At times, even the most well-matched couples experience communication breakdowns. Fighting doesn’t mean that you’ve chosen the wrong partner, it just means that you need to improve your communication methods….and fast. The American Psychological Association states, “Researchers have found that communication style is more important than commitment levels, personality traits, or stressful life events in predicting whether happily married couples will go on to divorce.

But before you begin to panic, keep in mind that disagreements aren’t symptomatic of inevitable separation or divorce looming in your future. In fact, a relationship devoid of arguments entirely may conceal deeper issues and allow one or both partners to bottle up emotions which will likely manifest in future anger and resentment. To find out how to protect your relationship, keep reading for tips on improving your communication style even in the face of serious conflict.

The Phases of Marriage

Harville Hendrix, a marital therapist in New York City and the author of ”Getting the Love You Want,” believes that we are unconsciously attracted to people who share both the positive and negative traits of both parents. Because this personality blend will, of course, include your parents’ limitations in nurturing you or offering their love, affection, and support, we, as adults, choose our partner in order to give ourselves the opportunity to right what went wrong in our childhoods.

Hendrix believes that, if there has been much time spent together, romantic love will wear off by the second year of the relationship. Once the endorphins of romance wear off, there’s bound to be a “growing perceptual shift towards irritability, disappointment, frustration, increasing conflict.” Once these feel-good hormones are replaced by adrenaline, you’ve moved into the power struggle phase which, Hendrix asserts, is where most couples will remain for most of their marriages.

“They either function in a “hot marriage” (fighting) or a “parallel marriage” (living together but not interacting much). Or, they get a divorce and end it all, or they do what we recommend: become conscious in their marriage, heal each other, and go on to live out their dreams.”

During this period, conflicts begin to surface as couples deal with these unresolved childhood issues and the present-day needs that they bring to the marriage. Fortunately, with the right tools, you can resolve these conflicts–allowing arguments and disagreements to fade out in the next phase of your relationship.

Part 2 of our 4-part Relationship Communication Series will address the first and most important way to improve the health and happiness of your relationship.