7 Ways Arguing Benefits Your Relationship, According To Experts
While you may not like to argue with your significant other, it probably happens sometimes. You may know couples who argue often and those who don’t. But there are several reasons why arguing may be good for your relationship. In fact, an online study, “Able Arguers,” among 976 individuals in 2012 found that couples who engage in healthy conflict are 10 times more likely to have a happy relationship versus those who ignore difficult conversations. The study was conducted by David Maxfield and Joseph Grenny. Grenny co-authored The New York Times bestseller Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes are High, and Maxfield co-authored follow-up books in the series, all of which were also NYT bestsellers.
“It’s not so much that arguing is good — it’s that disagreements are inevitable,” Maxfield tells Bustle. “Ignoring the disagreements doesn’t work, and turning disagreements into fights doesn’t either. The key to a successful relationship is how you handle the inevitable disagreements. Those who handle them with honesty, frankness, respect, and love are far more successful than those who don’t.” Makes sense, right? Though it may be easier said — or argued — than done.
In their study, Maxfield and Grenny found that four out of five people said poor communication played a role in their last failed relationship, and half of respondents also cited poor communication as a significant cause of the failed relationship. Furthermore, those who blamed their partner for poor communication were more likely to be dissatisfied with the relationship. It also seemed many people did not take the blame when a conversation went poorly: fewer than one in five believed they were usually to blame.
So you may be wondering how and why arguing is good for your relationship, and below, several experts weigh in.
1. Arguing Allows You To Communicate Your Needs To Your Partner
As you may know from your romantic relationship, past or present, arguments come in all shapes and sizes. “I tell my clients to show their partners their anger,” Courtney Watson, LMFT and Sex Therapist, Doorway Therapeutic Services, tells Bustle. “Arguing is healthy because you get to communication your frustrations and needs to your partner. Arguing does not have to be malicious or cruel — you can have loving and compassionate conflict. Anger is a natural emotion, and it alerts us, letting us know that something doesn't feel good for us, and that is good to let your partner know.”
2. Arguing Prevents You From Acting Out Your Frustrations
Even if you don’t feel like talking to your partner about something that’s upsetting you, it’ll be worth it. “If you don’t talk it out, you’ll act it out,” Maxfield says. “When people don’t voice their concerns, the concerns leak out in other ways — they become more abrupt, dismissive, and rude. The solution is to talk it out in an honest, frank, and respectful way. Dialogue is the solution. Silence causes the problem to continue.”
3. Arguing Helps You Learn About Your Partner’s Motives
When you and your significant argue, it may be about something that’s bothering them and you didn’t even know it. “Arguing — as long as it’s done without contempt, criticism, and defensiveness — can actually strengthen a romantic relationship,” Dr. Laura VanderDrift, associate professor of psychology at Syracuse University’s College of Arts and Sciences and director of the Close Relationships Lab at Syracuse University, tells Bustle. “It’s through resolving conflicts of interest (which every relationship has) that we learn about our partner’s motives. To reap this benefit, it’s important to try to remain impartial while arguing — research shows that taking a neutral, third-party perspective can help, i.e., think about what one of your mutual friends (who wants the best for both of you) would say about your argument. If you can do that, then you and your partner will learn more about each other and be able to find ways to compromise and resolve conflict that bolsters the relationship. Over time, having actually resolved conflicts of interest in this way gives you both a greater base of knowledge about each other, making future conflicts less frequent and less damaging to the relationship.”
4. Arguing Helps You Figure Out What The *Real* Issue Is
You know how sometimes you and your partner may be arguing, but you’re not actually arguing about the issue at hand? However, the more you talk, the more you get to what’s really going on? “To discover what the fight is really about, you need to talk,” Tina B. Tessina, Ph.D. (aka "Dr. Romance"), psychotherapist and author of How to be Happy Partners: Working it out Together, tells Bustle. “For example: Why does your partner want ‘x’ done the way they do? How do they think it should be done? Once you find out the specific reasons behind your partner’s preferences, you’ll find out how to solve the problems you didn’t know were there. Is there a concrete reason — i.e., it’s more convenient this way, it saves money? — or is it just what they learned from Mom and Dad? Once you understand each other’s reasons, you'll have an easier time coming up with a solution.”
5. Arguing Helps You And Your Partner Grow
In the short-term, while it may be easier to not argue and just ignore whatever issue is happening, arguing actually helps you and your partner evolve — individually and within your relationship. “Another good thing about arguing is that you get to grow from it, whether that’s by learning your triggers or your partner’s triggers, uncovering an underlying hurt, or learning how you can be hurtful,” Watson says. “Growth comes when you take the information from the argument and constructively apply it to repairing the relationship. For example, say, ‘I didn’t know when I shut down and don’t talk, that makes you feel ignored and dismissed. That wasn’t my intention. From now on, I can tell you when I’m feeling overwhelmed and need to take some space — so I don’t shut down and you don’t feel ignored.’”
Watson also points out that “good” arguments don't include name-calling, put-downs, manipulation, or abuse. "However, if you both agree to stop that behavior, there can even be the potential for growth from the hardest arguments,” he says.
6. Arguing Can Save Your Relationship Instead Of Destroying It
When you get upset with your partner, your go-to may be silence, and then your partner will know something is going on since you’re not your usual self. However, this is *not* the route to take. “Silence is not golden,” Maxfield says. “When people avoid the conversation, and fail to voice their concerns, their concerns go underground. They become undiscussables — elephants in the room. They escalate and can destroy the relationship.”
7. Arguing May Help Prevent Divorce
You may know of a couple that complains about each other non-stop. Maybe they argue a lot, too, but not in a healthy way. Or, maybe they have stopped trying to discuss the root of their problems, which only magnifies them. “Here is what failure looks like: Disagreements are avoided until passions grow to a peak. Then, the person speaks up, but in a way that is disrespectful. This disrespect is repeated, becoming a pattern, and grows into dislike. And dislike is the best predictor of divorce. In short: Disagreements create disrespect, which grows into dislike, which leads to divorce.”
As you can see, there are many benefits to arguing, as long as you and your partner do so in a loving, constructive manner. After all, the point is to resolve the conflict at hand and move on and back into the non-arguing part of your relationship, right?