Too agreeable? What? On the surface, people’s gut reaction to the idea that anyone could be too agreeable (or too smart, or too rich, for that matter) is “there’s no way that my partner could be too agreeable. Agreeable is good.”
So is arguing bad for a relationship? It’s normal that when two people occupy each other’s space, they will eventually hurt the other person’s feelings, overstep their boundaries or just simply piss the other person off. Disagreements and arguments are a natural offshoot of simply trying to conduct your life with another person.
Conversely, if people never argue, one or both people HAVE TO be stomping their own feelings or not expressing them in order to just get along. This kind of “going along to get along” causes more harm than good because it prevents people from really getting their needs met.
One of my friends who we’ll call Eve, was considering leaving her relationship of 8 years. She wanted to get married very badly, and her guy, Eric (also not his real name) was just not showing that he was planning on moving the relationship forward. They had purchased a home together and lived there for several years. As far as Eric was concerned, things were going just dandy.
Not so for Eve. Over time Eve started to get more and more angry that Eric wasn’t moving things along. Eve wanted children and thought that Eric did too. She felt taken advantage of, hurt and disrespected. Finally one night Eve reached a breaking point. She had me over to her house for drinks. Eric was working again.
Eve went through her laundry list of complaints about Eric, most stemming from the fact that Eric hadn’t popped the question. Finally I got frustrated and stopped her. I said, “well, did you tell Eric that you are feeling this way?” Eve looked at me like I had grown another head and told me she hadn’t. She said she didn’t want to seem like he was nagging him or trying to push him. She was afraid she would push him away if she told him the truth.
She told me she had resorted to “hints” to get her feelings across. I was shocked. Eve had kept this to herself for 8 years!! Instead of letting him push her away as she imagined would happen if she mentioned what she really wanted, she pushed him out the door completely with overwhelming resentment.
Eve moved out of their house the next day and completely gave up on the relationship. Eric was devastated and blind-sighted by her departure. He begged and pleaded with her to stay. He promised marriage and whatever she wanted. It was too late. Eve had already given up.
While one person is never the only one at fault for the death of a relationship, I would argue that a big reason that Eve and Eric’s relationship sank was that she was afraid to communicate her true feelings with him.
Maybe he would have freaked and bolted, but what would she have really lost if they had such differing life goals? If marriage and kids were high on her list, then once the relationship seemed like it was going in a permanent direction, she needed to get in there and say that to him in a clear, calm and reasonable way.
By going along to get along, Eve cheated herself and Eric out of 8 years and a long-term meaningful relationship. Maybe Eric really didn’t want to get married ever, but if she had the conversation she could have figured that out sooner and made the decision to stay or go, saving them both a lot of time and heartache.
If you’ve ever woke up one day and realized that you have all these resentments that you haven’t really expressed to your partner, this is for you. Here’s why you shouldn’t be afraid to express your conflicting feelings with your partner.
Disagreements clear the air.
Telling your partner how you really feel, without judging or trying to hurt their feelings is vital to a real relationship. Frankly, whenever someone tells me “we never ever disagree, everything is always perfect with rainbows and puppies and unicorns” I ask who the liar is. People by their very nature are different and won’t always 100% agree. If someone is stomping down their feelings, batten down the hatches because it’s going to get ugly.
When the “unicorns and puppies” couples finally do fight, it’s often when the floodgates open. They rip each other limb from limb because they haven’t been expressing their authentic feelings all along. It goes without saying that the limb from limb thing is not pretty. The sad part is, this is preventable with honest communication.
Disagreements show your partner what’s important to you.
If you’re saying “wait, all he ever talks about is how he doesn’t like me throwing my socks on the floor, how could this be what’s important to him?” hold on. Think about why he might feel like that’s a big deal. Does he feel put-upon or taken for granted? Does he feel unappreciated? Does he feel like you’re not respecting what he really wants for your home?
Often seemingly minor problems have a deeper root. If you’re able to look deeper and see what this is, it becomes more clear what your partner is really after.
Disagreements demonstrate your engagement in the relationship.
Arguing constructively lets your partner know where your boundaries are. If a couple has completely checked out, they often reach a time when they don’t even bother fighting because they’re both halfway out the door and boundaries aren’t really that important any more. The relationship becomes not worth fighting about.
Constructive arguments demonstrate that you’re both still passionately involved in the outcome of the relationship. For example, Eve had checked out of her relationship so wholeheartedly that they never fought at all. She didn’t feel like it was worth it, because in her words “he doesn’t care anyway”. Maybe Eric really didn’t care, but since she didn’t try to tell him what she really wanted, how could she have really known?
Arguments and disagreements are tools that can build you a better relationship or completely tear the house down. If you’re always stepping around your partner’s feelings and feel resentful about them not caring about the issue you haven’t told them you have, maybe it’s time to turn a new page.