No matter how much you and your partner love each other, it’s impossible to have a long-lasting relationship without having a disagreement at least once in a while.
Some couples seem to argue or fight a lot, while others seem like they almost never do.
If you grew up in a home where your parents fought a lot, it may be uncomfortable for you to be in a relationship that is low-conflict.
On the other hand, those who grew up in low-conflict homes might find difficulty if they are in a relationship where conflict is more frequent.
Add in all the different conflict and conflict management styles that we all express, and it can be hard to know how much fighting is healthy in a relationship and when you should worry — or leave. While there’s no magic number that is the “right” amount of fighting in a relationship, there are some things to consider.
Here are 5 things to look for to tell if the amount of fighting in your relationship is healthy or not.
1. It’s less about quantity and more about quality
There is no ideal number of fights or frequency of arguments that qualify a relationship as “healthy.”
Rather it is the quality of your fights that give you a clue to the health of your relationship.
Healthy couples aren’t necessarily couples that don’t fight — rather, they are couples whose fights are productive, fair, and finished.
That means they fight over one issue at a time, they seek solutions, they fight fair, and they finish the fight with a solution or agreement to revisit.
2. Healthy fights are fair fights
Fighting fair can be hard when we are hurt, angry, or otherwise riled up. But for the fight to actually contribute to an overall healthy relationship, it has to be fair.
What is a fair fight?
A fair fight is one in which you both focus on the issue at hand, rather than bringing up everything that’s made you angry over the course of the relationship.
A fair fight is also one that avoids name-calling, personal attacks, weaponizing your partner’s fears or past traumas, or otherwise “hitting below the belt.”
3. Healthy couples keep short accounts
Part of learning to fight fair learning to keep short accounts with each other. This means that you either bring something up right when it happens (or very shortly thereafter) if it bothers you, or you let it go.
You do not keep a running list of everything your partner does that aggravates you and then let it all loose in an argument six months down the line.
Keeping short accounts also means not bringing past issues that have been resolved into later arguments as ammunition. It can be hard to let go of resentments and past grudges, but in order to fight fair and keep your relationship healthy, it’s important to work on.
4. Healthy fights are finished fights
A key way to keep fighting in your relationship healthy is to make to sure to finish a fight when it happens. This means working the issue through to solution so that you can re-establish harmony.
(If you are regularly fighting over the same issue that can’t be resolved, that’s a red flag — either you’re not really fighting over that issue and need to drill down to the core, or you have a fundamental difference that may not be reconcilable.)
After the agreement, compromise, or another solution has been reached, the key is to re-establish harmony by reaffirming the relationship, making necessary repair attempts, and agreeing that this issue will not be brought up in future fights over unrelated matters.
5. Healthy fights are never violent
People vary in whether they yell or raise their voices in fights, and there is no singular healthy pattern here.
But healthy fights are never violent or filled with the threat of violence.
Feeling that you are threatened or physically unsafe in a fight means that something is very wrong.
Even if the person who was violent apologizes after and promises never to behave in that way again, once a fight has turned violent it fundamentally changes the relationship.
You will feel a variety of emotions in a fight, but you should never feel threatened or as if you want to threaten or harm your partner.
So while it might be difficult to determine a general census to answer the question ‘how often do couples fight’, it is much easier to determine what a healthy fight is versus a toxic fight.
And if your fights are more regular but healthy than a couple who fights less frequently – but their fights are toxic, maybe it’s time to acknowledge the healthy and passionate dynamic in your relationship rather than concerning yourself over whether you fight too often?