Turn, Turn, Turn. ..

Many couples call for therapy with the presenting problem of “arguing”. “We argue all the time- we cant stop arguing,” etc. Actually arguing or having heated discussions with your partner is not in itself a huge problem, (within certain limits having to do with how you fight). Some couples can really go at it, yelling and screaming and yet still have good solid marriages. Again, how you argue is important (more on that in a later post) but arguing is not necessarily a problem in a relationship.

People are different, they have differences of opinion, they sometimes see the world in completely different ways. So why wouldn’t people, so different,  who have to work together to make a life and family, not have differences that sometimes make them angry.

It is not that couples argue that makes problems in relationships. In most cases, it is what happens after the fight. Do you turn toward your partner or do you turn away. Do you reach out or do you have hours or even days of silence or ongoing eruptions restarting the fight again and again. Maybe the whole thing seems to simply disappear as if it never existed. Usually unresolved, unrepaired battles between people who have promised to care for one another, do not simply disappear.

John Gottman, perhaps the most well known relationship researcher has found some very interesting data on arguing. He has a really cool couple’s lab. It is designed to look like a regular apartment. He hooks (generally married couples) up to equipment that measures heart rate, blood pressure and other things and asks them to talk about things, sometime innocuous things, sometimes things that are quite upsetting to the couple. He video tapes them and studies what happens during and after arguments (among other things). He has found that even the loudest, angriest couples can have great marriages- because they do something special after the fight is over. They turn towards each other. They reconnect, they repair any damage. The most skilled couples can maintain their connection, even when heatedly arguing. They work together to help each other feel better after a knock-down-drag-out.

In my practice of marriage therapy in Orlando, I help people to repair their wounds, to habitually turn toward their partner; no matter how heated they have gotten and do whatever it takes to reconnect. Its always a good idea to try to treat your partner with a special kind of respect and care (more later). But if arguments ensue, fix any wounds fast and well!

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