Even the most loving couples find themselves sparring with each other from time to time. Marital arguments or fights are ugly and bleak. They chip away at the pleasure you take in being with each other and sometimes make you question whether you ought to be together at all.
Fights are one of those "off-limits" areas, something that no couple wants to think about too much. We'd all rather they never happened, and when we're at peace with each other the last thing we want to think or talk about is the rip-roaring, knock-down, drag-out, I-Can't-Believe-He-Said-That-to-Me emotional brawls we've had.
This is mainly because, without having any guidance of any kind about what marriage is or how to have a good one, we all grow up thinking that true love means never fighting, that your true soul mate will never raise his or her voice to you, will never be disappointed or angry, and that the two of you will drift off into eternal bliss without so much as a frown between you, ever. We start out in starry-eyed bliss with each other and can't comprehend ever finding fault with our precious one. So when we do start to get on each other's nerves, or when we do fight about very real issues that we disagree on or have trouble understanding, one of our first thoughts is - this is bad. This is not right. This is over. If I were really meant to be with this person, we wouldn't ever fight.
I think there are too many causes, too many individual reasons people fight for me or anyone else to comment fairly on why it happens. I can't tell you why, specifically, you fight with your husband or why you don't fight with your wife, and neither can anyone else outside of your relationship. And I'm not trying to suggest that marital fights are good. But I have come to the conclusion that there are three key things we can and should understand about all marital fights.
Only strong personalities fight.
Only confident and determined people have the courage to stand up for their beliefs, even when their beliefs are being challenged by the person they love most in the world. Only secure, self-assured adults of character will defend themselves in such a way. If a woman is meek and timid and placates her husband or stays silent because she's afraid of fighting, there is an imbalance in that relationship, and little honesty. She herself is nothing more than a frightened child, worried about causing problems and willing to subjugate her own sense of justice. If a man represses his anger because he doesn't want to disrupt his peaceful home by fighting with his wife, he too challenges the integrity of their marriage. He too reveals that he has a childish fear of self-assertion.
At the very least, a marital fight shows that neither partner is a wallflower or a pushover, neither one will "go along" just to keep the peace, neither one will sacrifice their beliefs just to avoid the unpleasantness of a fight. A marriage requires strength, character, and individualism if it's going to last; no matter how unpleasant a fight may be, it is a small price to pay for fostering self-confidence and mutual respect.
Fighting couples value their marriage.
People who fight with each other, within reason, value the meaning of their marriage. They don't want to exist in a false relationship based on surface pleasantries and repressed anger. They respect their marriage enough to want honesty and integrity - even if it means a fight - rather than a sham of a relationship that will fall apart out of apathy sooner or later. People who fight are usually passionate about wanting things to be "right" again, about wanting to end whatever problem causes them to fight and get back to the joy and comfort they find in each other most of the time. These are people who may hate fighting but they hate letting animosity fester even more. They may be scared of losing their relationship, it may terrify them to think that this person may not be the one for them, but they would rather know that, or find a way to change that if it is so, than to lie to themselves for the sake of a shallow marriage.
Couples who fight also feel safe with each other. They know that they can express their anger without doing real harm. While it often doesn't feel like it when you're in the middle of one, a fight is really a confirmation that this person is trusted and loved enough for you to reveal your true self. Some people say that this is precisely why you shouldn't fight with a loved one, that you should answer their love and respect with love and respect of your own. While I agree wholeheartedly that your husband or wife should be the last person you want to hurt, I also know that human beings are not emotionally perfect. When you need to express negative emotions, within reason you need to feel that there is someone who will understand and forgive you, as you would do for them. Fighting couples show each other that this is so.
Fights are usually a symptom of a problem in the relationship, not the cause.
While it's true that fighting too much can damage a relationship, it's important to realize that people usually fight because the relationship is problematic in the first place. No happy couple fights for no reason. No couple ever fell apart because fights happened to fall out of the sky and land in the middle of their lives. Couples don't break up because their fighting is causing a problem in their relationship, but rather because problems in their relationship are causing fights. It's amazing how few people understand this distinction. The key is in examining your life, and in figuring out what it is you fight about, and what you can do about stopping it.
So when is fighting truly dangerous to a relationship? When it doesn't blow over, when you can't make up and don't want to. When the love you have is not strong enough to make you battle through your tears, to make you turn the car around after you've sped off in a huff, to make you walk back through slammed doors. When what you're fighting about involves fundamental issues or values. When the fights are truly harmful or vicious, when they're physical or frightening, when they border on outright disrespect or abuse. When you ask yourself "Do I want this relationship to end?" and you either don't have an answer or don't care what the answer is. When you know that you will be happier apart than you could ever be together, and when you know that for whatever reason, the love you may have is not enough to make up for your basic incompatibility.
For everyone else, there is hope. In every other situation, a fight is just a fight, a temporary conflict usually based on the fact that you are so tied to each other, so determined to struggle through life together, so willing to trust each other, that it becomes crucial to make sure you're both struggling for the same thing. Sometimes, a fight is just a misguided attempt to confirm that you're both still headed in the same direction. And it's also a reminder that a fairy tale marriage can have its share of ghouls and goblins and still have a happy ending.
It's important to stop and remember what a rare and precious gift your marriage is, and that whatever problems you face will be solved much more easily together than apart. A good marriage sails through marital storms because the people in them know that storms pass and calm returns. And the calm is what makes it all worthwhile.