Building Successful Relationships: Fight for a Successful Marriage

Dr. Clifford N. Lazarus


Marilyn and Peter’s problem was not that they tended to argue. They tore each other apart! Their arguments were vicious and extremely hurtful to both of them. Their painful, dirty fight tactics were destroying their marriage.


Like Peter and Marilyn, you and your partner probably quarrel and have disagreements — that’s human, after all. We hope, however, that your skirmishes don’t result in open warfare! Keep in mind that the difference between happy and unhappy couples is not always how muchthey fight or how oftenthey argue, but the way they express anger and disagreement. In fact, how you fight is one of the very best ways to diagnose the health of your marriage.

So, what can be done to safeguard your own marriage from the ravages of strife and friction? It’s not a matter of avoiding arguments or conflicts — disagreements are inevitable. The key is to work at resolving them.

• When you fight, avoid extremes of criticism, contempt, defensiveness, or withdrawal.

• Never fight by attacking your spouse—ask for a specific change in behavior.

Extensive studies by Dr. John Gottman, a psychologist at the University of Washington in Seattle, have revealed some fascinating findings. Gottman has found what he calls “a magic ratio” between the amount of positivity and negativity in relationships. In good marriages the ratio is five to one. In other words, as long as a husband and wife express at least five positive feelings and actions for each negative message, the marriage is likely to be stable. (We strongly recommend Dr. Gottman’s book, Why Marriages Succeed or Fail.)

Here’s the bottom line:

• If you want your marriage to be happy, show interest, be affectionate, show that you care, be appreciative, show your concern, be accepting… and fight constructively.


Dr. Clifford N. Lazarus is a licensed psychologist, Co-founder and Clinical Director of The Lazarus Institute. In addition to his general psychotherapy practice, Dr. Clifford Lazarus specializes in health and neuropsychology.

Dr. Clifford Lazarus received his B.A., M.S., and Ph.D. in psychology from Rutgers University where he was a Henry Rutgers Research Scholar.  Seen here are excerpts from one of his books, The 60-Second Shrink – 101 Strategies For Staying Sane In a Crazy World, a book, he co-authored with his father “One of the ten most influential psychotherapists in America”  Arnold A. Lazarus, Ph.D.  For more details on Dr. Clifford Lazarus visit this link to The Lazarus Institute.  Or visit his page here on