Arguments are a natural and important part of all intimate relationships! You can avoid or ignore conflict, but it’ll still be there…..waiting to be addressed. Because conflict is built into all human relationships it doesn’t necessarily mean anything is going wrong or that arguing with your partner is bad—conflict is actually a vehicle that can drive our relationships to deeper levels of understanding and connection! Here are three reasons why conflict and the arguments that follow CAN be beneficial to your relationship.
1. Arguments Can Help You Better Understand Yourself & What You Want in your Relationship
What is bothering you?
Maybe more importantly, why is it bothering you?
What do the answers to these two questions say about how you feel about yourself in this relationship, what you want in your relationship, and what may be lacking?
Sometimes what we end up arguing about isn’t the real problem. Sometimes when we have the same arguments over and over—whether it’s about household chores, parenting, or spending money—what we end up going round and round about often isn’t the core issue.
Take a step back and consider why the dirty socks left out on the floor really bother you. Are you actually feeling taken for granted or disrespected by your partner? Maybe the fight about spending too much time with friends or engaged in a hobby is more about feeling lonely, disconnected, and worried that you are drifting apart as a couple.
Diving deeper into what you argue about and uncovering the underlying concerns allows you to better understand yourself and what you want in your relationship—and then allows you to begin to actually address what’s at the heart of the matter.
2. Arguments Can Help You Identify Concerns that Need to be Addressed
Sometimes we don’t know something is a problem until we fight about it! Of course, most of our arguments are nothing new, we’ve had them a hundred times (see point number 1 about going deeper to uncover what’s at the heart of these ongoing feuds). But, at other times they provide new information. Usually in one of two ways:
- You or your partner reacts strongly to something new or to something that wasn’t a problem until now. This strong reaction (e.g., frustration, anger, sadness, deep disappointment) provides the cue that there’s a situation or issue that needs to be addressed. It doesn’t matter that it “didn’t bother you (or them) before” or that you “didn’t see this coming”—it does now and it’s here, which gives you an opportunity to better understand what’s going on and to address it now.
- Your partner starts an argument (or brings up a concern) that they’ve been sitting on for some time. You had no idea this was an issue for them, but it’s been troubling them and they’ve been hesitant to address it. Our typical response to this is, “why didn’t you bring this up sooner!!!,” a blame-y, defensive, and all too human response that often provides the accelerant needed to inflame a small tiff into world war three! But, after the white flags go up signaling a truce at least on this issue, calmer heads can begin to make sense of and address this new concern.
You can’t repair what you don’t know is broken and arguments are often one of the first places where you realize there’s an issue that needs to be addressed! In this way, arguments can be a productive aspect of your relationship, helping you identify and resolve those concerns.
3. Arguments Can Lead to Greater Understanding, Trust, and Connection
Arguments can be an important vehicle that takes you to a place of deeper understanding, greater trust, and a more authentic connection in your relationship. Conflict is what enables you to name, air out, challenge, understand and alter the things that keep your relationship from being the best it can be.
Conflict is a motivator—it’s uncomfortable—and within that discomfort often comes motivation for action.
When partners can remain curious about themselves and each other and manage defensiveness, arguments can be enriching. Like a controlled burn, arguments help root out the weeds and other tangled growth that has built up in your relationship to reduce the risk of a relationship wildfire and set the stage for an enriched relationship soil where understanding, positive connection, and trust can grow. When handled effectively you now have knowledge (not just hope) that your relationship can handle differences, hard feelings, and difficult times—yet remain strong.
This knowledge helps to fuel mutual respect and even a little admiration for yourself and your partner—thanks to some effective arguing!
Is It Bad to Argue with Your Partner? Simple Answer: No.
It’s true, these ideas are based on engaging in productive arguments at least some of the time. Conflict isn’t bad – it’s how we engage with our partner during a conflict that can be hurtful. How do you know when an argument is productive? How do you recognize when arguments are unproductive in my relationship? How do you resolve arguments with your partner or spouse? How do you stop unproductive arguing? We’ll tackle these topics in follow-up posts coming soon!