In this article, we’ll look at new data to understand how often couples fight in serious relationships.
We’ll also learn how to make these fights constructive so the relationship can grow and not falter.
When I asked my dad (who’s been married to my mother for 39 years) how often he thinks couples should fight, he said, “Whenever the opportunity arises!”
Let’s see if that’s sound advice, Dad.
How often do couples fight in healthy, serious relationships?
If you’re in a healthy, serious relationship, you will fight. It’s inevitable and unavoidable.
Fighting is a good thing and is a marker for a healthy relationship. It means that you and your partner are communicating openly and honestly. What’s more, is that if you’re having good fights, it means that your relationship is strong enough to weather some conflict.
However, if you’re fighting too much or your arguments are damaging, then there might be a problem.
So, how do you know where the line is between healthy fighting and bad fighting?
Since you’re reading this article, chances are you’re worried that you and your partner are fighting too much. We’ll share the data on how much the average couple fights in a serious relationship, what experts think is the “right” amount of fights to have, and what to do about it if you’re offtrack.
How Do Couples Fight (According to the data)
How often couples fight seems like a sensitive topic, and one where you wouldn’t want to share with others. Luckily for us, a survey of 1,000 Americans in a “serious relationship” was conducted in May 2022 and asked just that question.
Let’s break down the numbers on fight frequency, what topics couples fight about most, and what percentage of those fights are healthy versus unhealthy.
How often do couples fight?
In the survey, when asked how often these couples got into arguments or disagreements with their partner, this is what they said:
- Once a week or more (30%)
- Once a month or a multiple times a month (28%)
- Once or multiple times per year (32%)
From this data, we draw two main conclusions.
First, there is a great deal of variation. After all, every relationship has a different level of conflict tolerance. Second, the vast majority of couples fight. Only 3% of couples said they never fight at all.
Unfortunately, the frequency of arguments is all over the board. Maybe the best question is not “how much do couples fight.” Instead, a better question would be “how much should couples fight.”
We’ll do our best to answer this question later in the article. What’s important is to understand your fighting patterns and to make sure that you’re not arguing more than you’re comfortable with.
What do couples fight about?
According to the same YouGov survey, these are the top 5 topics that couples fight about most frequently.
- Tone of voice or attitude (39%)
- Money (28%)
- Communications styles (26%)
- Household chores (21%)
- Relationships with immediate and extended family (20%)
Further down the list were health and lifestyle decisions (13%), sex (12%), friendships or social activities outside the relationship (12%), and parenting (11%).
Did the main topic of your arguments make the top 5 list? Ours did. Let us know in the comments.
If you’re anything like us, you might feel like you and your partner keep having the same fights over and over. Well, we’re not alone.
According to the survey, 48% of people in serious relationships feel this way. These are the fights that will probably never be resolved or have a clear solution, and that’s okay.
This was an eye-opening fact for us, as we see our parents arguing together about the same things we argue about, despite vastly different circumstances. Some things are simply universal, and if there was an easy answer — or simply any “right” answer — they would have been resolved already.
How do people in serious relationships fight?
The same survey asked people about how they argued with their partner, and whether or not their methods were healthy.
Only 50% of the adults in a serious relationship said they have healthy fights. If you’re constantly head-to-head, we’ll talk about healthy versus unhealthy arguments later in this article.
Here are some examples of healthy fighting methods:
- Listening to each other without interruption
- Staying calm and not yelling
- Not using hurtful words or phrases
- Taking a break if things get too heated
Many respondents decided not to answer, but 30% said that their arguments were somewhat unhealthy. Those individuals said they would either:
- Raise their voice (26%)
- Ignore their partner or give them the silent treatment (19%)
- Swear at their partner or call the nasty names (12%)
- Start crying (14%)
If this sounds like you or your partner, don’t despair because there are a few simple ways to fix it. Now that we have covered the data on how often couples fight in serious relationships, let’s learn how to argue the healthy way.
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How To Fight As A Couple
Is fighting necessary in a relationship? Arguing is an inevitable part of any relationship — but does that mean it’s necessary?
According to my dad, the answer is yes.
My family used to say that if we never fought, it would mean one of two things: either we weren’t communicating enough, or we were too comfortable in our relationship to bother fighting.
In the study, 3% of respondents said that they never argue with their partner. Part of us doesn’t actually believe it, and we think it’s because everyone defines a “fight” in different way. When does an argument cross over to become a fight?
