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Poll: Couples Who Argue Have Happier Relationships

Another poll shows that fighting can be good for relationships.

By Kristin Wong Jun 27, 2012 2:58PM

Photo: Aurelie and Morgan David de Lossy/Getty ImagesMost couples argue. Sometimes it can get ugly, but if they argue effectively, fighting is a way of getting to know each other and showing one's investment in the relationship. Sometimes, confrontation can actually be pretty healthy.

And according to findings from a recent survey, couples who argue are actually happier in their relationships than couples who simply sweep their issues under the rug.  And the difference is substantial.

Joseph Grenny, co-author of New York Times bestseller Crucial Conversations, polled 976 people and found that couples who argue effectively are 10 times more likely to report being in a happy relationship than couples who keep their issues to themselves. The key word here: effectively.

This certainly isn't the first poll to discover that couples who fight stay tight. A recent not-so-scientific (but still interesting) study accumulated the habits of people in happy relationships. The study found that, on average, a happy couple has two deep, meaningful conversations per week and one healthy argument per week.

So what about the couples who hold it in? At times, couples may avoid arguments simply because confrontation is unpleasant, or perhaps the issue seems petty. But often, even the pettiest of issues can mutate into something worse. Once, after weeks of ignoring my boyfriend's aversion to chores, I argued that his not taking out the trash meant he didn't care about me. And I genuinely believed it at the time. A serious but possibly unfounded discussion about the future of your relationship can often be avoided by addressing a simple, petty issue.

A lack of fighting in a relationship can also be evidence of a lack of communication. Grenny tells the Wall Street Journal:

"What we don't talk out, we eventually act out. We need to consider the risks of not speaking up just as heavily as the risks of speaking up."

Specifically, Grenny found that the three most difficult topics for couples to discuss are sex, finances and annoying habits. Interestingly, four out of five of those surveyed said that poor communication was a cause of their last failed relationship.

In order to communicate effectively, Grenny advises couples to think rationally about their issues with their partner. Then, before you begin the argument, start with an affirmation. If I've learned anything from Men Are from Mars, it's that men really don't like to feel that they're responsible for their partner's unhappiness, because it makes them feel like they've failed. So a compliment and a bit of reassurance is a great way to get that ugly ball of an argument rolling. 

Additionally, Grenny suggests being factual over accusatory. It's also important to encourage your partner to share his or her thoughts.

So go ahead and quarrel, lovers. Just make sure you do it effectively. 

Photo: Aurelie and Morgan David de Lossy/Getty Images

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Mar 9, 2014 5:52PM
I think I/we might need to go to a counselor. I've been married 33 years and trying to get my husband to have any meaningful communication is the hardest part of our relationship. He is always right and if I try to talk, he gets angry/irritated and shuts down. So I don't try. I just go along. Perhaps that is why I have been on antidepressants so long. Maybe it is just me that needs to see a counselor.
Jul 3, 2012 1:35AM
msnbc how about reporting on something news worth?  for instance the economy, jobs, deficit and maybe the 2012 election??? this crap isn't even worth reading.
Jun 28, 2012 10:48PM

What about husbands who kill their wives after an argument, and vice versa? Is that suppose to be part of a healthy relationship too?  Did the author ever stop to think that the reason why some couples never argue is simply because they have nothing to argue about? Frequent arguments between couples is a sign of a disfunctional relationship. The author failed to mention the fact that most kids who run away from home or grow up to have bad relationships, come from homes where there was constant fighting going on between the parents. 

Jun 28, 2012 10:29PM

Right...try it guys and it'll be 911 for verbal abuse and you'll be in anger management with a restraining order...(if you're lucky)

Jun 28, 2012 10:19PM
Our best discussions / arguments are when we address current "issues".  My memory is fresh / accurate and, as needed, I can quickly apologize and work on my needed improvements.  When my spouse digs up issues from long ago, things often get complicated.  Memories of details fade over time.  I need a "statute of limitations" in my marriage.
Jun 28, 2012 10:18PM
HEH, being married for 29 years, my wife and I always argue!! Do you want to know why?? Because we're BOTH right!!!  :)   Thanks for the reminder... Where is that darn woman!!
Jun 28, 2012 10:03PM
Will someone explain to me how you argue effectively? I mean when one doesn't do it right, what do you do stop the arguement and tell them thier doing it wrong? That ought to start another good one.
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