Some relationship conflict – such as an occasional “lover’s spat” – is normal and even healthy for couples. But, fighting can start to affect how you feel about each other and even destroy your relationship. The following signs that a couple’s fights are unhealthy and destructive are inspired by a reader.
“My boyfriend and I fight all the time, yet we really do love each other,” says Natasha on 5 Signs It’s Too Late to Fix Your Relationship. “We fight about what to watch on Netflix, how much time he spends gaming, how often to have sex, and how to deal with his ex-wife and kids. Is our constant fighting a sign we’re not meant to be together? How do I know if it’s time to move on, or if our fights are normal? I can’t even talk to him about this because we’d fight about how much we fight in our relationship. Is this a sign we’re fighting too much as a couple? I feel like I’m going crazy!!” Yes, I think feeling like you’re going crazy is a sign you’re fighting too much. I also believe our relationships should make us happy most of the time…and if there is a lot of conflict then we aren’t truly happy. Below, I share six ways to know if your lover’s spats are destroying your relationship or actually healthy for you as a couple.
What you won’t find here is a quick and easy “relationship quiz” to test whether or not your fights are normal. Why? Because the biggest and most reliable sign that lover’s spats are destroying your relationship is your own gut feeling. If your fights seem out of control or even abusive to you, then yes…you are fighting too much. If you fight all the time over nothing, then yes…relationship conflict is destroying your relationship.
And if you recognize your relationship in the signs below, then yes…your fights are destroying your relationship. There is an important difference between resolving difficult conflicts in a relationship in healthy ways, versus allowing fights to spiral out of control and destroy your love for each other.
No matter how close you are as a couple, you will have conflict. That’s why they’re called “lover’s spats”! Love is passion, and passion gets fired up. Being fired up – and even yelling during a heated discussion – isn’t a sign your love is dead. Quite the opposite, in fact! But if you want to build a healthy relationship, you need to learn how to turn unhealthy emotional clashes into positive discussions that strengthen your relationship.
It won’t be easy, but it will be worth it.
In this article, you’ll find:
- 6 ways to know if your lover’s spats are destroying your relationship
- Warning signs of unhealthy relationship conflict
- Resources for resolving conflict and fights together, as a couple
If you’d like to share your experience or story in the comments section below, I’d love to hear from you! I can’t offer relationship advice, but you may find it healing and insightful to write about how your lover’s spats are affecting your relationship. There is something refreshing and healing that happens when you write your thoughts down on paper (or even type them on the screen) that can bring insight to all sorts of relationship problems.
6 Ways to Know if Your “Lover’s Spats” Are Destroying Your Relationship
Healthy conflict is essential in a strong, committed relationship. If your lover’s spats are honest and respectful, it’s a sign you can share your honest thoughts and feelings with your boyfriend or husband. Healthy conflict resolution is also a sign that he can share his true opinions and feelings with you without worrying that you will get defensive or angry. Healthy relationship conflict is a sign of trust and mutual respect.
However, if you never learned how to get over a lover’s spat or resolve conflict in your relationships, you need to watch carefully for the following signs of destruction. They tend to creep up slowly, without warning.
1. You’ve never had a lover’s spat or fought as a couple
Be careful about the “we never fight so we must have a good relationship” myth! It can deceive you by giving you a false sense of security. Not fighting with your guy doesn’t mean you have a healthy relationship. In fact, it’s just the opposite: no conflict is actually a sign of an unhealthy relationship.
Never disagreeing or fighting about anything can be a sign of a bad relationship because it might mean:
If you need help moving forward...
- You don’t care enough to talk about things that are really important
- You’re scared of conflict, or you don’t want to “rock the boat”in your relationship
- You’re too preoccupied with things outside your relationship to be bothered to truly engage with your partner (this is especially true for men – read How to Handle a Boyfriend Who Doesn’t Make Time for You)
Regardless of the reason, never fighting means you’re not truly or deeply connecting as a couple. You’re skimming the surface of your relationship instead of actually airing out your concerns or engaging in real conversations about things that matter. Never fighting as a couple is just as destructive to your relationship as the following lover’s spats…
2. You fight all the time about trivial or meaningless things
Healthy couples always have little disagreements about things that don’t really matter, such as what restaurant to eat at or where to go on vacation. My husband and I enjoy different types of holidays – I prefer the backpacking adventures in Vietnam and India; he likes the resort vacations in Costa Rica or Cuba so he can combine exploration with relaxation by the pool. We also argue about how much ketchup to put on steak (Me: lots! Him: none!).
Those are little bickering-type fights (lover’s spats) that aren’t destroying our relationship because neither of us are that emotionally invested in the issue. In fact, those are two examples of relationship conflict that can strengthen our marriage because they allow us to talk about our likes and preferences in a safe environment. They’ve taught us how to add humor and teasing to our little disagreements, which can benefit our bigger relationship conflicts.