Frankly, while fighting is a strong word, we agree that all couples do argue, and should! It’s the only way to ensure that you’re really communicating with each other, and it’s a necessary step in any relationship.
If you’re in a relationship and you’ve truly never fought, we think it’s time to have your first healthy argument! Let’s learn how to do that.
A relationship without arguing is like a fruit with no seeds — it might look good on the outside, but there’s nothing there to make it grow.
So, how often SHOULD couples fight?
In the study, the average person said that they argue with their partner about 2-3 times per month. Does that seem like a lot or a little?
According to what relationship experts have been saying for years, the couples in the experiment were slacking. They say that it’s healthy for a couple to fight 1-2 times per week.
Sounds like we might need to step up our game. After all, arguing is an excellent way to release tension and stress, improve our communication skills, and learn how to compromise. All of these strengthen a relationship.
If you’re fighting more than 1-2 times per week, chances are this is not a problem. As long the arguments are short and dealt with in a healthy manner, that’s fine. However, if these are unhealthy fights, that is a red flag.
Either way, the next section will help you learn how to fight more effectively and healthily as a couple.
If you’re fighting less that 1-2 times per week, don’t worry. That might just mean you communicate often and have a really healthy friendship. Keep up the good work!
If you’re not fighting with your partner at all, it might mean that you’re bottling up your emotions or that you’re afraid of conflict. Follow your gut and decide if you think your frequency of fights is the right fit for you.
What does fighting look like in healthy relationships?
Dr. John Gottman, the renowned relationship psychologist, can determine with 94% accuracy whether a couple will stay together or get divorced, just by watching them fight.
That’s because it’s not about the frequency of fighting that matters most, but how the argument is resolved. Since your goal is to have a healthy relationship, that is extremely important.
How does he do it? Dr. Gottman looks at these four things:
1. The ratio of positive to negative interactions during the argument
There should be more laughing, fondness, and appreciation than contempt, defensiveness, or giving your partner the cold shoulder.
2. Whether the couple can repair the damage after the fight
After the fight, it’s important to apologize and make up. Even during a healthy argument, you might hurt your partners feelings.
Give a genuine apology and avoid saying, “but,” as in, “I’m sorry, but…” Take ownership that you’ve hurt their feelings and take the defensiveness down a notch.
3. How the couple handles criticism
It’s important that both parties feel like they can express their opinion without fear of being attacked. All criticism should be constructive, not destructive.
4. Whether one or both partners withdraw during the argument
The argument is not constructive when one partner withdraws completely. This can be damaging to a relationship, because it shuts down communication altogether.
Improving in these four areas is the best place to start. In the next section we’ll dive even deeper and discuss healthy versus unhealthy fighting tactics.
Healthy Versus Unhealthy Fights
To help you learn how to fight better with your partner, you must be able to identify healthy and unhealthy tactics. In this section, we’ll discuss healthy and unhealthy ways to argue along with action items to fight better.
Tips to have healthy fights
Follow these rules to ensure you and your partner are having healthy fights.
Rule #1: Leave the past in the past
Don’t hold on to grudges, bring up past arguments, or fuel the fire with unrelated grievances. Focus on the problem at hand. This can be difficult, but avoid getting sidetracked. If your partner is the one pulling the argument in a different direction, stop them and refocus on the present issue.
Rule #2: Be an active listener
This rule is especially important because most fights occur when one individual feels like they’re not being heard. Listening is not the same as hearing. You can hear your partner, but are you really listening to them?
In order to be an active listener, you must:
- Stay present and acknowledge what they’re saying (whatever you do don’t check your social media)
- Spend more time listening than talking (allow your partner to speak and DO NOT cut them off)
- Take the argument seriously (ask for clarification when needed and never try to read their mind)
Being an active listener doesn’t mean you have to agree with them, but it’s critical to hear them out. If you’re not sure what they’re trying to say, ask questions for clarification.
Rule #3: Be respectful
Even if you don’t agree with your partner’s opinion, it’s important to be respectful. It’s obvious that you should avoid name-calling and insults, but remember that sarcasm is also disrespectful during an argument.
A healthy fight should never turn personal, even though we’re programmed to think that way.
We learned in Esther Perel’s MasterClass on Relational Intelligence that humans view other people’s problems as the result of character flaws but their own problems as the result of circumstances.
