Is Fighting Really Bad For Marriage? Find Out

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"We want to learn how to stop fighting," Diana told me during her first session with her new husband Tim. After just 8 months of marriage, Diana and Tim entered marriage counseling. Although they loved each other very much, they had begun fighting more regularly and were feeling increasingly insecure and unsure about their relationship. In other words, they worried that they had made a mistake marrying one another.

During their first session Diana and Tim shared details about their arguments. They reported that most of the time they were unable to resolve conflict and ended up fighting for days. Instead of hearing one another and working towards healing, they often fought until they were exhausted and both felt hurt, disappointed, frustrated, and helpless.
Diana and Tim shared that the frequency and intensity of their arguments had increased over the past few months and they both feared that the marriage wouldn’t last. Diana believed that the only solution was to go to counseling to learn how to “stop fighting” and convinced Tim to join her.
This pattern is unfortunately extremely common for many couples. Uncertain how to resolve conflicts, couples go round and round trying to get their point across only to end up feeling alone, disappointed, and helpless. Most couples, like Diana and Tim, think that fighting is the problem and believe that if they could just learn how to stop fighting they would be happy.
At the end of Tim and Diana’s first session, I shared a very important piece of information with them. I told them that fighting, arguing, and bickering was normal in a relationship and that the goal of counseling would not be to stop the fighting, but instead to help them learn how to fight. Confused and somewhat scared they both stared back at me (another common response). This was a novel and unsettling idea they didn’t yet understand. Tim and Diana, like most couples, were convinced fighting was destroying their relationship.
Research on happy, satisfied couples has revealed important information related to arguing. Psychologists studying married couples who report high marital satisfaction do not have an absence of fighting in their relationship. These couples disagree, bicker, fight and argue, but they have learned to how to work through the argument, turn towards each other when they’re hurting, and trust enough to repair the damage in the midst of a disagreement.
For the next few months, Diana and Tim put a lot of effort into their marriage. They began to practice sharing their feelings instead of their thoughts, they learned the importance of understanding the dynamics of the “dance” they were in when they fought, and they became better, more open listeners.
Not surprisingly, Diana and Tim’s marriage soon began to thrive and flourish. As a couple they appeared more connected, confident, and satisfied. They had become closer, seemed more secure in their decision to marry, and started to get to know one another on a deeper level.
Although Diana and Tim continued to argue, bicker, fight, and disagree, they became skilled at learning how to identify the core issue in a fight and how to work through it. Because of this, they no longer ended up going round and round only to be left feeling helpless, disappointed, and frustrated. Instead, they took the time to hear one another, process their emotions, and heal as a couple.
Diana and Tim have now been married for a little over three years and recently sent me an email announcing the arrival of their first child. Diana and Tim said that they felt confident that they would continue to grow as a couple and shared that they were excited to raise their child in a loving household that was skilled at addressing and resolving conflict!

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