"An argument with someone important to us...reminds us that we have someone around who knows us well enough to call us out in the first place"Esmé Kennedy

On the whole, strong and healthy relationships are characterised by a lack of arguing. I think this is something most people would agree on. As a general rule, we argue least with those we are closest to, since they share most of the same values and opinions as we do, and because we are perhaps more likely to be forgiving under circumstances of intimacy, where we can understand the motives of those we are arguing with.

My friend Harry and I rarely argue. The same is true of all the people I love most. We might fight for an hour maybe, or occasionally a day, if I've upset him by doing something silly, acting against his advice – which is generally, I have to admit, in line with what is best for me – but never for long enough to remember weeks later why we were arguing in the first place, what was said, and how it ended.

One summer, on holiday, Harry and I spent an evening bickering in the kitchen. It was the season of stretched out nights, sticky and bothersome, and in the heat I said something that pissed him off. Then he said something that pissed me off more. We settled in to this quick-fire duel of saying things that pissed each other off until we couldn't take it anymore and we were so hot and sticky and bothered that we both stormed out of the room. We ignored each other for most of the evening, sitting and chatting with other friends, stewing slightly, while it got dark.

“To argue is to...diagnose and treat an injury rather than ignoring it and leaving it to worsen as time goes by”

Before bed, hours later, just as I decided that we had argued enough and that I couldn’t bear to avoid him any longer, Harry came and found me. I knew it was him before I saw him, simply from the sound of his footsteps along the corridor as he approached. He looked at me, eyes wide, and I held my breath as large clunky sorrys fell from his mouth. I apologised too, in such a hurry that I hardly distinguished the syllables from one another. We talked about what had gone wrong. We talked about why I was wrong to verbally prod at him, to aggravate him in the first place, and why he was wrong to react in the way he did. We sat and we talked until we got back to where we were that morning: a relationship that is strong and shiny and fully intact.

I hate arguing with you, he says.

I hate it too, I reply.

Nobody likes to be at odds with those whose opinions they hold in highest regard. However, I think this kind of arguing is valuable. Whether it is abrupt and high volume, or drawn out and thoughtful, arguing between two people who respect each other can be a force for good. An argument with someone important to us not only sets us back on the straight and narrow when we are in the wrong and have not realised, but it reminds us that we have someone around who knows us well enough to call us out in the first place.

“Arguing, provided it is not all the time, and it is handled properly...helps us love each other better”

Challenging someone because they have done something which has upset you, or because they have acted in a way you disagree with, can actually be a sign of care. If somebody refuses to admit they have made a mistake, to be honest when they feel hard done by, or even to engage in conversation at all, surely this is a sign that they don’t value your relationship enough to spend their time and energy preserving it? To argue is to communicate, and communication is a crucial part of any healthy relationship. To argue is to try and find a solution to a problem, to diagnose and treat an injury rather than ignoring it and leaving it to worsen as time goes by. The feeling of revived affection that is part and parcel of reconciliation – this is what it is to be close to another person.


Mountain View

Askvulture: Standing up against Difficult People

Emotional intimacy of any kind requires being there, that is, turning up over and over and over again, even when things are hard, or when you’re not totally on the same page. Of course, constant conflict is not something to aim for. We should hope that bust ups of whatever size remain few and far between. My point is that arguing - although we might not realise it as first – can help us better understand what, and who, is most important. When we argue with those we love we learn that being ‘right’ doesn’t matter that much. We discover that winning or losing is not as significant as it first seems. Arguments enhance relationships not because one person proves they were correct about something or other, defining the path forwards, but because the disagreements themselves are proof that both people care enough to work things through.

Arguing, provided it is not all the time, and it is handled properly, within the boundaries which have been mutually set, helps us love each other better. Love is a strong word, I know, one that I am still grappling with the meaning of, but if it means anything, it at least means this. It is the ability to understand, to forgive, and to move forwards into the future, without being tripped up by a disagreement: words said or mistakes made.