Arguing with your partner can leave you feeling hopeless. They’re your support system, your cuddle buddy and the person you vent and tell all your secrets to. But here you are, on totally different pages.
Not seeing eye-to-eye with your partner can be difficult to navigate, but it’s also totally normal. Couples who find themselves in this position frequently, however, may ask how much arguing is too much?
It can be difficult to see things clearly when you’re in the relationship and the argument.
You’re so emotionally invested in the person that you may wonder if this is the time to walk away. Maybe we’re just not a good fit? Will we ever get past this? Do I have unrealistic expectations? Are we drifting apart?
So how do you know when fighting is healthy in your relationship?
“No matter what you’re fighting about: money, sex… or something else, the fighting is an indication that your communication isn’t working,” said Tina B. Tessina, psychotherapist and author of “How to Be Happy Partners: Working It Out Together.”
“If this happens only occasionally, such as when one or both of you are tired or stressed, it’s not too big a problem. However, if you argue or bicker on a daily or weekly basis, or you keep fighting about the same thing over and over, then… you don’t know how to move from a problem to the solution.”
The key here? Fully understanding one another’s point of view. That’s the only way you can begin to solve the problem.
Even if you never fully agree with each other, you need to understand where the other person is coming from. From there, you can calmly discuss clear, effective resolutions that address what you want and do not want. Note: You might have to compromise here.
“A great way is to consistently remind one another that it is ‘us against the problem,’ not ‘me versus you,'” premarital counselor Rachel Lamson said.
When you hear other couples talk about how they rarely get into arguments, you might think, “Is there something my partner and I are doing wrong? Does this mean we’re not as right for each other as they are?”
You can sigh a breath of relief here: It turns out there is no “normal” amount of fighting.
“As long as both people involved in the relationship are comfortable with the amount of arguing, then they’re solid,” Lamson said. “If one or both of them feel there is a problem, either too much or too little arguing, then it should be addressed.”
If you’re starting to argue more, or if the disagreements are getting a little more heated than normal, there’s probably a bigger issue at hand. It might be time to try couples counseling, which can help you get to the real root of the issue.
For couples who want to try cutting down on their fighting without stepping into a therapist’s office, attempt to put your emotions aside and truly understand things from your partner’s perspective.
As you discuss an issue with your partner, make sure to use “I” statements and be an active listener so you understand where your partner is coming from.
“Empathy goes a long way here as well,” McBain said.
While not agreeing with each other on every single thing is acceptable and normal, heated, aggressive discussions with yelling, swearing or attack words are not.
“Fighting is not necessary to ‘clear the air,’” Tessina said. “Getting heated up does not make you tell truths you wouldn’t tell otherwise.
“What happens when couples fight and get emotional is that both parties say things they don’t mean, or say them in much nastier ways than is really true. It is possible to discuss anything that is or is not happening between you in a calm and logical manner.”
Angry, emotion-fueled yelling is the least effective way to get to a place where you’re eye-to-eye.
This kind of fighting can easily slip into toxic or emotionally abusive behavior, all without ever laying a hand on your partner. Some people grew up with their parents fighting like this, making it a learned behavior. But it’s not genetic or inherited — you can overcome it for the benefit of your relationship, Tessina said.
If you feel your frustration beginning to boil, it’s time for you to take a break and check yourself. After all, you’re the only one who can control your behavior.
If you’re worried you’re about to explode, leave the room or situation, go for a walk, focus on your breathing, journal or seek therapy, Texas-based therapist Heidi McBain said.
On the other hand, if you think your partner is emotionally or physically abusive, seek the support of others and leave the relationship, or call a domestic abuse hotline for help.
Kathleen Wong is a Honolulu-based writer with bylines in The Cut, Broadly, Mic, Mashable and more.