Is an Occasional Fight Good for a Relationship?

No one enjoys fighting with loved ones. Fights are when voices rise, tempers flare and people say things that they are later going to regret. Couples especially find conflicts disconcerting since it marks such a contrast to how they are supposed to feel for each other. Even when things have settled down between couples, an ugly fight leaves a bitter aftertaste and they find themselves wondering what is wrong.

However a fight need not always be a bad thing; indeed relationship experts believe that an occasional fight can actually do well to a relationship. The primary way it does this is by acting as a psychological pressure-release valve; an occasional fight helps partners to let off steam which may have been building in the form of disappointments and differences over a long period of time. After all every person has expectations of a partner and when those expectations are not fulfilled, hurt and resentment is the outcome. If couples don’t find a safe way to release this pent-up emotion every now and then, it is quite likely that one day a major fight would blow up in their faces and cause serious damage to the relationship.

Then again almost every person in a relationship has his/her pet peeve about a partner. It may be that a guy cannot bear his girlfriend’s way of leaving the wet towel on the bed or she gets irritated at his habit of smoking in the car. It is better to empty your pail of pet peeves occasionally rather than to let irritations build up to the point that you explode in a violent temper. On those occasions it may seem entirely disproportionate that someone should get so upset about a wet towel or the smell of cigar, but the fact is that all that negativity has been building up for so long that now things have got quite out of control. So instead of losing it one day and putting your relationship in danger, it is far  better to have a little skirmish now and then over what would your partner is doing wrong and would he/she please show a little more consideration.

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On the other hand there are many couples who would say that they have the perfect relationship because they ‘never’ fight. It could be that these couples are in that earlier rosy period of a relationship when they are still getting to know each other and thus on their best behavior. In this stage people tend to bend their expectations to the absolute limit of their tolerances and are more forgiving of the things that may later bother them.

It could also be that couples who claim never to have a fight are actually consciously avoiding them since they are afraid a fight would be seen as evidence that something is seriously wrong with their relationship. According to Greg Godek, author of love: the course they forgot to teach you in school (Sourcebooks, 1997) many couples become distraught over knock-down, drag-out fights that cannot be resolved quickly and neatly—and thus are better sidestepped. Such fights are usually over money or religion that do not offer immediate or pat solutions which is why couples feel it is better to keep the issues at bay.

However apart from the danger of building up the potential for an irrevocable and explosive blow-up, such avoidance tactics mean that you and your partner can never really feel close to each other. Because there are certain basic issues acting as a wall between you two, even the absence of fights can seem symptoms of an arid relationship. On the other hand, an occasional fight may be a healthy sign since it shows that you both care about each other enough to get riled or upset when there are issues to be addressed. After all it is because you want your partner to stay healthy that you want him to quit smoking or because you want your family to get that overdue vacation, that you wish your wife to spend less on shopping for clothes. In a way thus, fighting does assert how much you care for your partner or relationship and want to make things better.



However fighting is like playing with fire – if you and your partner don’t follow the rules, it can damage your relationship. The foremost rule about fighting fair is never ever to use bad language with your partner or to use force like your hand, feet, vessels or mobile phones to show power. Always avoid getting judgmental about your partner’s character if it has nothing to do with the fight. Yet another common mistake that couples make while fighting is to drag up past experiences and events – let bygones be bygones since quoting past incidents will do nothing to bring about a resolution but only complicate things further. Lastly never threaten to walk out of the relationship, even if you don’t really mean it but only intend to use it as a tactic to gain an upper hand in the fight. What you should do is to state your feelings clearly and precisely – instead of accusing your partner of ‘always’ neglecting you, pinpoint his/her action that hurt you yesterday. Always be ready with suggestions of how you both can address the situation or work out an issue that is a source of repeated conflict. When your partner is saying something, allow him/her to finish instead of barging in with your own version. Finally instead of reacting with emotions, try to respond with positive suggestion or ways you can jointly seek a resolution.

No relationship, no matter how committed, is absolutely free of fights. This is because of the simple reason that every relationship includes two separate people and unless they are clones of each other, they are bound to differ on some issue or other. In the end it is not so much whether you fight or not but how you both fight that signals where your relationship is headed.