My husband and I argue a lot. Does that mean our relationship is in trouble?

All couples argue. The question is, are you simply a fiery, emotional pair? Think about those movie scenes where she yells at him, he starts to leave, and suddenly they’re kissing passionately. If this is you, disagreement may be your idea of foreplay. But be careful; sticks and stones break bones, but sometimes words really can break marriages.

Is our relationship over? 

Your fights are healthy if they are infrequent, brief and end up in a resolution where you both feel loved and heard…and maybe make up in bed. Your fights are unhealthy if they often involve name-calling or threats to end the relationship, and leave one of you feeling frustrated or wronged. 

Most couples speak rudely to each other at least some of the time. Even “nice” couples can be verbally abusive behind closed doors. Research shows you are likely to divorce if you frequently resort to personal criticism, contempt, or refusing to talk. Disagreements are inevitable, but couples must learn how to argue well, or at least do no harm. 

Take a time out if you feel like a child having a tantrum and can’t control yourself. We must short-circuit the fight-or-flight biochemistry that makes us temporarily insane in order to prevent carnage in our relationship, calm down, and try again later. So when a storm is brewing—stop! Call a time out and go to separate rooms for 30 minutes. This is far harder than it sounds. Usually one person wants to chase the other and “deal with this right now,” while the other wants to hide and hopes that it all goes away. The time out gives the Pursuer the guarantee that things will be dealt with and the Distancer time to calm down and regroup. 

When you come back together, ask, “What do you see about each other’s point of view?” By acknowledging that your partner has a different perspective, you move from confrontation to collaboration. Marriage isn’t always easy, but you signed on for better or for worse. Learn these skills, make things better-—and make love, not war. Then get some sleep.