My wife and I have a great relationship now, but I still remember when it wasn’t like that. I used to wonder is it normal for a married couple to fight every day?
It is completely normal and healthy for couples to have small fights every day in a relationship. It’s not the frequency of which you fight that is bad, but rather HOW you fight. When fights involve criticism, contempt, name-calling or yelling. Those behaviors will damage the relationship and can lead to divorce.
For some people it is normal to argue every day for others it is an oddity.
No matter what your relationship is like, it can be nerve-wracking to think you may fight ‘too much’. The number of fights a couple has does not determine their relationship.
Every couple has a different dynamic, so it is easier to determine if your fighting is healthy or not based on other factors and NOT just the number of fights.
How often does the average couple argue?
My wife and I have minor disagreements a few times a week. We don’t really have super-big blowups anymore and luckily, haven’t really in years. But we do have somewhat larger disagreements a few times a year.
But maybe we’re in the minority.
According to a recent survey by Esure, couples argue an amazing 2,455 times per year! That amounts to over 6 arguments a day, which honestly seems a bit crazy to me unless you’re counting tiffs over whether to eat breakfast tacos or waffles for breakfast.
All the experts seem to say that the way to argue effectively is to:
- Put yourself in the shoes of your spouse
- Listen actively with empathy
- Repeat back what they said to ensure they feel heard and that you understood
The trouble with that approach, according to marriage expert Dr. John Gottman (more on him below), is that most couples can’t, or at least don’t do that.
In studying married couples for over 40 years, Dr. Gottman has developed a better system for how to argue more effectively, and it actually works!
Though all 4 horsemen are damaging, Contempt is perhaps the most destructive. John Gottman describes contempt as “sulfuric acid for love.”
Cure nastiness with fondness & admiration by appreciating the ways your partner is different by building a culture of appreciation. pic.twitter.com/xiAZKKYnwE
— Stephen Light (@BringingLight1) August 18, 2020
How to argue with your spouse constructively
So to have an effective argument, where both people feel heard and respected, watch the first words that come out of your mouth.
In my case, I work all day, have an almost hour commute, and sometimes when I arrive, the kids are going crazy and the house is a wreck.
But I’ve been gone 10 hours. I actually have NO idea what’s happened in those 10 hours. If I just start in on my wife with something like “What the hell have you been doing all day? This place is a wreck!”, right out of the gate, you know we’re headed for trouble.
She’ll naturally get defensive and won’t really respond to my questions.
Instead, she’ll be much more likely to hurl insults or criticisms back. That will naturally make me want to escalate since I think I’m right and I’m going to want to dig my feels in.
Trust me; having argued that way 10+ years ago, I know it will end badly. If you and your spouse fight that way frequently, you stand a very good chance of getting divorced.
Here are some tips for how to argue with your spouse constructively:
- Use “I” instead of “you”
- Talk about your feelings and not what you think they should or shouldn’t be doing
- Avoid name-calling and profanity
- Don’t raise your voice
- Talk about things as they come up rather than letting them build up and later explode
In the case of the scene above where I described a scenario of me coming home from work, what I could say instead is:
“Hi babe, it seems like maybe you’ve had a rough day. Is there anything I can do or some systems we could put in place to help things be a little less chaotic? After a long hard day, it’s challenging for me to come home and find things in this state, but I’m sure it’s been a long hard day for you too. So what can we do to make it flow better for both of us”.
In truth, that might still lead to an argument. But it won’t lead to an unhealthy standoff or yelling match that damages our relationship.
research by the gottman institute showed that these were the top 4 predictors of breaking up. also, if she’s rolling her eyes at you, she’s preparing to leave you. pic.twitter.com/nStMSBEO3L
— laurco (@laurchata) August 17, 2020
What are the top three things married couples fight about?
For most married couples, the top arguments are usually about:
- Money (spending, debt, not being on the same page)
- Sex (as in the frequency with which it happens)
- Kids (as in parenting styles, discipline, chores, and grades)
For money, the #1 thing couples can do to make money a non-issue is to get on a monthly budget. In my house, I do the budget and my wife isn’t an active participant in the creation of the spreadsheet. BUT we are 100% on the same page with spending, communication about bills, debt, and unexpected expenses that come up.
I have a number of budgeting articles on my site, but since we’re also talking about arguing, I think the best place to start if you need help here is a recent article about how to get on the same page with your spouse and budgeting.
For sex, I think (and yes, I’m stereotyping a little) that the biggest issue is with men wanting it more often than women. I also think we men tend to not be as empathetic as we could be to how women’s sex drives can change both with age and also after kids.
