For The Love Of A Good Fight – Queendom Study Reveals That Arguing In Relationships Isn’t Necessarily A Bad Thing
Queendom.com and PsychTests.com’s latest study on the role of conflict in couples indicates that arguing itself is not a problem – it’s HOW the couple fights that matters.
Montreal, Canada – August 27, 2013. Fighting with a partner is one thing…fighting dirty is another. Queendom’s study of 27,643 people who took their Arguing Style Test reveals that couples who take a negative approach to fighting, both in terms of attitude and technique, are more likely to experience a break-up as a result.
Conflict, arguing, fighting. They are words so intertwined with negativity that they can’t be weaved apart. See a couple fighting in public and people will stare. Hear neighbors arguing through an open window and the surrounding houses suddenly get suspiciously quiet as they listen in. But everyone does it – so why is it a problem?
Researchers at Queendom.com as well as 65% of people they studied agree that arguing can be healthy in a relationship (at least to some degree), but there is one caveat: How a couple fights – each individual’s “arguing style,” that is – can mean the difference between healthy conflict resolution and an all-out, spiteful war of words.
Analyzing data from more than 27,000 people who took their Arguing Style Test, Queendom’s statistics indicate that people who have had a fight that directly led to the demise of a romantic relationship were more likely to use negative fighting tactics or to fight “dirty” (score of 59 vs. 49 for those who have not had a relationship-ending conflict – on a scale from 0 to 100). They also had a more negative attitude toward conflict itself, indicating that they are more likely to believe that nothing can be gained or learned from fighting with their partner.
Queendom’s study also revealed that of those who have had arguments that lead to break-ups:
- 31% refuse to be the first one to apologize after a fight (compared to 24% for those who have not had a relationship-ending fight).
- 33% point out their partner’s faults/character flaws (compared to 20% of those without history of “terminal” fights).
- 38% will purposely “hit below the belt” and make criticisms that they know will hurt their partner (compared to 24% of non-terminal fighters).
- 42% swear/cuss when they fight with their partner (compared to 27% of non-terminal fighters).
- 45% allow old grudges to resurface when arguing (compared to 33% of non-terminal fighters).
- 47% make up right away after a fight (compared to 57% of non-terminal fighters).
- 47% will accept their partner’s feelings and opinions, even if they don’t agree with them (compared to 56% of non-terminal fighters).
- 51% said that when they fight, they want to be the one who wins, no matter what (compared to 44% of non-terminal fighters).
- 60% will bring up ALL the issues that are bothering them at once, rather than focusing on the issue at hand (compared to 47% of non-terminal fighters).
- 62% tend to raise their voice when upset (compared to 50% of non-terminal fighters).
- 66% will admit when they are wrong (compared to 72% of non-terminal fighters).
“Arguing can be a way for a couple to grow and better understand one another – and despite what some couples might think, there are ways to fight constructively,” explains Dr. Ilona Jerabek, president of the company. “It’s not a matter of determining who is right and who is wrong, but rather, clarifying why the issue you are fighting over is important, and how you both stand to benefit by resolving it. The belief that happy couples do not or should not fight is false, if not unhealthy. People who are satisfied with their relationship still have their disagreements, but they talk things out, listen to each other’s side of the story, find common ground, focus on finding a mutually-beneficial solution, and speak with tact. And if things get too heated, they take a break, and wait until they’ve calmed down before taking up the discussion again.”
So what are the ground rules for constructive fighting? Here are some tips from Queendom.com:
- Don’t try to avoid confrontation at all costs. This results in a buildup of unresolved anger and frustration for both parties. Sulking and denial do not accomplish anything, as your partner might interpret your avoidance as a lack of interest in topics that affect your relationship. Besides, bottled-up frustration will find its way out one way or another, whether it’s snide remarks, sarcasm, or other forms of passive aggression.
