can see your weaknesses and strengths by interacting with your partner over time. She explains that you and your partner likely have different strengths. This means that you can work together to build skills and networks that will help you grow your career and/or your business. If you are fighting because you want to push each other to reach your potential, then conflict can be seen as a growth opportunity for both of you, as individuals, and for the couple as a whole.
Couples can also fight over other people, including family members. This is normal. Klow explains that it is important to establish a boundary between the couple’s families and their children. Klow says that couples who are able to talk about how they want their interactions with each other’s families work well, even when it leads to a disagreement. A couple must also be able to handle disagreements with other family members. These could include past romantic partners, misunderstandings about a coworker, or even fighting with them. Klow says that it is important to talk about how we relate to other people outside the relationship. This helps create safety and security in the relationship, rather than causing jealousy or insecurity.