We accept that not every moment of a relationship is going to be the happiest ever. Sometimes we really disagree with our S.O.s or they hurt our feelings (and vise-versa). From criticism to some (hopefully short-lived) jealousy, we鈥檙e bound to be guilty of bad relationship habits occasionally. And while some conflict is certainly part of the deal, Courtney Geter, a licensed marriage and family therapist, says that there鈥檚 a point where disagreements can deteriorate a relationship, or worse, turn into abuse.

In the middle of an argument...

THE range聽OF ways couples deal with聽CONFLICT

In terms of conflict style, there鈥檚 a range of ways individuals and couples deal with problems. In general though, your relationship might be in a period of turmoil 鈥 or be altogether toxic 鈥 if you鈥檙e 鈥渇eeling resentful, insecure, unsafe, or a sense of dread. Those feelings may indicate a larger problem in the relationship that needs addressing,鈥 Geter explains. Although she says that the line between healthy conflict and unhealthy conflict varies for different couples, there are extremes on either end of the conflict spectrum. On one hand, if a couple never fights, Geter wonders if they鈥檙e conflict avoidant or not comfortable discussing hard topics with their partner. We鈥檙e guessing passive-aggressiveness is somewhere in the middle.

The opposite of avoidance is abuse. Conflict to the point of physical fighting or emotional manipulation isn鈥檛 just detrimental to a relationship. It can be detrimental to a person. 鈥淎ny conflict that leads to physical or emotional abuse is not healthy for the individuals or relationship,鈥 Geter says. 鈥淒omestic violence can not only create physical scars, but also emotional scars, such as extreme fear or feeling hyper-vigilant in most situations.鈥


So where鈥檚 the happy medium? 鈥淗ealthy conflict is when each person can disagree while respecting the other person鈥檚 opinion 鈥 even if they never end up agreeing,鈥 according to Geter. The ideal situation here is when you disagree with your partner but take the time to listen to them without interrupting, hear their side, and choose to learn something from what your partner believes without judgment.

Geter points out that conflict is also healthy as long as each fight isn鈥檛 a Festivus-style airing of grievances. It might be tempting to bring up past conflicts or points of contention during an argument, but your relationship will be all the better if you choose to let bygones be bygones.

Overall, there鈥檚 no magic number in terms of the frequency and nature of conflict. However, you can sense when you鈥檙e on one extreme end of the spectrum by assessing the way that your relationship makes you feel. If your fights or disagreements leave your relationship stronger rather than weaker, you鈥檙e probably heading in the right direction.

How much conflict do you think is too much? Let us know @BritandCo.

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