You’re in a relationship; mostly it’s good, even great but about once a month or more the two of you have screaming, “I hate you,” fights. And the fights are often about the same things although each couple has their favorite: “Why don’t you tell your mother to stop calling all of the time?,” “Why didn’t you pay the bill before it was 30 days late?,” How come you never initiate sex?,” I can’t stand it when you get drunk and act like an ass,” “You have more fun with your friends than you do with me,” “We never go out anymore,” “Why didn’t you answer your phone/text?” You get the drift. In between those fights you get along and makeup sex is great, almost worth the fight, almost.

Then one of you has a really bad idea, “Let’s get married.” Yes, a really bad idea because once you have that piece of paper between you that says no one is going anywhere without a big legal and financial hassle, there is a kind of guarantee so it’s easier to fight, say what you think, pull out all the stops. He/she isn’t going to just leave me so I’ll tell him/her what I really think. And the fighting increases and gets worse about the same things you fought about before you got married.

Before marriage you partner is on his/her mostly best behavior. Either one of you can just walk away and that makes people, well, nicer, than they might be if they think they have a guarantee of sorts.

So don’t throw yourself off the marriage cliff if you disintegrate into dirty fighting while you’re just going together. It’s a much, much better idea to seek counseling for the specific purpose of learning how to communicate effectively and how to fight fair (meaning something productive comes out of it).

All couples have disagreements, pet peeves about the other, get annoyed or frustrated from time to time but in a healthy relationship those are either tolerated (not stuffed) because you love him/her or you sit down and have a fair fight where you work through the problem. Unhealthy relationships, those much more likely not to make it, are the ones where anything goes during a fight, the goal being to hurt your partner more than he/she is hurting you.

So don’t rush off and get married as a solution to the problem or as a way of pretending a problem doesn’t exist. Fix it before you do anything else. It can be fixed if you learn how with a trained professional and you practice regularly. Then you’ve given yourselves a much higher chance of having a lifelong, rewarding, and intimate relationship. Sounds better than a bad fight or a divorce doesn’t it?