Fighting is a totally normal and healthy part of any relationship—it shows that you love someone enough to let them know how you really feel in certain situations. While no one likes to fight or be at odds with someone they are about, these arguments can teach great lessons. "Fighting gives you the chance to collaborate as a team around your differences," says Jane Greer, Ph.D., a New York-based relationship expert and author of What About Me? Stop Selfishness from Ruining Your Relationship. "The outcome of this overall is really positive and often brings people closer together." See? Not so bad! Here are seven important lessons you learn from squabbling with your marriage.
While living your life alongside someone else can be a beautiful thing, it can also bring about frustrations. Disagreements are sure to happen from time to time, and it can be easy to fly off the handle when things don't pan out the way you'd expect them to. In these moments of conflict, patience is the key, experts say. "You learn to accept your partner's different perspective and point of view and to pause in moments where you might say or do something you would regret later on," says Dr. Greer.
How to Listen
One vital piece of the communication puzzle that relationship experts say is necessary for a happy, healthy partnership is the ability and the willingness to listen to each other. It also plays an important role in solving disagreements, since you have to be able to listen in order to understand why your partner is upset in the first place. "Listening makes your partner feel heard and understood by you," says Dr. Greer.
How to Compromise
"Fighting and problem solving brings you to a point where you can discuss what's important to each of you—and each person can decide what they can and cannot give up or let go of in order to make room for what's important to their partner," explains Dr. Greer. "You'll begin working as a team—instead of 'my way or the highway,' it becomes 'our way.'"
The ability to commiserate with how your partner is feeling—not just listen to how he or she says she is feeling, but to truly put yourself in his or her shoes—is not always easy to do, especially in the heat of an argument. However, doing so allows both partners to feel understood, validated, and valued to the other person, according to therapist Marissa Nelson, L.M.F.T. "When each understands that these emotions are rooted and informed, not just by this fight, but the past, and begin to tackle the problem at hand, it offers partners the safety to be honest, disagree, and have more transparency and love in the relationship," she says.
How to Be Accountable
When you're in a relationship, let alone a marriage, you're forced to think not only about yourself, but about someone else's happiness and peace of mind. This translates to thinking about how your actions, intentionally or unintentionally, but impact your partner on a daily basis. "When each person begins to take responsibility for what they say, their actions, and how it affects the person they love (even if they don't agree) that's how you build trust and emotional intimacy," says Nelson.
Your Partner's Vulnerabilities
Wendi L. Dumbroff, a licensed professional counselor, finds this to be one of the most important learnings that results from a fight with a significant other. "If we can put down our own defenses for a moment, even though it may feel uncomfortable, we have an opportunity to really listen to them," she says. "Sharing feelings that stem from a soft place of vulnerability fosters emotional intimacy, which serves to make the two of you closer."
How We Really Feel
Not everyone is very in touch with their feelings, and some even bury them deep inside for a long time until they inevitably come out often without restraint. For the non-confrontational type, fighting can help bring these underlying emotions to the surface. "If issues are never brought into the light, they can fester and resentment can grow, ultimately creating more distance between partners," says Dumbroff. "Fighting gives you an opportunity to show your partner what you need from them to nurture your pain, and vice versa."