There are right ways and wrong ways to fight.
Often people worry that if they are fighting in their relationship that that means they do not belong together. But the truth is that fighting can actually help your relationship become healthier – if you do it right. Arguments, especially in the beginning of your relationship, help to define where the lines are. However, it is important to know what you are fighting about, to be clear about what is upsetting you, and to say what you really mean. Sometimes this is easier said than done.
Every relationship establishes boundaries at some point.
Fighting in the form of disagreements, arguing, bickering, and even an all out yelling match can help to define these boundaries when you are just getting to know someone. When you are dating or even when you have been with someone for years, you have to be able to say what you like and what you don’t like. It has to be ok to say, “Hey, you are about to cross a line, you better be careful.” One of the benefits of being close to another person is that we don’t always need to say everything with perfect composure. When you share what’s upsetting you with your partner you are checking in to see if the other person cares about what you care about. I recently overheard a couple bickering about what bar they were going to go to. I could tell that what the woman was really asking him, with her irritation, was: “Do you care?”
Fighting can help you feel heard.
Fighting can be useful but only if it is productive. If you are the kind of fighter that likes to scream obscenities and use fowl language, be sure to include what you are really mad about. Some relationships fall apart simply because one of the participants never says why they are angry. This happens either because they don’t feel safe to talk about it or they were taught that their needs and feelings were not going to be heard. Then the tension just builds and builds into an explosion of emotion. One way to avoid many fights is to talk about what upsets you earlier. The more you hold things in, the heavier they will become. If you are not good at saying what is bothering you, practice with small things first or get support from your local San Diego couples therapist.
Finally, sometimes we don’t really want to fight at all.
Sometimes, we don’t know how to ask for what we really need, so we result to fighting as an attempt at feeling connection with our partner. Someone once shared with me that she would come home from a long hard day at work and start a fight with her partner. She was not sure what was happening. I knew what she really needed was to be held and made to feel better. However, this was not something that she was used to getting growing up. Argument and conflict was the only way that she learned how to connect with her loved ones, so she brought that into her romantic life. If there is one powerful way to completely avoid squabbles, it is to step back and ask yourself what you really need in this situation and then ask for it in a calm and clear way.
Closeness at the levels of a romantic relationship can be pretty challenging at certain points. Perfect harmony and bliss is not going to be possible all the time. But if you get it all out there and tell your partner when they are stepping on your toes, it will help. Make sure to say what is really happening for you. And if what you really need is a hug or a foot rub then practice asking for it. In the end being open and real -even if it is heated, will bring you closer to your partner.
– Jessica Barnes, AMFT
About Jennine Estes, MFT
Think of me as your relationship consultant, I'm your neutral third party that can help you untangle the emotions and help you figure out what's really going on. I am a Marriage and Family Therapist in San Diego, CA. Certified in Emotionally Focused Therapy for Couples. Supervisor. I write relationship and self growth advice for my column Relationships in the Raw. Creator of #BeingLOVEDIs campaign. MFC#47653