What Do Your Relationship Fights Say About You?

Aside from those mythical unicorn couples who claim they never fight (no one actually believes them, right?), a disagreement here and there is normal…even healthy. But think back to the last time you and your significant other had a fight—were you thinking about possible ways to resolve the conflict and how you could understand your partner better? Or were you focusing on how upset, angry, and frustrated you were feeling in that moment? Researchers say that your answer may reveal something about your relationship.

A recent study looked at 71 unmarried heterosexual couples who had been together an average of three years. First, researchers had participants complete a survey about their relationship satisfaction and conflict issues in the relationship. Then, each person in the couple spoke to a researcher aloud while communicating about a topic of conflict with their partner (in a separate room) via a chat program. The couples had 10 minutes to talk about a point of conflict (everything from amount of time spent together and  money to  past dating relationships and alcohol use) and come to a resolution. You know, just a typical weekend night for the average couple!

The results of the study found that during discussion about relationship conflict, when one person thinks about making excuses or denying their role in the disagreement while the disagreement is going on, the other partner was likelier to be unhappy in the relationship. Those in unhappy relationships were also more likely to want to change the subject of discussion, to think more about how repetitive the discussion felt, to think about the power they or their partner had in the relationship, and to focus on emotions like anger and frustration—none of which is super beneficial to a relationship. Of course, keep in mind that these discussions happened over a computer, so the couples weren’t getting the face-to-face connection and facial expression feedback they’d normally get from a face-to-face interaction.

So is it the chicken or the egg? Are people who are unhappy with their relationships more likely to act that out when it comes to conflict, or does poorly handled conflict lead to people feeling unsatisfied and frustrated in their relationships? It’s hard to say which came first, though the researcher that headed up this study did say that people’s thoughts might actually affect their partner’s satisfaction with the relationship either because they voice those thoughts to their partner or send non-verbal clues as to how they’re feeling.

And one more interesting finding that came out of this study—unlike similar studies that found gender-related differences in how people handle relationship conflict, this study found only one: women were more likely than men to blame their partner during disagreement.

What do you think about when you’re in the midst of a relationship disagreement? Do you think occasional conflict helps or hurts a relationship?

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Amy C.
Amy C2 years ago

true, i do blame more

Fi T.
Past Member 2 years ago

A way to understand oneself

Debbie Crowe
Debbie Crowe4 years ago

My husband & I have been arguing over something for the past 6 months about my smoking. He wants me to quit and I don't want to.
It seems the more he complains, the more I do the opposite. Childish, I know - but I have to be the one who will decide when I do it.

Kathy Perez
Kathy Johnson4 years ago

we really do have few fights, probably since we are really laid back in general. We do have the occasional spat, but it rarely involves more than expressing frustration, taking an hour or two to cool off, and figuring how to deal with whatever issue it is.

Franck Rio
Past Member 4 years ago

That's quite Interesting

Virginia Belder
Virginia Belder4 years ago


Lindsay P.
Lindsay Partin4 years ago

My fiance and I have had several arguments over his drinking. I always say he drinks too much and he would say he doesn't (he would be drunk at the time, he normally is when we fight about this). After our most recent argument he woke me up at 4 in the morning and told me that I was right, that his drinking is excessive and that he's going to try to drink less. I told him that when I say he's had enough that he actually has to pay attention and listen to me. He would normally just brush me off after having 5 beers and 2 shots. He also said he wants to start coming to church with me, as he did this past Sunday. It seems that we are getting better at compromise. For a while it seemed I had to change to suit him, but he wouldn't do anything. Now he wants to make a change in his life so our life together can be happier and less stressful. These past few days have been wonderful!

federico bortoletto
federico b4 years ago


Genoveva M.
Genoveva M M4 years ago


Deb E.
Deb E4 years ago