- Don’t attack your partner’s character. Instead, discuss specific behaviors and how you feel about them. While character traits are difficult to change, specific behaviors can be modified, which makes the criticism easier to digest and less threatening. For example, instead of saying, “You are such a lousy parent”, say, “I disagree with the way you reprimand our kids.” Or, instead of saying, “You never spend any time with me,” say, “I miss spending time with you.” Using “I” phrases makes the statement sound less accusatory, which is less likely to put your partner on the defensive. By the way, simply inserting “I feel that …” into hurtful comments is not going to cut it. “I feel that you are a lousy parent” is just as offensive. The point is to use non-threatening, non-dismissive language and focus on changeable behaviors, rather than stable character traits.
- Figure out what the fight is really about and focus on it. It’s never really about the dirty socks on the floor or the toilet seat being up. That’s just an outlet for the bottled-up frustration or the last drop in an overflowing glass of hurt feelings. Conflicts typically stem from deeper underlying issues … the issue with the dirty socks, for instance, can be about being taken for granted or being treated like a maid. Failing to put the toilet seat down is about lack of consideration in general, not specifically about the indignity of falling butt-first into the bowl. So figure out what is REALLY bothering you, and focus on the issue at hand – and leave past issues and indiscretions in the past.
- Try to understand how your partner sees the situation. Don’t make assumptions about your partner’s motives and don’t put words into his or her mouth. Your assumptions may or may not be right. Rather, put yourself in his or her shoes and listen with an open mind. We tend to focus on our own interpretation of events. Try to see things from your partner’s perspective, and you’ll gain a more thorough view of the issue. Just like you, your partner has the right to see things differently. A simple reality check can go a long way and may clear up the real intention behind the “offensive” remark or action. A direct question may reveal that you partner simply made a bad joke, forgot to do something, or snapped at you because s/he had a bad day … or just wasn’t really thinking at all.
- Admit your mistakes. Unless you are Marge Simpson, it is likely that you both share the responsibility for your couple’s conflicts. It may be your partner who initiated the argument (with words or actions), but you might still be guilty of overreaction, misinterpretation or generalization. Take responsibility for your own actions and feelings. It can be hard to face your own shortcomings but your partner will likely appreciate your honesty. Your partner will become less defensive when he/she sees that you are not blaming everything on him or her.
- Take a time-out if things get too heated. You may have gotten this recipe for a successful relationship from well-meaning relatives and friends: “Never go to bed angry.” If you did hear this pearl of wisdom, forget it – it’s a bad one. If you can resolve the conflict and make-up before you hit the sack, great, but don’t push it. Sticking to such advice at all cost often results in protracted arguments, where emotions are running high, neither partner is thinking straight nor listening to what the other has to say, and both of you are rehashing the same points over and over. Tears are flowing, as are accusations and swearing. When that happens, it is simply counterproductive to continue. Instead, postpone the resolution (but do agree on when you will resume), take a solo walk or go to sleep. You might gain a better perspective once you sleep on it, and the insurmountable issues of yesterday may suddenly seem less ominous.
- Accept that some issues just can’t be resolved in one argument. If you encounter a complex issue (such as infidelity), make sure that you both understand that the topic will have to be addressed again and again, and it may take months if not years to reestablish trust and companionship. If there doesn’t seem to be much progress or if you feel like you’re going in circles, consult a professional who can help guide you through the issue.
- “Any long-term relationship will involve conflict, no matter how much the partners love each other,” concludes Dr. Jerabek. “Contrary to the myth of conflict-free marriages, constructive arguments are healthy, as they clear up the air, resolve the inevitable disagreements, and as a bonus, often times help to reignite the passion in a stale relationship. The trick is to learn how to argue effectively and to fight fair.”
Those who wish to take the Arguing Style Test can go to:
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About PsychTests AIM Inc:
PsychTests AIM Inc. originally appeared on the internet scene in 1996. Since its inception, it has become a pre-eminent provider of psychological assessment products and services to human resource personnel, therapists, academics, researchers and a host of other professionals around the world. PsychTests AIM Inc. staff is comprised of a dedicated team of psychologists, test developers, researchers, statisticians, writers, and artificial intelligence experts (see ARCHProfile.com). The company’s research division, Plumeus Inc., is supported in part by Research and Development Tax Credit awarded by Industry Canada.