Monday, March 30, 2009

Is Arguing a Sign of an Unhealthy Relationship?

Hi everyone! My name is Susannah and I’m lucky enough to get to hang out with young people every week and talk about relationships – as my job! I go into schools and organizations around Los Angeles to talk about what it means to be in a relationship that might be unhealthy or abusive, and also what it means to be in a relationship that is healthy.

Sometimes when I’m working with groups of students I’ll have them make lists of what they think belongs in a healthy relationship, and what behaviors they think might occur in an unhealthy or abusive relationship. On the healthy side, groups are usually in agreement that healthy relationships are respectful and supportive, fun and safe. On the unhealthy side, most groups include hitting, screaming, put-downs, and so on.

One thing I’ve noticed is that more often than not, arguing and disagreements wind up on the unhealthy and abusive side of the list.

Here’s the thing - no matter how healthy your relationship is, there will likely be things that you and your partner disagree about. Even when you’re in a serious, committed relationship you’re still your own person, so naturally you won’t always see eye-to-eye with your boyfriend or girlfriend. It’s okay to disagree. Feeling comfortable enough with your partner to be able to voice your opinion, even if it’s not a shared opinion, is a healthy part of any relationship.

However, putting arguing on the unhealthy list makes a very important point: No argument should ever make you feel controlled or intimidated by your partner. No disagreement should ever make you feel unsafe.

Relationships should make you feel good about yourself. If the disagreements you’re having with your boyfriend or girlfriend are getting in the way of that, it may be worth taking a second look at whether or not this is the healthy relationship you deserve. And if the arguments in your relationship ever make you feel scared, it’s definitely worth reaching out to get some help.

What do you think about arguments in relationships? Have any good stories about healthy arguments you’ve had with your boyfriend or girlfriend? We want to hear them!


  1. One is bound to disagree with another person. There is nothing unhealthy about disagreements.

    Rare arguments can even occur in very strong relationships and in those cases [since those are strong relationships to begin with] those couples often time already have the tools to understand that they need to take a break and there after analyze why the disagreement turned into an argument.

    With that said, both parties [of a relationship] need to be strongly committed to respecting one another. Often times, when one is in a heated disagreement with another party; one has the impulse to go where it does not need to go. I believe we all have that critical moment in which our emotions are about to erupt which [when they do] then can cause irreparable damage. I think it's important for younger folks to understand that in order to have a healthy relationship with anyone -- one has to set strict boundaries on what is acceptable to them and what isn't. Screaming [9 times out of 10] leads to cursing; cursing can then lead to subsequent craziness [depending on the person and their baggage]. The more couples try to calmly discuss what's really eating at them, the more they will be successful at not only understanding what their real gripe is -- but create a stronger/healthier bond between one and the person they are involved with.

  2. I agree that arguments and disagreements are not necessarily a warning sign of an unhealthy relationship. While it is true that they can become abusive depending on their severity and the path they take, conflict is a natural part of human relationships.

    In fact, I just read an article yesterday about how it might actually be a good idea for parents to disagree in front of their kids. Never arguing in front of them can give kids a "false sense of harmony," and lead them to believe that arguments never happen in happy relationships. Letting kids see how parents deal with disagreements helps kids learn to resolve disputes with compromise and other conflict resolution skills.

    I think that this is a very important lesson for people to learn: that while some forms of fighting are abusive and unacceptable, disagreements happen even in the healthiest of relationships and we need to have the right tools to deal with them.

    The article can be found at:

  3. Every relationship has arguments, and every healthy relationship gets over them. I think that even if some comments are said that hurt one another, that does not mean that it is necessarily an unhealthy relationship. If you talk about it, and move on together, and try to make the rest of your day or week or whatever better, than you can be ok.

    However, when the arguing occurs every day, or all the time to overwhelm both persons involved is when it becomes unhealthy.

    Dealing with an unhealthy relationship is hard, and so is dealing with a healthy relationship. I am not necessarily saying that loving someone overall sucks, but I am saying that everyone has problems that they go through in a relationship.

    Because love IS so confusing for many people because of previous psychological building (or destruction), it is hard to evaluate whether or not your relationship is really truly loving.

    In order to evaluate your relationship, my advice is to observe how you feel at night when you think about that person. Also think of how often these feelings occur.

    If you feel happy when you go to sleep, and have good memories when you think about that person, than it's ok to love each other. However, if you go to sleep at night thinking about how bad your day was, and wondering if you should leave, and other things of this sort, than don't be afraid to get out. But also remember that some of these problems in relationships are fixable by talking either to each other, or talking to someone else. The problems that cannot be fixed are the ones you need to worry about.

    -Misty Gray

  4. Parents deal with disagreements helps kids learn to resolve disputes with compromise and other conflict resolution skills.

  5. I agree and you have a point there. Very interesting concept. Thanks for the great read.

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