Conflict happens in all relationships. It occurs because everyone brings their own unique perspectives, values, backgrounds, and experiences into the relationship. Conflict can be a sign of growth when handled constructively, and your relationship can transform from it.
But when heated arguments arise, you may wonder, “How much fighting is too much?” or ” Is our relationship in jeopardy?”
To help you determine how you and your partner fight is healthy, we spoke to relationships expert and CEO of global matchmaking agency Anuradha Gupta of Vows for Eternity: “Arguments are a natural part of any relationship and should not be feared or avoided. As a matchmaker, I’ve witnessed countless relationships flourish through the art of healthy conflict resolution. While disagreements are never enjoyable during quality time together, communicating your needs to each other is essential to move forward and strengthen the bond.
“Conflict resolution should begin with an awareness that both partners may bring their unique backgrounds, varied life experiences, upbringing, and communication styles into trying to resolve an argument.
“Actively listening with patience and openness can help you address conflict from a place of respect and empathy toward one another rather than escalating the situation with defensiveness or hostility. There is a significant difference between constructive and detrimental conflict resolution, and understanding this is crucial when considering the trajectory of a relationship.”
To determine if the way you and your partner fight is healthy, consider the following signs
Communicating with ‘I’ statements instead of blaming their partner
During an argument, emotions can be at an all-time high. It’s easy to fall into the trap of speaking with sarcasm, talking over your partner, or using belittling language because you feel this will strengthen your message.
However, healthy partners maintain respect for each other whilst communicating, even during the worst disagreements. They avoid name-calling, insults, and violence, which are unacceptable when resolving conflicts. Instead, they constructively communicate their feelings and concerns while listening to what their partner says.
They stay on topic and use “I” statements to express their feelings without blaming their partner unnecessarily. They do their best to maintain composure and emotional control, acknowledging when it is time to take a break when the argument escalates.
Active listening, rather than interruptions
Constant interruptions during a discussion with your partner should be recognised as an unhealthy pattern of behaviour. If the interruptions are coming from your side, they might be driven by pressure to retain your points so you can interject and counter theirs.
However, this approach prevents you from truly listening to your partner and keeps you focused on interjecting. On the other hand, interruptions can make a person’s emotions feel dismissed, causing them to retreat and withdraw from the conversation.
Healthy partners actively listen to their partner’s experiences and perspectives, giving the speaker full attention and being present to hear their side of the story. They try to understand each other’s point of view and show empathy towards one another.
Focusing on the issue, not the person
Rather than attacking each other personally, healthy partners will focus on how to work collaboratively to tackle the issue. This includes avoiding using past grievances or unrelated issues as ammunition. Instead of focusing on “what’s wrong” with the person, they examine the mistakes made during the disagreement and how they can avoid the same scenario.
This creates a healthy environment for open and constructive communication, where both partners feel safe to express their thoughts and feelings without fear of judgment or blame.
Taking breaks when needed
When tensions escalate during an argument, it can be hard to maintain a constructive and respectful conversation towards one another. Healthy couples can recognise signs of emotional overwhelm and mutually agree to pause the discussion. Taking breaks when needed is essential, as it allows each person to regain composure, calm down and gain perspective on the argument.
A moment to pause can be initiated through a simple statement such as “I feel overwhelmed, and I need some time to collect my thoughts. Can we continue later?” By expressing your need for a break this way, you reassure your partner that the intention is not to avoid or dismiss the conversation.
Instead, it’s about composing yourself to engage more productively when you both resume the discussion. During the break, partners can self-soothe through mindfulness, go for a walk, or listen to some music to calm their emotions.
Avoiding stonewalling and silent treatment
Giving each other silent treatment or shutting down communication altogether is unhealthy. Both stonewalling and silent treatment involve intentionally ignoring your partner to express disapproval, refuse to communicate, or avoid conflict.
Unlike taking a break during an argument to compose yourself, stonewalling and silent treatment often last for extended periods of time with no resolve. This can be harmful to the relationship, as it hinders open communication. In contrast, healthy couples recognise this and adopt a proactive approach that prevents the recurrence of the same conflicts.
Apologising and forgiving
An apology can go a long way, especially after a heated argument that leaves both partners vulnerable and disconnected. A sincere and heartfelt apology can be a powerful catalyst for reconciliation and rebuilding the relationship. When both partners can recognise their mistakes, it demonstrates humility and shows the other person recognises the pain they may have caused.
As well as apologising for their actions, healthy partners can forgive their partner, let go and move on from the situation. They understand that harbouring grudges can harm the relationship and do not hold onto the past when building a future.