Arguments are risky business, especially in relationships. Sometimes, when you argue with a SO it can be easily resolved and in the end, you can feel good about what both of you gained from the argument. However, some arguments make you question the person you’re with and how they reacted to you or the situation itself. This is when you might start wondering whether this is just another argument or if this is indicative of a larger problem — a problem that is inevitably a dealbreaker.
Luckily, we’ve consulted with Kim Olver, a licensed counselor, board certified coach, and author of Secrets of Happy Couples and Choosing Me Now, which help inform whether your fight a normal argument or something to be more concerned about.
“In every relationship, you always have at least three choices — you can change it, accept it or leave it,” Olver tells us. “When you are in a committed relationship, I recommend you save leaving the relationship as a last resort unless you are experiencing physical abuse, in which case your safety is of paramount importance. If not, try changing and accepting first.”
It’s just an argument if…
1. You are making little things into major issues
Make sure to check yourself and your partner to make sure you aren’t making something out of nothing.
“If it’s an argument about little things that can be fixed or isn’t a really a big issue, then fix the argument and try solving the little annoying things before calling it quits,” says Gabriella Catano-Salinas, a senior at Florida International University.
2. Your SO’s intentions aren’t to hurt you
Between talking to Olver and various college students, it seems that there is a shared sentiment that an argument shouldn’t end your relationship, unless it’s absolutely necessary. One of the keys to figuring out if it’s really just an argument is determining your SO’s intentions.
3. You’re trying to change them
“When you are in a relationship, it is important to remember that your partner is doing whatever he (or she) is doing to get his (or her) needs met,” Olver describes. “It isn’t likely [your partner’s] end goal is to hurt you or piss you off. If you can accept that everyone, including you, is supposed to meet their own needs, then you can be more accepting of what people choose to do to meet yours.”
Sometimes we end up in arguments with our SOs because there is something about them that we want to change, but Olver recommends trying to change yourself before trying to change your partner.
“Often, our go-to behavior is trying to change the other person to match the picture of what we really want or what we know this person is capable of becoming,” Olver describes. “The problem with that approach is that you are holding someone responsible to meet your expectations instead of accepting who they actually are. Adjusting yourself isn’t easy but it’s infinitely easier than trying to change your partner. This works well as long as you are not compromising your values and principles.”
So then, how do you know if an argument spells the end for you and your SO?
It could be the end of your relationship if…
1. You’ve had this argument countless times
It’s super frustrating having the same argument with someone over and over. And over. Especially when that someone is your partner, it’s easy to feel dismissed or like they don’t hear you. If you find yourself in this predicament, it may be time to consider moving on.
“Ask yourself: if your partner were to never change, would you still want to be in that relationship with him or her?” Olver tells us. “If the answer is yes, then let it go, stop arguing and accept your partner for who they are. If the answer is no, I agree it’s time for a breakup.”
2. You’re seeing qualities in your SO that are dealbreakers
An argument can tell you a lot about your SO. It can reveal qualities in that person that you hadn’t seen before or now realize you don’t like.
“To me, an argument is only the end of your relationship if you allow it to be, or if the argument is solved but it reveals qualities in your partner that you can’t deal with anymore,” says Morgan Mullings, a sophomore at St. John’s University. “If it does reveal things in your SO, like qualities that are a dealbreaker for you, it’s honestly okay to break up. And then you can be thankful that you had that argument, or you would’ve never known!” If you genuinely are concerned about how you were treated during the argument, that in and of itself can be the dealbreaker. It might be time to call it quits then.
3. You’re changing for your SO in an unhealthy way
Change can be a good thing. But if you’re changing because your partner wants you to, you need to reevaluate.
“If the only reason they trying to change is to please a partner, this is a mistake and they should either stop or walk away,” Olver explains. So, if you like yourself, but your partner is insistent that you change for some reason that you don’t agree with, this is a red flag.
At the end of the day, you’ll know when you need to move on. Trust yourself and your instinct that you know what’s best for you both in and outside of your relationship. And if you’ve had an argument with your SO that you feel uneasy about, talk to them first. Olver concludes that if you’re in a healthy, serious relationship, leaving should be your last option. If your SO wants you to change in a way you are uncomfortable with, you see qualities in them you can’t get past or you guys keep having the same argument, then it is probably time to consider going your separate ways.