If you’re constantly fighting with your partner about how much money he’s spent, who’s turn it is to do the vacuuming, or why he’s working late – again – take heart. A recent study at the University of Michigan has shown that arguing is good for your health, as keeping quiet leads to abnormal rates of cortisol, which causes more stress symptoms the following day. Here’s how to fight and help your health:
Why arguing helps
Dr Suzy Green, clinical psychologist says unresolved issues between partners can fester and cause problems if they’re not addressed at the time. “Resentment and anger builds over time which elevates our fight or flight response,” she explains. “If unaddressed, that causes stress. Learning to disagree constructively is important for our mental and physical health.”
Listen to your partner
Dr Sarah Edelman, clinical psychologist and author of Change Your Thinking (ABC Books), explains that healthy arguing involves expressing your view, and then listening to the other person’s opinion. “In healthy arguments there is respect for the other person’s point of view,” she says, adding that resolving a disagreement rather than ‘winning’ the argument is the end goal. “Frequency of arguments is not the problem, as long as the argument is fair and respectful.”
Don’t get aggro
Dr Edelman adds that losing your rag and yelling means the message is lost. “While some people feel better after a shouting match with their partner, aggressive communication breaks down meaningful connection and makes both partners feel bad in the long term.”
Knowing when an argument is most likely to arise may help you change your approach before it ends in shouting and screaming. Here are some of the biggies: “Common disagreements are over finances, contribution to housework, different views about bringing up the children and working too many hours,” explains Dr Edelman. “That’s along with having to get on with the friends of one of the partners, relationships with step children, family obligations, such as dinners or holidays with the in-laws, spending too much time with people the partner doesn’t like and flirting.” Phew – is that all?
Dr Green adds that money is often one of the biggest flashpoints in families and that it’s important to write down a financial plan with your partner that has shared responsibility. “Don’t put one person in charge of finances as, if things go wrong – as they often do – blame is the game,” she says. “It’s sometimes best to engage a third party such as a financial planner to help you create a financial plan and budget.”
Who’s doing the vacumming?
Sharing of the household chores is another of the common causes of friction. “Equity around housework is one of the biggies. Sit down together and work out a ‘home-caring plan’,” advises Dr Green. “Make sure each party feels a sense of equity and that there is some negotiation around tasks. Consider delegating to a cleaner and resolving this issue once and for all – it’s often worth every penny you spend.”
Working late – again
Rather than letting resentment build up, talk to the aggrieved partner and find out the underlying issue. Does one partner fear the person at work is having an affair? Or is it that the other partner is left to do all the housework and childcare? “Understanding what is driving the behaviour is crucial,” says Dr Green. “Sitting down and talking through the issue when relaxed is a much better approach than a screaming match at the end of a long day. Creating a life timetable where there is time for each person as an individual, as a couple and time for family, is crucial for ongoing well-being.”
Don’t be afraid to seek help
If this all sounds like too much hard work – or if you’re current level of disagreement definitely isn’t helping your health – make an appointment with a professional psychologist who is trained to facilitate communication between couples. They’ll teach you how to assert your needs and resolve conflict, while lowering your stress levels, too.