Couples Who Argue Are Happier, So There

by Meredith Bland
Image via Altrendo Images/Getty Images

Fighting with your partner is the key to happiness

On Valentine’s Day, those of us who have been with the same partner for years tend to feel a little, well, tapped out. Sometimes we get home with our beaten up, bottom-of-the-pile, grocery-store-purchased, stuffed purple “love crocodile” holding a card that says, “This Valentine’s Day, I want to drag you to the bottom of my heart swamp,” and we think, What can I do from now on that’s not this?

Well, according to science, you can keep the romance alive with nothing more than a good old-fashioned fight.

As it turns out, fighting about, let’s say, the right way to load the dishwasher is better than, oh, I don’t know, sighing loudly every time you open up the dishwasher and see what your partner has done in there, Mike. According to The Guardian, a survey of 1,000 adults found that couples who “argue effectively” are ten times more likely to be happy in their relationships than those who avoid talking about their problems.

Joseph Grenny, one of the authors of the bestselling book Crucial Conversations, told The Guardian that one of the biggest mistakes a couple can make is putting off a difficult or uncomfortable conversation until things get so bad that you lose your ever-loving mind: “We tend to avoid these conversations because we are conscious of the risks of speaking up, but unconscious of the risks of not speaking up,” he said. “We tend to only weigh the immediate and obvious risks without considering the longer-term costs to intimacy, trust, and connection.”

Ok. That makes sense. But what if you don’t feel like talking about your partner’s irritating habits because Olympic curling is on or you’re tired or you just don’t want to or whatever? Well, the key isn’t so much about bringing up every issue as it occurs to you, but having that conversation in a respectful and honest way. “The success of a relationship is determined by the way in which sensitive issues are debated,” said Grenny. “True love takes work. Real intimacy is not just about love but is also about truth. And crucial conversations are the vehicle for surfacing truth in a way that accelerates a feeling of intimacy, trust and connection.”

Ugh. That sounds exhausting. But fine, for the sake of my relationship, I suppose I can talk to my husband about long-standing issues I have in our marriage. But how do I do that without smothering him in his sleep to stop his snoring?

Here are some tips from The Guardian‘s article:

“Manage your thoughts.”

I don’t know what this means. So…pass.

“Soften your judgments by asking yourself why a reasonable, rational and decent person would do what your partner is doing.”

Why would a reasonable, decent person snore like an aardvark on a coke binge and not do anything to try to make it better despite the fact that the person he sleeps with wishes him death at 2:00 every morning when he is, coincidentally, at his most vulnerable?

“Affirm before you complain.”

I affirm that he snores and I complain that I hate it.

“Don’t start by diving into the issue. Let your partner know you respect and care for them first.”

Hey honey, I love you so much. Almost as much as I would love sleeping through the goddamn night.

“Start with the facts.”

Fact: fucking snoring.

“Strip out the accusatory, judgmental and inflammatory language.”

I…wish that…breathing…was easier for you.

“Be tentative but honest.”

I sort of want both of us to die when you won’t stop snoring?

“Having laid out the facts, tell your partner why you’re concerned. But don’t do it as an accusation: share it as an opinion.”

My opinion is that oh my God can you try snore strips or one of those mouth guards or that thing that straps your face shut or anything? Throw me a bone here, man!…In my opinion.

“Invite dialogue.”

Explain yourself, motherfucker.

Yup, that should make this Valentine’s Day one we’ll never forget.

Hurray for love!