When a row erupts between a couple, it’s not necessarily a bad thing. Conflict is inevitable in any relationship, and quarrels can be a release valve that prevents issues, as well as resentment, from building up, says San Diego-based marriage and family therapist Jennine Estes on her podcast, The Couple Fix. “All couples fight,” agrees psychotherapist Tyler Ong, PsyD, MS. “The difference between healthy, functional couples and destructive ones is the way they fight.”
At their worst, disputes between couples morph into all-out attacks. Negative behaviors end up creating “an enemy-defender dynamic, with each side thinking he or she is the victim,” says Ong. “Obviously, when a supposedly loving relationship transforms into a threat and a need to defend oneself from one’s partner—who is now an enemy instead of a significant other— primal survival instincts come to the fore.” Hence the raised voices, dilated pupils, clenched muscles, and threatening postures.
QUASH THESE QUARRELING HABITS
According to the Gott - man method of couples therapy, the worst hab - its people engage in during fights are criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling. In a nutshell, criticism is attacking your partner’s character instead of addressing the specific issue at hand. For example, instead of lodging a complaint that he didn’t do the dishes again today, you critici