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Fighting in the early stages of a relationship: it’s what comes after that matters

by eharmony Editorial Team - November 22, 2023

Regardless of whether it’s a few days or a few months into your relationship, the first time you have a fight with your significant other can come as a rude awakening, especially if it’s closer to the former than the latter. While fighting in the early stages of a relationship might feel like a dating red flag, especially if it’s about something important, that’s not necessarily the case. What truly matters is how you fight, and what you learn from any fights you do have. In this article, we’ll look at why couples might fight early in the relationship, and the importance of healthy conflict resolution.

Is fighting in the early stages of a relationship bad?

If you’re wondering, ‘when do couples have their first fight?’ there’s no hard and fast rule. If you have several within the three-to-five date period1, or you’re fighting every day, however, you should probably reconsider the relationship.

That said, every couple fights. Yes, even those nauseatingly in love ones that give everyone in the vicinity cavities. The key here is that not all fights are created equal. Some fights are simple miscommunications, others are opportunities for growth, and yet others are signs that the relationship isn’t meant to last. How you and your partner behave in the aftermath will tell you which kind of fight it was.

Why couples fight: different communication styles

Research suggests that there are four major communication styles:

  1.  passive (prefers to go with the flow and avoid conflict),
  2. aggressive (tends to be dominating and a poor listener),
  3. passive-aggressive (unable to clearly voice their opinions so take refuge in showing their anger or discomfort), and
  4. assertive (they are calm and able to share their opinions without imposing them).

A mismatch in communication styles can leave each person within the couple feeling unheard and unappreciated, leading to fights as they try to get their partner to listen to them. Regardless of your style, you can improve communication with your partner by actively listening, making sure your actions and words match, or even going to counseling together.

What is a trigger and why should you be careful if you or your partner have them?

Triggers are emotional, intense reactions to things that happened in the past. They can range from the ordinary – the sound of a car backfiring, which can put the sound of gunshots in peoples minds  – to something very unexpected – a Beatles song reminding someone of a past abuser, for example. Regardless of what the trigger is, it’s important to take it seriously, since it’s often a sign of an unresolved issue from the past. Often, fighting in the early stages of a relationship isn’t about a relationship itself but something that happened before, which is why it’s useful to look to the past to prevent future conflict.

Why healthy conflict resolution is important

Most relationship experts agree that fighting in the early stages of a relationship isn’t a red flag depending on what happens after you fight. It’s important to be able to move forward together once you’ve fought, and healthy conflict resolution is a key part of that. Some ways to resolve a conflict healthily:

  • Practice active listening with your partner
  • Express your emotions rather than expecting your partner to magically be aware of them
  • Work to find a compromise that leaves both of you satisfied
  • Let the fight go rather than continuing to hold on to anger and grudges

Finding a balance between independence and togetherness

Hollywood tells us that happy couples are basically one person in two bodies, which isn’t true at all – in fact, it’s important to still have a life of your own even when you’re partnered up. However, finding a balance between your own desire for independence and being as close as you would like to be with your partner can be tricky. Which is why making your expectations for what a good relationship looks like to you early is key – if you and your partner are aware of what the other wants, miscommunication is much less likely.

Why fighting can be a good thing

The first argument while dating can be a shock, but a couple who never fights is a couple who sacrifices opportunities to learn and grow together. Often, fights happen because of a perceived imbalance in the relationship – actually getting your feelings out in the open is the first step to fixing any problems. Additionally, so long as you’re respectful of each other and your relationships, fights can help you understand where your boundaries are and what you will and won’t do for a partner.

What fights can tell you about the long-term viability of your relationship

Along with communication, one of the key factors of whether a relationship will last is how compatible the people involved are. Fighting in the early stages of a relationship can reveal major disconnects in how you see the world, your values, your priorities, and what you envision a life together to be. While fighting may feel awful in the moment, if the two of you are fundamentally incompatible, it’s probably better to figure it out early. On the other hand, if the two of you still want to make it work, it’s never too early to learn how to fight constructively so any future conflicts don’t derail your relationship.

Early fights can mean a good relationship later

Fighting in the early stages of a relationship can feel like it isn’t meant to be, but it’s important to take a step back and see what’s really going on. So long as your fights aren’t frequent and you’re fighting in a way that’s respectful and constructive, it’s nothing to worry about. On the other hand, if the making up after doesn’t make up for the initial fight, perhaps it’s better to look elsewhere. At eharmony, we pride ourselves on helping you find people who share your values and who are looking for the same thing you are – a serious, long-term relationship. Sign up for eharmony and take the first step on the path to real love today.

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