Can bickering be healthy? Bickering in a relationship is more common and guaranteed than your partner remembering every anniversary. It’s bound to happen and it’s bound to happen often.
Anyone who is familiar with my blog posts knows that I am a huge advocator of communicating with love. Bickering does NOT qualify as communicating with love, but is there a place for it in a marriage or long-term relationship?
Seems weird, I know.
First let’s get the real definition of bickering out of the way. Bickering is defined as “arguing about trivial or petty matters”.
So we’re talking, “he left the empty milk jug in the fridge” kind of situations, not “he cheated on you again”.
Bickering is communicating
“Some communication in marriage is better than no communication. So before you throw bickering out with the proverbial bathwater, realize that in those moments, prickly as they may feel, you and your mate are communicating.” – Strengthen your relationship
It’s not the best way to be getting your point across but at least you’re not bottling things up and building up resentment.
In my article about how to stop acting like a bitch one of my biggest points was not to make a big deal about little things that don’t matter. This is absolutely true, and you should follow these words – but we’re human and sometimes we make mistakes.
Sometimes we’re having an off day, and that’s ok. A solid relationship will be able to recover from this.
As long as the bickering stays on the topic at hand and doesn’t turn into name-calling, nagging or belittling – its perfectly healthy.
Bickering can train your emotions not to hold a grudge
“One of the key differences between people who are in shape and people who are not is “recovery time.” This is how quickly your body returns to a normal resting state. The more one exercises, the more swiftly their body can recover. Well, it’s the same thing with your relationship. It’s a process. It seems like every disagreement early on leads to battles that cause real damage. But after years of little spats and a brief time getting some weekly help early on, my wife and I are now able to disagree after dinner and be laughing by the time the dishes are done. The only way to improve upon your bickering is to bicker and then learn from your mistakes. ” – Scary Mommy
This quote from an excellent post on Scary Mommy really sums up one of the benefits of bickering. It’s not that you should get used to bickering all the time, that would be bad.
But you should get used to the fact that we all get grumpy and frustrated and situations can just stay in the bickering phase without escalating into a full blown fight.
“Ugh, why do you always leave your dirty dishes here for me to deal with, just put them in the dishwasher”
“You leave your dishes on the counter too!”
If this slight bicker can be resolved and you’re both over it by the time you’re ready to go out to the movie, this is extremely healthy!
Mastering the skill of keeping things at a bicker level is like long-term relationship expert level 999.
If the two of you aren’t experts at this, the whole night is ruined and you could be stuck dwelling over it the next day at work. That’s not a way to live your life.
Get it all out and then move on quickly.
It’s like PETTING A CAT
In order to become an expert bickerer, you have to keep in mind what you’re dealing with here.
Bickering is like petting a cat.
It’s fine when you’re both having fun but as soon as the cat shows signs of “enough is enough” you better stop petting the cat or you’re going to get scratched.
Keep the bickering focused on the topic at hand. If you’re bickering about boxers being left on the bathroom floor, this is not the time to bring up that he forgot your birthday last week.
When you’re petting a cat, you don’t want to attack the cat with two hands and have multiple people petting the cat at the same time. It might make the cat angry.
Keep it nice and friendly and watch for signs of the cat getting overwhelmed. The cat here is your partner…anyway moving on!
Bickering early on in a relationship can iron out the kinks
“University of Washington researchers studied newlywed couples and learned, not surprisingly, that those who rarely argued were happier in the relationship than those who fought often. But three years later, the findings had reversed. Couples with an early history of bickering had worked out their problems and were more likely to be in stable marriages. The couples who’d avoided conflict early on were more likely to be in troubled relationships or already divorced.” – Oprah.com
This is such an interesting result to a study.
This shows that bickering early on can help you guys get grounded and get all your little pet peeves out in the open. Having a little bicker about him never putting the dishes in the dishwasher is so much healthier than bottling up that resentment for years and years.
It also helps us learn about our partners. For example, I can’t STAND when my boyfriend backseat drives me in the car. We’ve definitely bickered about this in the past because it’s something I just don’t want to deal with or put up with. Some other woman might not mind so much so it wouldn’t be a big deal.
My boyfriend needs to know that this seriously bothers me and I don’t like it at all. That being said, I don’t mind if he spends the entire day playing video games where some other woman might really hate this.
Bickering isn’t fun but it can help us learn what our partners can’t stand and what they are able to tolerate. It helps us to know these things because then we can avoid the sensitive areas and carry on living a happy life together.
WHEN DOES IT BECOME UNHEALTHY?
Bickering is a sign of an unhealthy relationship if it’s happening in one or both of the following situations.
If you’re bickering because he left his tools all over the basement, that’s fine. But if you’re bickering about the tools because you don’t want to bring up an underlying and ongoing issue, that’s serious.
That’s not bickering anymore, it’s avoidance behaviour and it’s unhealthy.
Another situation where bickering is unhealthy is if you start doing it in public. If you can’t sit through dinner with friends without mentioning how he’s using the wrong fork you’re in trouble.
In public you guys need to be team and if you can’t play nice until you get home, there might be bigger issues you guys are covering up.
So can bickering be healthy? The answer is yes! Yes it can!
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