If you’re in a long term relationship, you’ve almost certainly had arguments with your partner. It’s inevitable. Two grown adults with their own personalities and ways of living life are bound to face conflict at times.
The question on everyone’s mind is: How often should couples fight? And the answer varies, according to your relationship. Some people get into spats daily; others would seek marriage counseling if they fought that often. The general rule of thumb in the counseling community is that if your interactions with one another are more negative than positive, you may need to evaluate your relationship. Your relationship should be mostly positive. It should make you happy and you should feel supported and loved.
If, however, you find yourself constantly at odds, you may want to consider what counselors suggest as healthy ways to resolve conflict and hopefully avoid the same conflicts from reoccuring.
Pastor Patrick Kelly of River Pointe Church says that all conflict arises from our own perspectives and expectations. We either verbalize our frustrations or keep them in, but it boils down to one or all of the following that we believe about our partners:
- You are wrong.
- You don’t understand.
- You don’t care.
- You weren’t honest.
When we believe these things, our response to each is that we want to:
- Get you to see your error.
- Inform you.
- Create empathy.
- Get you to own it.
And all of that means that we are playing the blame game. We create conflict because of our overarching need to be right, to win the argument. We lose perspective and before we know it, we’re fighting about something that really doesn’t matter, and we’re angry and sad in the process. As Dr. Phil famously says, do you want to be right, or do you want to be happy?
James, Jesus’ brother, wrote about the selfishness that leads to conflict in 4:2-3. He said, “You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.” In these verses, James reminds us that pride and the need to be right will be our undoing because they come from selfishness. Our arguments won’t change the other person or make him or her the perfect companion; they will only chip away at our relationship and make both people miserable.
James goes on to say in verse 6 that God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble. When we stop trying to be right about everything, God comforts us and brings us peace. But we have to be grounded in faith first in order to let go of our own pride. We have to trust that being humble won’t make us doormats. Instead, we will be strengthened through God’s love. Soon, we will treasure the other person far more than we will treasure being right about everything, and we will be far happier.
Your desires matter, but there are ways to have mature, constructive conversations that show respect not just for your desires, but for your partner’s as well. Start by making your partner feel heard. Start by being on your partner’s side. As hard as it is, stop arguing and admit when you’re wrong. Tell your partner you’re sorry.
These might be difficult steps to take the first few times, but once you see that these actions and words mend and deepen your relationship, you’ll realize that they’re really not hard at all. All they require is that you release your pride and place more value on your relationship than you do on being right.