You know how it is: Sometimes you feel so much damn love for your
partner you want to eat his face; other times, you'd like to kick him in the
teeth. Well, according to recent studies, feeling both love and hate (yep,
actual hate) is totally normal. That's because the same area of your brain that
activates mushy feelings is also responsible for producing white-hot rage—which
helps explain why even happy couples are destined to fight from time to time.
"Arguing can be a sign that your relationship is strong and passionate,
and that you're comfortable enough to express negative feelings without fear of
losing each other in the process," says Bonnie Eaker Weil, Ph.D., author
of Make Up, Don't Break Up. Still,
there are right and wrong ways to resolve disagreements. We break it down.
If you find yourself sounding like a playlist on repeat, try pressing
pause. "Research has found that unhappy couples tend to repeat themselves
out of desperation to be heard, which isn't productive. They wind up talking at
each other instead of having a dialogue," says Benjamin Karney, Ph.D.,
codirector of the Relationship Institute at the University of California at Los
Don't Make It Personal
In the heat of an argument, the gloves often come off. The problem,
notes Rita DeMaria, Ph.D., director of relationship education at the Council
for Relationships in Philadelphia, is that once nasty insults start flying
around and feelings are hurt, nothing will be resolved.
Also, according to a study conducted at the University of Chicago, our
brains have a built-in "negativity bias," which causes us to be more
responsive to unpleasant news. Why? Back in caveman times, our survival as a
species was dependent on our ability to stay out of danger, so our brains
developed protective systems that made it impossible to overlook the bad.
That's why you need to minimize the negative impact of your words.
Remember, the goal isn't to upset each other, it's to resolve an issue. So
instead of exclaiming "You're so lazy!" tell him how his actions
affect you. Try, "I get tired of planning everything for us and wish you
would take over sometimes."
It may be a lovers' quarrel, but victory isn't declared when one of you
staggers back to the bedroom, clutching your wounded heart in your hands.
"People often fixate on who's right, which distracts them from finding a
solution," says Karney. "Conflicts are resolved quickly and more
successfully when neither party feels compelled to proclaim, 'See that? I'm
For starters, find something you both can agree on (even if it means
admitting that, OK, maybe you do send him a few too many texts while he's out
with his friends). Then focus on finding a happy medium. For example, say,
"I know it annoys you when I bombard you with text messages, but I get
worried when you take forever to reply. Let's find a way to handle this so that
we're both comfortable." This way, there's much less toddlerlike head
Remember You're a Couple
We know this is a tall order, but if you can express positive emotions
during an argument, you'll have a more satisfying relationship two or three
years down the road, according to a study published in the Journal of Marriage
and Family. "When couples are able to communicate closeness, affection
(for example, a touch on the arm or the cheek), and even humor in the midst of
an argument, the impact of harsher words is diminished," Karney says.
"Positive interactions say that you still like and love each other, and
you're committed to the relationship even in the worst of times."
And you can even go a step further by incorporating some playful
ribbing: Couples who lightly tease each other during a conflict wind up feeling
more in love when the disagreement finally blows over, according to a study
conducted at the University of California at Berkeley. It may mean using funny
nicknames for each other or making a self-deprecating joke. Just steer clear of
comments that may wound your egos, such as negative remarks about intelligence,
personal hygiene, or bedroom behavior.
It comes down to this: Even though your guy has the ability to drive
you up the wall sometimes, at the end of the day you really do love the big
lug—and if you can remember this during the toughest moments together, your
bond will remain strong.