Plus in general, once kids enter the picture, a healthy and regular sex life just gets a little harder.
But it’s also NOT OK to just not have sex. If your marriage feels sexless, or if you can’t even remember the last time you had it, it’s time for action. Sex is an important part of every healthy relationship. I walk through this in another recent article about whether or not a relationship can survive without intimacy.
Just click the link to read it on my site.
It’s okay to disagree with your partner, and arguments happen in even the most healthy relationships!
If we were all the same and all agreed on everything, the world would be a boring place, but arguing with someone we care about can be difficult. Here’s some things to help! pic.twitter.com/iO9OFEHGzD
— REAL Relationships (@REALationshipDE) August 12, 2020
Is arguing healthy in a relationship?
Every relationship, romantic or not, faces its challenges.
And the way that we get through these challenges as humans is to talk it out; but sometimes talking can turn to arguing. Working through relationship issues is a tough but unavoidable reality.
But in and of itself, arguing isn’t unhealthy. It’s HOW we argue that makes it healthy or unhealthy. Trust me; every day, perfectly happy couples argue and disagree and don’t end up divorced.
My wife and I have been married for over 13 years. But in the early years of our marriage, it wasn’t uncommon for us to yell, name call, and use profanity in our arguments. They went from disagreeing with each other to us simply trying to say whatever would hurt the other the most.
Not only was that incredibly damaging to our marriage, but it also wasn’t healthy for us as people or our young family. It wasn’t until we discovered the work of Dr. John Gottman through marriage counseling, that things began to turn around.
If you don’t know Gottman and his amazing work, check out my review of his award-winning book the 7 Principals for Making Marriage Work. That book literally saved our marriage and my review walks you through exactly what we did.
But what really constitutes fighting? Bickering on a daily basis? Screaming matches? Let’s examine some of the top ways couples “fight” and define each one:
Bickering with one another on a daily basis is completely normal.
My wife and I will get annoyed with one another for not doing the dishes, or leaving socks on the floor, or arguing over whose turn it is to scoop the litter, but these are small little arguments that ultimately do not damage our relationship.
We are human beings trying to live with another human being with free will and their own emotions and thoughts, there are always going to be little arguments over things like this.
The important thing is to communicate and not just bicker. If you find yourself annoyed repeatedly about something your partner does, tell them, and work out a way to avoid arguments in the future.
Bickering over little things is a healthy and normal part of working together in a relationship. You can’t discover what annoys your partner or what your expectations are without arguing a little bit.
In a recent article, I break down all 15 steps needed to rekindle your marriage so you can eventually have a better relationship than you ever thought possible. Just click the link to read it now on my site.
Even if you only followed step #3, you could see an immediate improvement in your marriage.
Where hurt feelings can begin to arise and animosity can begin to form is when big arguments occur every day.
Arguing is typically what occurs when hurt feelings and emotions begin to get involved. Sometimes annoyed bickering can turn into arguing when one spouse feels they aren’t being heard.
For example, if you and your spouse bicker about the laundry every day, eventually someone will begin to not feel heard.
Person 1: Why didn’t you fold the laundry?
Person 2: I didn’t feel like it.
Person 1: You can’t just not do the laundry because you don’t feel like it. I work every day and I don’t want to have to do more work when I come home. You are here all day playing video games the least you could do it fold the laundry.
Person 2: Geez you are such a nag.
In this example, we can see an example turning into an argument about something more, where underlying feelings and animosity are beginning to rise to the surface.
These sorts of fights can be worked through if the underlying feelings are finally revealed and understood.
Person 1: I’m sorry I got upset with you, I have just been really stressed since you lost your job and I feel like I have to take care of all the finances.
Person 2: I know, and I am sorry I have not been helping as much as I could be. I don’t want you to feel stressed.
When people are continually arguing and no one is attempting to understand one another, this is when fights can get into unhealthy territory.
When couples are fighting with one another, and screaming at each other, it is usually indicative that hurt feelings have gone unnoticed or uncared for.
Person 1: You aren’t even trying to get a job. You can’t just lay around here all day and expect me to care for you like your my child. You are a grown adult and you can take care of yourself.
Person 2: I’m trying to follow my dreams and I can’t do that with you nagging me all the time.
Person 1: I don’t care about your dreams, I care about the overdue bills piling up, just get a job already.
Person 2: I feel like you don’t support me.
Person 1: Honestly, right now, I don’t.
