Pictures of Paris Hilton and her fiance Chris Zylka paints a perfect picture. More than once, she has remarked how blissful she is in her relationship; the two have even called it their “fairy tale” romance. A romance so magical that they have never had a single fight so far.
In November 2017, Hilton told Us Weekly,“I think we’re the only couple that never fights. All my friends are like, ‘Literally, you guys are the perfect couple. I’ve never seen you argue.'”
What? Never? Not even a disagreement? Oh oh.
If you have heard or read a little bit about what relationships have to say, that’s probably your reaction, too.
Before we go into the specifics, let’s break down what fights mean to different people. If by fighting, Paris meant swearing, screaming, name-calling, and breaking things, no fighting is great. But the fact that she proudly quoted her friend who remarked on the fact that they never even “argue”? Well, that is an entirely different thing.
No matter how in love a couple is, a relationship involves TWO individuals. There is bound to be differences in personality, interests, priorities, at times–values, and quirks. Can perfect communication iron away all these creases caused by these individual differences?
Experts seem to be divided in their views on this.
A few state that conflict is not only inevitable but also healthy. Why? Because it is normal.
1. Conflicts promote honesty and acknowledge differences
Conflict doesn’t indicate hatred or anger, but differences of opinions and preferences. When you acknowledge the differences, you agree that both of you are not clones of each other and that there is indeed something at hand that needs to be paid attention to.
Whether this involves deciding on a vacation spot (trekking in the woods VS chilling on the beach), opting a parenting strategy, or simply clearing out once and for all who would do the dishes on Friday, when you acknowledge the issue, both of you are honest with each other and more importantly honest with yourselves.
2. Couples who argue healthily show lesser sign of remorse
When you find yourself getting bugged with how your partner is behaving, the first thing to get your attention is your emotions. There might be a mild irritation, a brewing anger, or sadness. An emotionally healthy individual will a) acknowledge how they feel b) own it c) and do something about it.
Couples who are emotionally honest with each other will find it hard to hide away their feelings. And if they opt for a no-disagreement policy (consciously or unconsciously), these pent up emotions and unsaid qualms will build into resentment. Nothing can kill intimacy more than resentment or the feeling of being wronged or misunderstood.
3. Being passive-aggressive is worse than verbal disagreement
Giving the cold shoulder or dropping hints indicates a conflict, irrespective of whether you voice your opinions or not. When couples buy into the fantasy of no-fight, they resort to other ways of getting even. This is all the more unhealthy than an open conflict.
4. Working through conflicts builds trust and intimacy
When your partner knows that you will tell them when something is wrong makes you trust what they say. It gives no room for those “I’m fine meme” situations where one knows that the other isn’t okay, but doesn’t share what they really feel. Also, when a couple takes the effort to sit with what’s bothering each other and figure out a way, it brings them closer.
The underlying message is “Yes, I hate that you don’t agree with me. This sucks. But I’m willing to figure out a way. That’s why I’m so worked up.” This is different from folks who avoid conflict altogether or dismiss the partner’s feelings as silly or unwarranted. (There she goes again, looking sad and aloof. I better get out and let her cool off.” Or, “He will pout if he doesn’t get his way. Let me just agree with it. I don’t have time for drama.”)
But what about folks who thrive on drama and whose lives are snippets of a reality show? There are experts who nod their head in disagreement when they hear fights are healthy. Here’s what they have to say:
1. Fight is a fight, irrespective of the intensity
You don’t need to be throwing things at each other to contest as a fighting couple. While it’s good to express one’s emotions, people often take this as a license to lash out at each other. Name-calling, fault-finding, blaming slips in where the individual pushes the responsibility of the issue on the other person. When couples adopt for no-fight policy, it forces them to sit and reflect on how they might have contributed to the situation.
2. You often bring in past baggage
Fights are not always about the issue at hand. When couples fight, the emotions that surface run deeper than those caused by a missed appointment or a wrongly executed chore. While the words exchanged might be “I can’t believe you forgot our anniversary” or “How could you like that stupid post when you know how I feel about the subject” the emotions are about “I guess she forgot the anniversary because she doesn’t care anymore. I come second to her.” or “If he doesn’t know how much these issues mean to me, maybe doesn’t know me at all.” These underlying beliefs and thoughts are what we are likely to be reacting to. Fights aggravate these assumptions and put the relationship at stake.
3. No-fight policy opens up other ways of communication
When a couple makes a conscious decision to not fight or even argue, they create a pact to handle differences with more maturity and patience. This means choosing to not react when you are worked up, allowing the other person to express what they feel, and talking about it objectively. No-fight policy brings in sensitivity and respect. The couple takes the effort to sit through differences and identify channels of communication that makes the other person feel safe. This is different from arguments that cause the other person to get defensive and, therefore, block the other person out.
So what you can do?
1. Be honest with yourself
If there is something bothering you, never dismiss or sweep it under the rug.
Own your emotions, no matter what they are. Psychologists would often tell you that no emotions are wrong. You don’t need to feel guilty or ashamed of what you feel. However, you need to be aware of emotions are a result of the thoughts in your head. If your partner forgets an anniversary, check in with the underlying self-talk you are indulging in. It’s likely to be “she doesn’t care for me.” Be objective with the voice in your head. Is it true that she doesn’t really care?
2. Identify the real feelings
Emotions can be confusing, especially in a heated argument. Before you decide to broach a subject or react to your partner, identify what you really feel. In the above case, your partner forgetting the anniversary might on the surface appear like you are pissed off, but scratch a little beneath the anger, and you might find sadness or perhaps even fear. When you acknowledge this, your communication can be more authentic than angry fights. Allowing your partner to see you in a vulnerability increases intimacy, provided they respect courage you took to express it.
3. Stop the blame game
Here’s where it gets tricky. Owning your emotions and doing something about them is different from going berserk and screaming “YOU! You are responsible for this mess. I wish YOU know how much YOU hurt me.” This is blaming. It will still be blaming if you are in tears and saying it softly. When couples are in a conflict, they need to stop one step ahead until they clear out where their emotions might be springing from. Repeated fights convey a hidden pattern. If you often feel your partner doesn’t get you, you need to go to the roots of where this feeling of being misunderstood or not cared for comes from.
4. Agree to disagree
You like beaches, your partner prefers hills. Pick one for this year and the other for next year. You feel strongly about minority issues, and your partner doesn’t? This doesn’t mean they care less about others or your view, it is just that their antennae might be tuned into other stimuli of social issues. Missed an anniversary?Apologize and make up for it.
5. Compassion is the key
Remember that beneath all the angry words and unreasonable statements are two hurt people. When you bring in compassion–for yourself (and how vulnerable or threatened you feel) and your partner (who too is hurting and carrying some amount of fear and pain), the need to avenge or blame disappears. Look closely and you will often find that all you and your partner need is the reassurance that you still love and care about each other. This will make you focus on the bigger picture and you might even have a good laugh at how worked up you both got when it wasn’t needed.