What about you and your partner? If you’re fighting all the time about superficial issues and you both get angry or defensive, you need to pay attention to your communication styles. Constantly fighting as a couple is a sign that your relationship is being destroyed from within.
3. Your important arguments aren’t productive
Yes, even healthy couples in great marriages have serious and important arguments. My husband and I recently disagreed over where I should spend the Christmas holidays (I want to volunteer at a sleep-away camp for adults with physical and mental disabilities; he wants me to spend Christmas as usual with the family). This is a more serious disagreement, but it did not turn into a destructive fight. As a couple, we talked through the possibilities and decided that me volunteering would do more good for more people. We were quite grown-up about it.
When you and your boyfriend or husband argue, do you find ways to resolve the conflict? There isn’t anything wrong with having a good old healthy “lover’s spat”! It won’t destroy your relationship if you solve the problem in some way. You have to work together to find the solution, though. One person can’t simply impose the solution or decide how the argument will end. If you can work through the issue together and decide as a couple how to resolve the disagreement, your relationship will be healthier and stronger.
4. You don’t resolve the conflicts in your relationship
If you’re always fighting about the same thing as a couple, it’s a sign your arguments are destroying your love relationship.
Not resolving your fights – and especially not forgiving each other for big and little things – is a serious warning sign of an unhealthy relationship.
Instead of being a tool to help you get closer, fighting has become an unhealthy communication pattern in your relationship. You’ve developed a rut that you keep falling into as a couple, and you don’t know how to get out. Or, you don’t have the energy it takes to work together to resolve the conflict and stop fighting about it for good.
Unresolved lover’s spats don’t just disappear. If you or your guy is angry or hurt deep down about something that doesn’t get worked through in your relationship, you will keep fighting about it as a couple. And your relationship will slowly self-destruct. In fact, this is one of the warning signs of bad relationships.
5. You don’t deal with the underlying issues in your “lover’s spats”
Have you ever found yourself fighting with your boyfriend about something, and you’re surprised by how powerful your emotions are? Maybe your furious at him, or you can’t stop crying over something small. If this sounds familiar, then you may be dealing with underlying emotional issues that you haven’t expressed to yourself or your boyfriend.
For example, my husband used to tease me all the time about being a “good wife”, saying I should make his lunches and cook his dinners. He thought it was funny; his brothers tease me about the exact same thing. They all think it’s hilarious. I do not. And now that we’ve been married for 11 years, I find myself getting angrier and more frustrated by their teasing. It wasn’t until I did some self-discovery journaling that I realized that I wasn’t facing my underlying emotions about their jokes. When I figured that out and talked about it with my husband, our conflict disappeared. Poof! It really was that easy.
6. You can’t “agree to disagree” in your relationship
Relationship conflict isn’t always easily resolved, is it? No sireee. No way. It’s not as simple as just “agreeing to disagree” about something important. Couples have fights about serious and important problems in their relationship, and about the world around them (everything from their children to money to politics).
If you’re dealing with a serious issue, there aren’t any simple or easy ways to stop fighting with your husband or boyfriend. Resolving conflict without destroying your relationship involves taking time and work. Both you and your partner need to look into yourselves – your past and your personalities – and learn why you’re fighting and how to resolve the spat without destroying your love.
How to Stop Lover’s Spats From Destroying Your Relationship
In The Heart of the Fight: A Couple’s Guide to Fifteen Common Fights, What They Really Mean, and How They Can Bring You Closer, Judith Wright and Bob Wright teach couples how to use disagreements as an opportunity to deepen your understanding of your partner, bring more intimacy to the relationship, strengthen your bond, and really learn from the conflicts and tensions that occur between you.
You’ll also learn how to navigate the fifteen most common fights couples have, including “the blame game,” “dueling over dollars,” “If you really loved me, you’d…,” “told-you-so’s,” and more.
In Words Can Change Your Brain: 12 Conversation Strategies to Build Trust, Resolve Conflict, and Increase Intimacy, Andrew Newberg and Mark Robert Waldman share a powerful strategy called “Compassionate Communication.” It allows two brains to work together as one.
Using brainscans and clinical data from couples in therapy and from organizations helping caregivers cope with patient suffering, Newberg and Waldman have seen that Compassionate Communication can change a difficult conversation (such as a couple’s fight) and create a satisfying conclusion. Whether you are negotiating with your boss or your spouse, your brain works the same way and responds to the same cues. This book shows how Compassionate Communication works and how it can stop your relationship conflict from destroying your love for each other.
In her comment at the beginning of this article, Natasha explained why she is worried that she and her boyfriend are having too many lover’s spats, and asked for help dealing with the conflict in their relationship before it completely destroys their love. If you were a relationship advice columnist (which I am not – that’s why I’m asking you!), what would you tell her?
And what do you think about your own relationship – are your lover’s spats healthy or harmful? Is conflict pulling you apart as a couple, or pushing you closer together? Feel free to share your thoughts below.