Believe it or not, fighting can be a sign of a healthy relationship.

By Jenn Sinrich
June 18, 2019
Dean Mitchell/Getty

Not only is arguing a normal and healthy aspect of any relationship, but most relationship experts are much more worried about couples who don't argue than those who do. "Arguing can be among the most powerful ways that we get to know each other in potentially intimate relationships," says Mark Borg, PhD, relationship expert and co-author of Relationship Sanity. "In many ways, arguing is the royal road to intimacy-that is, it is the entrance to getting to see each other as we really are-and it is only by seeing each other as we really are (meaning, at our worst, exhibiting those things about us that we suspect no one will really tolerate and accept) that we feel wholly accepted." Dr. Borg and other relationship experts see arguing as an opportunity to not only discover more about who you are as a couple, but who we are as individuals.

The bottom line is really that conflict is inevitable, normal, and relatively healthy when it comes to any type of relationship, but especially romantic ones-and while you can work to better understand each other and reduce the amount of conflict you have with your partner, it will likely never stop happening, and it shouldn't. "There are some dynamics of relationship-such as power and intimacy-that are not meant to, and will not, resolve-they are constantly changing and are a major reasons that romantic relationships are so compelling: because our arguments, and the dynamics and issues that drive them, are not meant to be easily resolved, they are meant to be part of how we come to know, love, and care for each other," explains Dr. Borg.

While some arguments can signal some dysfunction in the relationship, other ones can actually signal the opposite-that your relationship is in a great place and positively moving forward. In fact, it tends to be that couples who fight over little matters are often healthier than couples who fight about big, dramatic issues. "For example, if a couple fights about something trivial like carrying the groceries and it turns into a big blow up, then it really wasn't about the groceries in the first place. It was more likely about some underlying dynamics in their relationship that weren't being addressed," explains David Klow, a licensed marriage and family therapist, owner of Skylight Counseling Center and author of You Are Not Crazy. "It can be much easier to tend to those dynamics when the fight is about something trivial."

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Unsurprisingly, and as trivial as it sounds, money is one of the biggest reasons couples fight, but this usually signals a very healthy relationship. "Money can mean many things, and often can be loaded with excess emotion," says Klow. "If a couple can find healthy ways to talk about money, even if it means arguing, then it could lead to a more balanced way of managing their financial life together." Another trivial fight couples often have that's a sign that the relationship is in a good place is over division of household labor, like who's doing the dishes. "It's something that highlights power dynamics and how the couple wants to manage a life together," says Klow. "Arguing over who does the dishes is very normal and is a sign that the couple is tending to how they want to run their day-to-day life together."

Fights having to do with each other's professional accomplishments and goals is also fodder for a healthy relationship. "Couple relationships are designed to make you grow," says Illi Walter, a licensed marriage and family therapist. "You see your weaknesses as well as your strengths as you interact with your partner over time, and your career and professional choices are no exception." Likely, as she explains, you and your partner have different strengths, which means you can help each other build skills and networks that will grow your careers and/or business. In other words, if you're fighting, because you're pushing each other to meet your potential, then the conflict is meant as a growth opportunity, not only for you as individuals, but for you as a couple.

Couples will also often fight about other people, even family members, which is also very normal. "The boundary between the couple and their families is an important one to navigate," explains Klow. "Couples who can talk through how they want to handle interactions with one another's family do very well, even if it turns into a disagreement." Likewise, fighting over interactions with non-family members, be it previous romantic partners or misunderstandings over an interaction with an attractive coworker are also normal disagreements that a couple needs to navigate. "Talking about how we relate with other people outside of the relationship is important as it helps create safety in the relationship rather than stir up unnecessary feelings of jealousy and insecurity," adds Klow.

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