Ever heard this one?
“Fighting is a sign of a healthy couple. Its good to fight – and make up.” *snigger snigger*
I am just going to flat out disagree with this one. And I will take it a step further and say, “Maybe for you. But it will never work for me.” And by making it personal and SUPER SUBJECTIVE, I am going to disallow your disagreement. Because I’m all Mein Führer like that.
35 years of living have allow me to admit that I am an Unadulterated Harmony Junkie. Don’t get me wrong, I am still a pain in the ass and if I am having a bad day, you can bet your bottom dollar that I will try and pick a fight with you, but really, ALL I REALLY WANT, as Alanis sung so angstily, is to be held and soothed and told, “There there. Its just a bad day. This too shall pass.”
And then I want you to shut up. Not diagnose me or patch me up.
Back to the fighting.
The first years of a relationship can be awesome and still be turbulent. And in the midst of all the gelling and the cooing and the “OMIGOD, YOU TOO??? Fries with MUSTARD?”, you may find yourself flipping your lid, sleeping back to back and trying to find a way to carve your your space, your identity, something in the shape of you in the Newly Baptised Blob of Us. Pretty legit, that.
However, 5 or 10 years down the line, if constant bickering is still the best you can do for foreplay, then it might just be time to step back and look at how much you really enjoy this life together. Maybe it is just that I have seen some really happy couples and really – they do not fight that much or take cheap potshots at each other constantly. I have envied their quietude, their sunny outlook, their obvious pleasure in each other’s company.
I can already hear that “opposites attract” arguments for the passionate, volatile relationship. And again, good for you. Check’s in the mail. Having been there and done him and his best friend, I can only say that I never want THAT much valium in my life ever again.
For years, I equated the loving, stable relationship with the death of all that is exciting. For years, I did myself in, trying to reach some unattainable high, like a junkie who is sure that the next great hit is right around the corner. I shipwrecked myself repeatedly without much thought or respect.
The problem in mindlessly seeking the passionate, the volatile and the good fight is manifold in my eyes.
a) I like to connect with the people I really like and I love to get along. Nothing makes quite as happy as getting under someone’s skin and knowing that its warm there. There is snuggling, there are footrubs and backrubs, notes stuck on the mirror, spooning, good food and the world is your chocolate whore. Now, if you’re spending a good 50% of this time wanting to tell the other person to f%&$ off, I’m guessing you didn’t like your footrub. Or he didn’t shave his legs before spooning, the bastard.
b) Its not so much about whether you fight so much as HOW you fight. I have not really learnt the art of fighting right. I get impossibly aggressive, I yell, I say many things I shamefully regret a nanosecond later and I will feel like toilet paper that has been used multiple times for DAYS. I am so wound up before a good yell and so despondent afterwards, that I will literally take to my bed like any decent Victorian biddy. I will get NOTHING done, because my mind will auto-replay the Awfulness of Me.
At the theatre near you.
Step two is the classic over-compensation, the mad apologizing and the desperate need to get that backrub routine back on track.
Now this can be read as a sign of insecurity or fear of abandonment, but nope.
c) I am pretty secure that I am just happier being happy with someone. I am much happier saying, “This is going nowhere good. This is not a good time for me. Can we do this later?” I am happier diffusing a fight than I am fighting it. I am happy to be understood without having to yell and nag. It would be very difficult to be with a person you couldn’t hug spontaneously, because I NEVER want to sponto-hug a snappy person.
Ultimately, we are talking about communication breakdown.
That is DRAMA. Not to be confused with passion.
It is a failure to try to understand the other’s reaction /overreaction. Often, even an attempt to pervert innocent remarks to slake your fight thirst. OVER SOMETHING COMPLETELY unrelated. Sometimes I have had an overwhelming urge to step out of my furious self and just say, “Why can’t you just tell him what this is REALLY about?”
I hate that. The feeling that this fight in not about “this” fight, but something deeper, darker, something you cannot let go, some awful, fundamental way in which you feel you have been betrayed. I hate the way past mistakes will always reclaim a fight, despite best intentions. How the you you were many years ago can still be on trial. How the desire to be right and win overpowers the desire to play nice.
Whenever we have a hit a bad patch, with fighting /tundra treatment, I’ve felt like it shaved years off my life. I feel old, exhausted, restless, sleepless and all ways suddenly lead to evil CARBS. (And maybe its just me, but if you were equating the significant other in your life with an err.. body appendage, would you really be shocked when no choco-cupcakes are coming your way? No. This is why you are up at 2 a.m. making them yourself.)
Where does this myth come from that secure couples fight? (almost as mystical as the “couples who never disagree must be super happy” theory) I have never felt anything but horribly insecure, when we have been fighting. Not so much “Will he leave me?” as much as “Who am I? And when did I become this person? In this relationship?”
Misery in longevity. Why won’t more people aim for that, you wonder.
The years are going to take their toll. It will get tough before it gets easy. At several points, we will all hopefully springclean and de-clutter our emotional spheres. And when we do, we should probably be checking the box for really liking the person we’re spending our lives with. Liking the person we are when we are with them. Liking that we talk more and fight less. Understanding who they are and respecting their choices. Wanting to sit on a porch swing with them, swinging aimlessly, being perfectly boring, dreaming of places we will go (if only in your head), while that cup of coffee goes cold in your hands.
And he looks at you with ill-concealed affection as if to say, “Typical!”
We should all let ourselves want some of that.