- Every couple is different, but haveing more disagreements than agreements is unhealthy.
- Arguing can be beneficial because it can teach you more about your partner.
- When you get into disagreements, try using “I” statements instead of blaming language.
If you’ve ever had a fight with your partner, you know it can be stressful, but arguments are a normal part of any relationship. Fighting too often can put a strain on your relationship, but experts say the most important consideration is how you approach disagreements.
Here’s what you need to know about how often couples fight, and six strategies you can use to make an argument more productive.
How often do couples fight?
“It’s very common in our culture for couples to have disagreements,” says Moe Ari Brown, a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice.
Some couples argue just once a month or once every two to three months, Brown says, while others may argue once a week, depending on where they are in their relationship.
“There is no average number of times couples have disagreements, in that each couple is different,” says JaQuinda Jackson, a licensed therapist in private practice.
However, there are a couple of key warning signs that you may be fighting too much, Jackson says.
“If you are in a relationship in which you find yourself having verbal disagreements daily or more disagreements than agreements, this would be considered unhealthy,” Jackson says.
But in many cases, arguments can be a normal, and even a healthy part of your relationship.
What are the benefits of disagreeing?
Disagreements can help enrich a relationship in a few key ways:
- Teaching you more about your partner. Arguments can shine light on how your partner thinks and feels on certain issues, which allows you to understand them better, Jackson says.
- Showing you where you need to make changes. “These disagreements are just showing us where we are misaligned and where slight adjustments are in order,” Brown says.
- Helping you practice listening and problem-solving. “Disagreements can be healthy if you are able to hear your partner and reach a compromise,” Jackson says.
How to have a productive “fight”?
“Disagreements will happen, how you respond is what makes the disagreement healthy or not healthy,” Jackson says.
If you find yourself having a disagreement with your partner, there are a few tips you can follow to make the discussion a useful experience and avoid causing hurt feelings.
1. Don’t call it a fight
“I like to offer the language of ‘having a disagreement’ or ‘experiencing a misalignment’ when talking about couples working through challenges,” Brown says.
Avoiding the word “fight” serves two important purposes, Brown says:
1. It can take you out of the conflict mindset. “When couples see disagreements as fighting or conflict, they often want to be defensive, as though they are being attacked,” Brown says.
This defensive attitude can make it harder for both parties to listen to each other and calmly communicate their feelings. “When we approach these moments in fear and defensiveness, we are met with more of that in one another,” Brown says.
2. It separates arguments or disagreements from violence. Domestic violence “fighting” involves serious emotional or physical abuse. A normal disagreement shouldn’t make you feel afraid for your well-being or safety.
2. Use “I” phrases
“Oftentimes, partners will say, “you make me feel” rather than ” I am experiencing X feeling,” Brown says.
For example, your partner might say “you’re making me mad” instead of “I’m feeling frustrated.”
When your partner accuses you of making them mad, you may feel the need to defend yourself or deny that you’ve done something wrong. But if your partner says, “I am feeling frustrated,” it’s easier to empathize with what they’re going through.
Using “I” phrases can also help you become more aware of your own feelings and your role in the conflict. Owning up to your own part in a problem is vital for healthy communication, Brown says.
And the way you communicate with your partner is important — a 2022 study found that communication issues are the number one subject of conflict between couples.
3. Listen and share, don’t try to persuade
When you’re in a disagreement, you want to communicate your opinions and feelings with your partner — but you can’t expect them to agree with you or change their mind.
“When you try to persuade your partner, what you are saying is what they feel and how they think it doesn’t matter, which can build resentment,” Jackson says.
For example, if your partner says they’re not comfortable attending a family reunion, it’s better to say, “It’s important to me that you meet my family” rather than “you shouldn’t be worried.”
When you share how you feel without pressuring your partner to agree, “you create a place within the relationship for healthy dialogue which allows for safe sharing within the relationship,” Jackson says.
You’ll also need to practice listening to your partner’s thoughts and feelings without jumping into argue. This gives you the opportunity to learn more about them and try to understand their perspective, Brown says.
4. Try journaling
If you and your partner are arguing back and forth, but can’t get to the core issue of what’s really wrong, it can help to take a moment and grab a journal, Brown says.
You each should write down a list of five things that you are experiencing at the moment that you can be fully accountable for — meaning you don’t blame them on your partner.
This can include:
- Your feelings
- Your thoughts
- Your actions or behaviors
- Anything else that led to this moment of disagreement
“This is a good way to practice accountability before going into the conversation,” Brown says.
It can also help you reflect on what’s really going on underneath your emotional reactions, without the distractions of an argument.
5. Try to stay in the present
Sometimes the issue you’re upset about may remind you of another past conflict, but this doesn’t always mean you should bring it up.
If you’ve never addressed the past issue before, it may be important to explain how you’re feeling. But “if your partner has apologized for their mistakes, then it is unhealthy to bring up past disagreements,” Jackson says.
If you resolve a problem, but then keep bringing it up later, “this creates an unhealthy cycle and often leads to your partner not willing to share and be vulnerable when issues arise,” Jackson says.
Staying in the present can help you focus on your current feelings and needs and keep the conversation from becoming confusing or overwhelming.
When it comes to the past — “if you forgive, then commit to not bring it up again,” Jackson says.
6. Take a break if you need to
If your feelings become too heightened during an argument, it may become harder to communicate in a healthy way.
According to Brown, some signs that you may be too emotional or feeling defensive are:
- You start speaking louder
- You try to control the conversation through words or behaviors like interrupting your partner or walking away
- You shut down by becoming quiet
- You withhold the truth
- You tell the truth in a harsh way, without compassion for your partner
If you find yourself or your partner falling into these patterns, it may be best to take a break and come back to the conversation later.
In a small 2021 study, newly married people who used destructive conflict behaviors like yelling or insulting their partner were more likely to get divorced later on.
However, it’s important not to just dismiss the conversation. Identify a time and place to revisit the conversation and “try not to let the disagreement linger for more than a day, Jackson says.
There is no set number for how often you should have disagreements with your partner. And having arguments can be a healthy part of any relationship.
“Disagreements happen and when they do, they are an opportunity for greater self-awareness, and relationship expansion,” Brown says.
“When we can approach these adjustments from a place of curiosity, love, acceptance, and openness, we find that conversations go smoothly and alignments happen effortlessly,” Brown says.