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Angie's "Under Construction"

We are constantly changing and growing. We learn new things everyday whether from ourselves or from the relationships and families we are involved in. We can become stronger, healthier and happier by the way we treat others, view ourselves and experience the world around us.

This column by Associate Marriage & Family Therapist Angie Cerniglia explores the fascinating world of relationships and the multiple parts of ourselves. We are beautifully and wonderfully made and since God is never really finished molding us, we are therefore, always, Under Construction.


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Finding the Functionality in the Fight

August 13, 2015
By Angie Cerniglia, MA, AMFT, LPC

Fighting in relationships gets a bad reputation. Socially, fighting in a marriage is discussed with very negative connotations, “All they do is fight; that must be terrible.” We can see the meter jump the other direction when there is an absence of arguments in a relationship too, “They are so happy--they never fight!” Each couple may call it something different: a fight, an argument, a discussion, but no matter what you call it, the image that comes to our minds is the same--a couple standing, facing one another, yelling, and pointing fingers. Fighting, however, doesn’t have to be such a bad thing; in fact, fighting in marriage can be functional!

Fighting can only be functional when it becomes productive. I think we can all agree that fights occur for many reasons: feeling hurt, angry, unloved, or unsupported for example. Regardless of the reason, the most important thing to recognize is that our partner is trying to teach us something. We are constantly changing as individuals and our relationships change along with us, so the things that may hurt us can change too. Deep down, we want our partner to understand what is happening for us so the relationship can grow and improve, and we don’t hurt like that again. How we approach those feelings can lead to either a productive or unproductive fight.

If sharing our needs or how we are feeling is brought to our partner as an attack on everything they are doing wrong, chances are their defenses will go up and we’ll very quickly be looking at the screaming match described above. Sharing our feelings in a way that stays focused on us, how we feel, why we feel that way, and what would help in the future can help our partner gain insight into our world, and lead to the most important part of a fight being functional--change.

So rather than fearing a fight, next time one comes up, ask yourself, “What is my partner trying to teach me about themselves or about our relationship?” and “With this new information, how can we handle a similar situation next time?” Now, rather than leaving with hurt feelings, you are leaving with a tool to make your marriage stronger, which is pretty blissfully functional.