Let the Bickering Begin

Recently a friend of mine, apparently seeking some misguided advice on his relationship, reached out to me. He and his girlfriend had begun arguing on a weekly basis and he wondered if this was normal, posing the question, “does every relationship ultimately get to the point where you argue constantly?” After prefacing my response with this caveat: “I haven’t been in a relationship for years and it’s been even longer since I’ve seen the inside of a functional relationship,” I addressed his concerns.

I told him that the honeymoon period eventually wears off in every relationship and arguing can be a sign of a healthy relationship with open communication. And although weekly squabbling seems a bit excessive, the manner in which these arguments are handled can indicate whether or not the relationship is healthy or even worth pursuing. It’s the notable difference between a disagreement and an all-out war.

If every relationship inevitably hits that point where perpetual fighting is the norm, I don’t want it. Although some people thrive on passionate friction, I would much rather not be at odds with a person with whom I choose to spend any portion of my life. I don’t think I’m alone in this. I can’t imagine that most stable adults would enjoy such a volatile existence. For this reason, I refuse to believe that constant conflict is the fate of every relationship. If it were, no one would venture into the romantic realm. Still, I have heard of couples who constantly fight but have never been happier (love is a funny, funny thing).

I personally have not been a relationship with constant bickering and been happy in spite of, or because of, the tension. With my penchant for over thinking, frequent arguments tend to send my mind into a damaging whirlwind. As I’m sure is the case with most people, my happiest relationships have been those where fighting was minimal and disagreements were solved as calmly and rationally as possible.

In most instances, I think incessant bickering is indicative of a need for maturation in one or both parties. It can be difficult not to go on the defense when conflict arises, especially with someone we care about. It seems the more we care about another person the more easily we are provoked by the slightest indication of an attack. This overreaction to disagreements often causes childish responses that we wouldn’t dream of in our interactions with any other adult. Name calling, raised voices and run-and-hide tactics are all go-to defenses of an emotionally immature individual.

These methods are unacceptable and inevitably detrimental in a relationship. Even after apologies the effects of childish, hurtful words chip away at us as well as the foundation of the relationship. Of course no one is perfect, we will undoubtedly turn to these juvenile tactics from time to time, but if we ever hope to have a healthy, functional relationship our battle should ultimately be with our immature natures rather than the person we supposedly love.