Fighting with your significant other is not fun, but it’s sometimes necessary to work through important issues. As long as each partner takes turns genuinely listening to the other, conflicts can not only be healthy, but will actually bring you closer together. Here are four arguments, or “good fights,” that can strengthen your relationship.
1. A good fight about the bad fight
When you have a big blowout fight, it’s hard to recover. A good exercise is to process the fight together. Talk about what went wrong, take responsibility for your part in the fight, and discuss how to prevent the incident in the future. Relationship experts at the Gottman Institute (for couples’ therapy) say, “Keep in mind the goal is greater understanding—addressing the process and how the issue was talked about, without getting back into the fight.” So, wait until you’re both chilled out a bit.
2. A good fight about where the relationship is going
If your relationship is real, and you’re both committed, expectations for the future should be discussed. “Speaking one’s truth is the formula for entering true partnership,” according to love and life mentor Susan Winter. “To know what you want and how you want it is the process by which you create connection and authenticity.”
3. A good fight where you express your own needs
Most fights start because one or both partners don’t feel understood. If you’re having an argument, make sure to express your own feelings, and don’t assume what the other person is feeling. Marriage and family therapist Nathan Cobb says, “Interpreting your partner’s thoughts, feelings and motives will distract you from identifying your own underlying issues, and will likely invite defensiveness from your spouse.”
4. A good fight that is unresolved
Not all conflicts can be perfectly fixed and wrapped up with a pretty bow. Relationships are messy, and many couples end up having the same types of fight over and over. “What is required is acceptance of one another’s personality differences,” says John Gottman, Ph.D., co-founder of The Gottman Institute. “The goal is to manage conflict, not resolve it.”