Is Conflict in Relationships Bad?

Jasbina Ahluwalia interviews Dr Terri Orbuch.

I’m very excited to welcome to todays show Dr. Terri Orbuch. Dr. Orbuch, also known as “The Love Doctor”, is a world renowned relationship expert, author, speaker, therapist, coach, distinguished professor at Oakland University, research scientist at the University of Michigan, Institute for Social Research and media personality. She’s also the director of a landmark study funded by the National Institute of Health (NIH), where she’s been following the same couples for over 30 years. Her 2 best-selling books are “5 Simple Steps To Take Your Marriage From Good To Great” and “Finding Love Again: 6 Simple Steps To a New and Happy Relationship”.



I love that insight because as I always say, these are guidelines. These are not rules because there are exceptions to every rule, so I love that qualification. Yeah, let people sort through this insight and then apply it to themselves. Super helpful.

Another myth… your book has a lot. One other myth is concerning conflict and healthy relationships. Tell us about that. What’s the myth their surrounding?



Yes. This is a myth…a commonsense notion, I think, that a lot of people hold. The myth is, the conflict is negative, it’s bad for a relationship. If you and your partner are disagreeing, have all these differences, have conflict, that somehow, you’re not in a good relationship or something is wrong with your relationship. It’s a myth. It’s a commonsense notion.

When I look at my own research… and I should say I’ve been following the same couples, 373 couples, for over 30 years now. When I look at the couples, inevitably, they have conflict over time, and there were 12 couples in year one who said, “We never fight. We never have conflict.” None of those 12 couples were still together in year three.

As these couples go over time, as these couples have a long-term relationship, they inevitably have conflict, and it is not predictive of the health, wellbeing, and happiness of the relationship.

It is not predictive of who stays together or who does not. Instead, what my studies show is that it’s how you deal with the conflict that predicts staying together or not and happiness, so those couples who do conflict well, they listen to one another, they validate one another, they don’t storm off, they don’t call each other names. If they handle the conflict well, that predicts who stays together and who doesn’t.

Those couples who have conflict and don’t do it well, that predicts not being together over the long haul.

Parental Conflict Resolution Teaches Couples How to Have Healthy Relationships


Thank you, Terri. Very helpful. I love it. As a matchmaker one of the questions I like to ask is, how would you describe your parents’ relationship? How do you remember your parents resolving conflict?



That’s a good question, because I have talked to many clients as well, and when they don’t see their parents have conflict in front of them and resolve it well, that needs to both happen, then when they’re in a relationship and they have their first disagreement, they automatically assume that the relationship isn’t okay or they’re in trouble.

Seeing parents or others in our childhood argue, have disagreements, have differences and resolve them well is so important for children.



The above is an excerpt from Jasbina’s interview with Dr. Terri Orbuch