People are petty, and when their feelings or emotions are hurt, they want the other person to feel the same way they do. A lot of fighting is things that people don’t mean, but they were just attempting to hurt their partner’s feelings the same way they have been hurt.
Dr. Gottman, who I ‘ve referenced a few times above, believes there are actually 4 things couples do when arguing that consistently let him predict divorce over 90% of the time. He calls those the 4 Horsemen.
In a recent article, I break down exactly what those 4 are and how they damage your marriage. But, more importantly, I walk you through the steps my wife and I took to stop doing them.
Just click the link to read it on my site.
No matter what sort of argument you and your partner are experiencing, there is never an acceptable reason to become violent.
Any sort of physical violence is never an act of love.
No matter how much they apologize for their actions or say that ‘it won’t happen again’, the hard truth is that it will happen again. If you or someone you know is in a physically abusive relationship please contact the National Sexual Assault Hotline (800-656-4673).
The National Sexual Assault Hotline is completely confidential and they:
- ‘Only make reports to the police or other agencies when the caller consents, unless obligated by law’
- ‘Only access the first six numbers of the phone number to route the call to a local support staff’
- ‘Have 24/7 help online at rainn.org’
As someone who lived through domestic violence from my step-father to my mother, I know just how serious this is. My mother finally left him after he knocked her teeth out.
People can change, but when your safety is concerned, you have to protect yourself first and let them take the necessary steps to change on their own.
If you’re interested in my story of growing up with an alcoholic step-father, check out a recent article where I walk through that along with tips on how to cope and how it affected me as an adult. More importantly, I talk about the necessary steps I had to take in order to have healthier relationships.
Just click the link to read it on my site.
I absolutely love this page.
I’ll fight for this: Clark and Louis are the best couple of comics. pic.twitter.com/VPy417Lpg0
— Eduardo E. (@EEscovar23) August 17, 2020
What are the solutions for couples who fight daily?
For the majority of people, you can work out these fights on your own without needing professional help.
You just have to be willing to express yourself in a calm manner and apologize when you make mistakes. The majority of situations can be worked out if both people are willing to be vulnerable with each other.
The key to a healthy relationship is recognizing when your feelings are hurt and being able to recognize when your partner is not feeling heard.
It is easy to say ‘you shouldn’t feel that way because that isn’t what I meant’, it is harder to say ‘I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings, I was just trying to express my own frustration’.
If one, or neither of you are willing to put in the work to keep your relationship healthy then it may be time for therapy.
Does couples therapy work?
Many relationships benefit immensely from couples therapy.
Before you run away, couples therapy does not mean you’re relationship is failing. When you are in the center of everything, with your emotions clouding your judgment, it can be good to have an outsider’s perspective.
A therapist’s job is to help you work through your emotions and figure out why you feel the way you do. There can be deep-seated emotions that you have to work through on your own that you never realized were affecting your relationship.
It is difficult to process your own emotions, let alone understand your partners.
And sometimes you don’t even know why you are angry, or sad, or disappointed, you just know that is how you feel. In this situation, a therapist can help you discover your reasons and aide you in expressing them to your partner.
I have a recent article which is really the ultimate guide to marriage counseling.
I walk through what they do, how much it costs, and if insurance typically covers it. But I also address how to find a good therapist and what you can expect to get out of it.
Just click the link to read it.
Is it normal to argue every day in a relationship?
Yes, is the short answer.
Lots of couples argue regularly with no danger to the relationship. As we’ve mentioned, the key is not in whether or not you argue. It’s also not with the frequency with which you argue.
What makes or breaks a marriage is HOW you argue.
Remember; you are disagreeing with your spouse’s opinion, so don’t criticize THEM. Do express how their actions make you feel. Don’t criticize them, belittle them, name call, or use profanity. Avoid heavy discussions if you’ve been drinking alcohol.
You can completely disagree with them on an issue and still respect them as a person.
Whatever sort of fighting you are your significant other are experiencing, it is normal. No relationship is perfect and as two human beings, it is hard to live with and be around another person for a long time.
As long as you and your partner are willing to communicate and take the necessary steps to get back on the right track, you can usually work through it.
There are of course exceptions to this rule, and some couples just cannot work through it no matter how hard they try. Just remember there is absolutely no need to get violent in any situation.
In this article, I took a look at the world of couples who fight frequently.
We examined why they fight, how they fight, and how to tell if your fights are healthy or unhealthy. Ultimately, a healthy marriage is NOT devoid of conflict. But HOW the couple communicates makes all the difference in whether or not the marriage will survive.
How often do you and your spouse or partner argue?
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