In other words, if your friend is late to an appointment, they’re irresponsible. However, if you’re late to an appointment, it’s because there was traffic.
See what we mean?
Try to understand your partner’s circumstances and triggers rather than blaming the issue on their character.
Rule #4: Be ready to compromise
Healthy relationships are built on compromise. It’s important to be flexible and willing to see things from your partner’s perspective. If you’re not able to compromise, you cannot grow in your relationship.
If you’re having difficulty compromising, remember that relationships are give-and-take. What are you willing to give up (or take on) in order to strengthen your relationship?
It also helps to remember to celebrate your partner’s differences. Would you want to date a clone of yourself? Nope, didn’t think so! Differences and compromise come with the territory.
Rule #5: Avoid playing the blame game
While arguing, focus on using “I” phrases rather than “you” phrases. For example, instead of saying, “You never listen to me,” try, “I feel like I’m not being heard.”
This will help avoid placing blame on your partner and will make them more likely to listen to you.
Also, focus on their actions, not their character. For example, “I felt disrespected when you raised your voice at me,” is better than, “You’re a disrespectful person.”
Rule #6: Seek a resolution
When you’re both calm, work together to find a solution that works for both of you. A fight isn’t a healthy one until it’s resolved. Don’t go to bed angry!
If you and your partner are not able to resolve your differences on your own, it might be time to seek professional help from a therapist or counselor. Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you’re struggling.
Now that we’ve gone over the top ways to fight healthy in a serious relationship, let’s look at the unhealthy fighting tactics to avoid.
Tips to avoid unhealthy fights
The goal is to have healthy fights. The following are indicators that you’ve strayed from the goal.
Red Flag #1: Never threaten divorce or breaking up
Threatening divorce or breaking up should never be used as a tactic during an argument. This is a sign of an unhealthy relationship. If you find yourself repeatedly making this threat, it might be time to seek professional help.
Threats of any kind do not belong in a healthy argument.
Red Flag #2: Anything mentally, emotionally, or physically abusive
Abuse of any kind is never acceptable. Period. If you find yourself resorting to mental, emotional, or physical abuse during an argument, it’s time to stop and seek professional help.
Red Flag #3: Name-calling and insults
We already mentioned this one, but it’s worth repeating. Name-calling and personal attacks are never acceptable during an argument. It’s not helpful and extremely hurtful and is a sign of an unhealthy relationship.
Red Flag #4: Bringing up past arguments or grievances
Again, this is worth repeating. Don’t hold on to grudges or bring up past or unrelated arguments or grievances. Probably it is irrelevant anyways, and just adds unnecessary fuel to the fire. This is another sign of an unhealthy relationship.
Red Flag #5: Don’t turn a small issue into a big argument
Sometimes it’s easy to turn a small issue into a big argument. This is usually done by either blowing the issue out of proportion or making it personal.
For example, let’s say your partner didn’t text you back right away. It would be unhealthy to turn this into a big argument by accusing them of not caring about you.
Closing thoughts on fighting as a couple
Some fights may never have a resolution, and that is perfectly normal as well.
The data supports this, with a new survey and experts corroborating that fighting once a week is normal and even healthy.
Just remember that when a fight, disagreement, or arguments breaks out, to stay calm and practice the healthy fighting techniques shared in this article. This may be easier said than done in the heat of the moment, but it’s important to remain respectful of your partner no matter what the fight is about.
The only way to fight better is to practice.
The key to healthy fighting is to make sure that you never fight just for the sake of fighting. Always try to communicate openly and constructively about the problem, and be willing to compromise in order to resolve the conflict.
If you’re looking to have healthier, more productive fights with your partner, it’s important to be aware of the unhealthy tactics to avoid. Practice using the healthy tactics we’ve listed, and remember that compromise is key.
If you find yourself struggling to resolve arguments on your own, it might be time to seek professional help.
If you have questions or advice that will help other readers, please share in the comments section.
For more resources for couples, such as the Adventure Challenge for couples review or how to give your partner a good massage, head over to our Healthy Couples page.
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The creators of Ryan and Alex Duo Life. We are a husband-wife duo and “lifestyle engineers.”
After eight years working in the corporate world as engineers, we left our high-powered jobs to tackle our true passion — helping couples engineer their best lives.
The synergy of our engineering minds and ten years of health coaching experience produced Ryan and Alex Duo Life. Our mission is to help you transform your bodies, minds, and relationship as a couple.
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