FIGHT RIGHT: Insights on having constructive arguments


There are several hallmarks of a healthy relationship. These include critical factors such as having similar core values, sharing common goals, expressing mutual respect, and agreeing about finances.  Another important component, which often determines how successful a relationship is, is how a couple argues.  Rare are couples who don’t disagree, there are lots of things to work on when you are building a life with another person, that said,  the ability to properly participate in a disagreement with a partner is essential to building a strong relationship.

While continually bickering and having disagreements may be indicative of larger issues, occasional, constructive quarrels can benefit the relationship enormously. An argument can clear out negative energy and enable partners to express bottled up frustrations. It can relieve stress and help address problems that need to be overcome.  However unpleasant, a productive, constructive disagreement can bolster the romantic bond. Communication is essential in a relationship, and because romantic bonds often touch on the most sensitive parts of our emotional landscape, they can draw out the deepest fears and insecurities. Communicating about these issues has the potential of building trust and security in the relationship. Most of us are never taught how to have a proper argument, but the skills can help us better navigate every part of our lives.

Plan ahead

Discussing how you argue while you are not in the middle of a disagreement and setting the groundwork for productive conversations can be enormously valuable. Figuring out strategies for arguing in a more productive manner and chatting about what worked and what didn’t work in previous arguments can help build trust and strengthen the relationship. It can also help to trigger positive behaviors when things get tense.

Respect one another

It is not likely that you will always agree with your partner. Sometimes disagreements are insignificant (why do you load the toilet paper that way?) and other times, you must work through really big problems. The level of respect you demonstrate for your partner when these issues arise will determine whether the argument will bolster or diminish your overall connection with your partner. Contempt for a partner is a key indicator of a relationship doomed to fail and can be a precursor to abuse, whether emotional or physical.

Listen to your partner and hear them

The best way to have a disagreement it to calmly discuss your point of view and listen while your partner calmly explains theirs. This means a non-combative conversation with no yelling or name calling. Try to remember that just as you would not choose to argue unless you had a strong concern about something, your partner probably does not want to argue either. This means that if things have reached their boiling point, the issue at hand probably matters to your partner. Listen and try to really understand the issue from your partner’s point of view. There are times when you simply must agree to disagree, but if you have listened well, you will understand your partner’s perspective and can be sensitive to your partner’s needs as you go forward.

Walk away if things overheat

This can be very difficult in the midst of a very intense argument, but it can mean the difference between arguing and fighting. Taking the time to chill out and calm down can help you to keep your head during a conflict. Further, keeping a level of control over your emotions during a disagreement shows that you respect the other person. It is important to note that some people prefer to have time to think through a problem, while others need to hash it out right away. Again, it is vital that you and your partner acknowledge one another’s needs and work through the issue in a way that satisfies both parties.

Think about what your goals are for the argument

Each party will likely have non-negotiable items and other less important outcomes. Discussing your needs in a manner more like a negotiation can help avoid a heated argument. If you consider what you’d like to accomplish by arguing, it is much easier to move through conflict than if you are expressing frustration with no resolution in mind. Remember to ask yourself, ‘how much does this issue matter to me?’ before you engage in a conflict. This is a good way to determine whether it really matters enough to you to argue about it.  It can be tempting to go off topic and pull other issues into a disagreement, but it is best to resist and work through the core issue. Remember that giving in when the issue is not critical, is as valuable as standing up for the non-negotiables.

Remember why you chose your partner

It is inevitable that you will argue. When you do try to remember that you and your partner care for one another and have chosen one another for a reason. When things get heated, try to remember why you are together. Keep in mind that in any relationship, there are good and bad things. Just as in the other parts of your life, focusing on the positive is more beneficial than focusing on the negative. When you think about all the wonderful aspects of your partner and your relationship, it is harder to have an all-or-nothing, adversarial conflict. Your partner is not your enemy and most likely, they don’t want to do anything to harm you. Your partner is your companion and keeping this in mind can keep a conversation positive.



About Behavioral Health Professionals, Inc.:

Established in 2002 and headquartered in Detroit, Michigan, BHPI is a Managed Behavioral Health Organization offering behavioral health services through a fully integrated network of world-class healthcare providers.  Our emphasis is on adding value for our customers by offering expert behavioral care management, medical coordination, and behavioral disease and chronic behavioral condition management.  BHPI offers collaborative solutions by building strong partnerships with health plans, health systems, community mental health organizations, and employer groups.   For more information