10 things truly happy couples do differently when they argue, according to psychology

Disagreements and arguments are natural in any relationship, but how couples manage these disputes can significantly impact their happiness and the health of their relationship. 

According to psychology, truly happy couples tend to approach disagreements differently than those who struggle to maintain harmony. 

Here are 10 things they do differently:

1) Focus on the problem, not the person 

A tactic commonly used by happy couples is separating the issue from the person.

By doing that, they avoid attacking each other personally, which could lead to resentment building up over time.

As Couples Success mentions:

“Attacking the problem – and not your partner – creates a healthy environment conducive to sharing at a deep, effective level. By focusing on the problem, you can actually work towards a solution.”

The truth is, when blame isn’t part of the equation, neither partner feels the need to become defensive.

And without those two factors, it’s much easier to resolve an issue without hurting the other person in the process. 

2) Actively listen 

Another important thing happy couples do differently in arguments is actually listen to each other. 

This means they:

  • Give their full attention (no glancing down at the phone mid-conversation!) 
  • Avoid interrupting one another 
  • Ask follow-up questions for clarity 
  • Look out for non-verbal cues 

Here’s the thing:

Simply hearing what someone says isn’t always enough, especially if things are heated and emotions are flying around wildly. 

That’s where actively listening helps – you’re making a conscious effort to not only hear the person but understand what they’re telling you. 

Ultimately, it’s a win-win for both sides. You avoid misunderstanding the other person, and they feel heard and understood, which is exceptionally powerful when trying to navigate conflict.  

3) Use “I” statements 

Earlier, I mentioned the importance of not attacking your partner during an argument. Well, this is something happy couples have mastered.

Why? 

Because their goal is to resolve the issue as fairly and quickly as possible. Not to cause hurt to one another. 

That’s why they’ll often use “I” statements when explaining how they feel or what the issue is at hand. 

For example:

Rather than saying, “You never clean up after yourself,” they’d opt for:

“I feel stressed when the house isn’t clean. Let’s sit down and work out a schedule to tackle this problem.” 

Notice the difference? With the first sentence (accusation, more like) the other person will no doubt get defensive and react accordingly. 

Using the second option means no one feels attacked, and the couple can have a genuine, calm conversation about the problem. 

4) Practice empathy

Empathy. 

It’s a word that’s thrown around a lot these days, but for good reason.

When you’re empathetic, you’re able to understand what someone else is going through, even if you’ve never experienced it yourself.

On holiday a few weeks ago, my husband was quite snappy on our first day there. I was initially quite hurt as we were meant to be relaxing and having fun. 

But I took a minute out and remembered that his wisdom tooth was playing up, he hadn’t slept well, and he was still getting over a horrible cold. 

I could have continued the argument and accused him of ruining our first day away, but I tried to be empathetic instead. 

Luckily, it defused the situation, he apologized, and we were able to enjoy the rest of our holiday. 

Chief Psychologist Jenny Rickardsson at 29K explains: 

“When we can step outside ourselves and view the situation through our partner’s eyes, it’s easier to find common ground and compromise—two essential ingredients for any healthy relationship. Furthermore, research has shown that couples with high levels of empathy for one another experience less frequent and less intense conflict than those who don’t.”

5) Know when to take a break 

Have you ever been in an argument that seems to have no end? You go around and around in circles, getting more and more exhausted and frustrated. 

Well, truly happy couples avoid getting to that point

Because let’s be honest, when you’re that tired and upset, nothing you say to each other is very conducive to resolving the argument. 

So, happy couples take a break. They cool off. They don’t drag things on unnecessarily. 

But there’s a key factor here – they communicate it. Rather than just giving the cold shoulder or storming off mid-argument, they’ll agree on a cooling-off period – together. 

Once they’ve both had a chance to calm down and get some perspective on the situation, they come back to the table to work out how to move forward. And that usually leads to…

6) Seek compromise 

Ah yes. Compromise is a must in relationships. But here’s the thing:

Happy couples don’t mind compromising. Rather than see it as a personal sacrifice and something to be resentful about, they view compromise as a tool to strengthen their connection. 

The truth is, if one person insists on getting their way every single time, it can only lead to resentment and frustration. 

And as marriage therapist Claudia De Llano writes for Verywellmind

“Compromise entails a mutual respect and regard for each other’s feelings and needs. It requires both partners to cooperate with each other and make adjustments to accommodate each other.”

In other words, when a couple compromises, they’re less likely to have ugly fights and frequent conflict because they’re consciously taking each other into consideration all the time. 

7) Maintain respect 

While we’re on the subject of mutual respect, this is something happy couples do differently when they argue – they keep it “clean”. 

That means:

  • Not losing control of their emotions and screaming at one another 
  • Not hurtling curse words or using derogatory language 
  • Not physically or emotionally abusing each other 

And hey, it’s hard to get to that level of calmness and respect in an argument. Emotions can and do get in the way, and things are often said that can’t be taken back. 

But that’s something happy couples actively work on. 

They don’t always start out fighting fair, but through lots of communication and reflection, they realize that nothing ever gets resolved if respect is taken out of the equation. 

8) Remember the big picture

Sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in an argument or issue. 

When we do that, we let it take over everything; our emotions, our feelings towards the other person, and importantly, how we go about resolving the problem. 

An unhappy couple might allow something quite small and trivial to blow out of proportion. If this happens frequently, it can easily lead to the downfall of the relationship. 

On the otherhand, happy couples try to keep the big picture in mind. 

They’re good at taking a step back, putting things into perspective, and not making mountains out of molehills. 

Michael Schreiner makes reference to this for Evolution Counseling

“What you have to ask yourself is if the things you are saying to one another are nourishing, increasing your health and happiness, or are draining, causing discord and decay. By moving to the meta level and thinking about your larger goals for the relationship, about how you want to treat one another and how you want the relationship to be, you get away from the pettiness.”

He makes a great point – who has time for pettiness when you’re busy being happy? 

9) Use humor wisely 

A joke can either reduce tension or make it one hundred times worse!

As written for HelpGuide.org:

“Making snide, hurtful remarks, for example, then criticizing the other person for not being able to take a joke will create even more problems and ultimately damage a relationship.

“Humor can only help you overcome conflict when both parties are in on the joke.”

That’s why truly happy couples tread carefully when injecting a bit of humor into an argument. 

Through actively listening to their partner, reading their emotions, and displaying empathy, they decide when it’s appropriate to use light humor, or when to stay quiet. 

10) Apologize and forgive 

And finally, couples who are truly happy and in love with each other don’t shy away from apologizing. 

In other words, they don’t let pride and ego take control! 

They own up to their mistakes, admit their faults, and make an active effort to do better. For themselves, but also for the betterment of the relationship, the unit, as a whole. 

And that’s not all…

Happy couples are quick to forgive. If their partner is genuinely sorry, of course. 

They don’t hold grudges or bring up arguments from five years ago. After all, what’s the point? 

This only creates more tension and makes it harder to move forward.

The bottom line is, happy couples are all about moving forward, strengthening their connection, and making each other feel valued and loved. 

So, by using these tactics in their arguments, they ensure that conflict is a healthy part of their relationship, not something that harms or hurts more than necessary. 

Kiran Athar

Kiran is a freelance writer with a degree in multimedia journalism. She enjoys exploring spirituality, psychology, and love in her writing. As she continues blazing ahead on her journey of self-discovery, she hopes to help her readers do the same. She thrives on building a sense of community and bridging the gaps between people. You can reach out to Kiran on Twitter: @KiranAthar1

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