Tag Archives: relationships

Fight Club

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.

Funny, that.

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.

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Adam and Eve?

Here is a forward I keep receiving by e-mail. It is normally sent by a dear and well-meaning friend who probably thinks she will make my day with this, given as we are all such Supermoms! The forward is normally accompanied by comments like, “Familiar, eh?” or “Isn’t this SO apt?”

Mum and Dad were watching TV when Mum said, ‘I’m tired, and it’s getting late. I think I’ll go to bed’
She went to the kitchen to make sandwiches for the next day’s lunches.
Rinsed out the popcorn bowls, took meat out of the freezer for dinner the following evening, checked the cereal box levels, filled the sugar container and put spoons and bowls on the table.
She then put some wet clothes in the dryer, put a load of clothes into the washer, ironed a shirt and secured a loose button .She picked up the game pieces left on the table, put the phone back on the charger and put the telephone book into the drawer.
She watered the plants, emptied a rubbish bin and hung up a towel to dry.
She yawned and stretched and headed for the bedroom. She stopped by the desk and wrote a note to the teacher, counted out some cash for an excursion, and pulled a text book out from hiding under the chair. She signed a birthday card for a friend, addressed and stamped the envelope and wrote a quick note for the grocery store. She put both near her purse. Mum then washed her face with 3 in 1 cleanser, put on her Night solution & age fighting moisturiser, brushed and flossed her teeth and filed her nails. Dad called out, ‘I thought you were going to bed.’
‘I’m on my way,’ she said. She put some water into the dog’s dish and put the cat outside, then made sure the doors were locked.
She looked in on each of the kids and turned out their bedside lamps and TV’s, hung up a shirt, threw some dirty socks into the basket, and had a brief conversation with the one up still doing homework.
In her own room, she set the alarm; laid out clothing for the next day, straightened up the shoe rack. She added three things to her 6 most important things to do list. She said her prayers, and visualised the accomplishment of her goals.
About that time, Dad turned off the TV and announced to no one in particular. ‘I’m going to bed.’
And he did…without another thought. Anything extraordinary here? Wonder why women live longer…?
CAUSE WE ARE MADE FOR THE LONG HAUL….. (and we can’t die sooner, we still have things to do!!!!)

Familiar? No. Apt? Antiquated maybe, but not apt. I find this passage offensive on so many levels. Normally, I would say, “don’t get me started!” and leave it at that. But now I’m a blogger, so I’ll just wind me up and let me rip!

Let me count the ways.

That this is our view of marital partnership anno 2008 is astounding. The Mom as a bonafide control freak, bustling around doing neverending chores (and of course still finding the time to slap on age-fighting moisturiser!) and the Dad, stretched out on the sofa, channel-surfing, reading the paper, belching/burping and I dunno, scratching his arse? Once he is done, WITHOUT A THOUGHT, he retires. At this point, the thought-burdened mother is probably still working in her sleep. Luckily though, she is wrinkle-free.

I’m sorry, but which part of this am I supposed to identify with? Are we seriously still buying into these stereotypes and worse, living them? Anything extraordinary here, the author asks? Hell, yes! It is extraordinary that this was probably penned in the past few years, in an age where one supposes women have broken free from oppressive shackles of chauvinism. It is extraordinary that it totally disregards the efforts made by so many couples to achieve a greater balance in family roles. Yet, if there is one thing that gets my goat more than open chauvinism, it is the cloaked variety. Bertrand Russell said it beautifully in his essay, “The Superior Virtue of the Oppressed”, where he speaks of the romanticising of oppression. If you really wanted to know how far I could projectile vomit, you might want to start by waxing eloquent and deifying the role of the woman in a home. If you are an Indian woman in your late twenties or thirties, (or older) chances are this has been shoved down your throat enough. And hopefully regurgitated. The categories are few, stark, punishing and misogynistic. 1. Selfless, self-effacing super-achiever 2. Complete waster, neglecting home, man and children. You oiled your hair, prayed and aspired to number 1 for fear that you might be number 2 and (gasp!) a failure. Not really much room for movement, eh?

Its a nothing less than a crying shame if this is an identifiable reality for so many women in the world. Should I STILL be considered “lucky” to have a man do the dishes or help out with kids? How many more years will we speak in glowing terms of the superwoman who never took a moment for herself and wore herself to the bone in the service of her family, while we speak in tones of pride (mixed with a certain resignation) of the man who brings home lovely chunks of bacon, while being more or less an emotional absentee in his own family?

I can see you guys patting me on the back, saying, “Relax, man! It’s just a dumb forward”. But its never just that. It is the power of discourse. It is the way women measure themselves and each other. It is the insiduous and destructive power of unreal (and standardised) expectations. I am pained by the thought of a young wife/mother reading this and feeling even a niggling inadequacy.

But most of all, I am offended on behalf of the wonderful men and fathers I know. This is utterly disrespectful to men who, without fail, put their families and family life first. Men who don’t expect medals (sexual favours maybe, but no medals;-) for having woken up in the morning and wiped a baby’s bum. Who will pitch in cheerfully getting breakfast organised, lunches packed and driving kids to respective schools. They help train football teams, cheer their daughter’s ballet efforts and spend as much time as their spouse (if not more) being with their kids, getting to know them and hanging out with them. They aren’t necessarily stay at home dads, but they realise there is more to fatherhood than sperm donation – and by golly! – do they do their bit! As early as the 1950’s, my maternal grandfather was doing this. In those days when fathers weren’t expected to do much more than lie in an easy chair, drink tea served by their wives and shush their children, he rolled up his sleeves and actively raised my mother and uncle. He was interested and involved in every aspect of their lives and knew his children inside out.

I also know a lot of incredibly loving fathers (and mothers) who have excruciatingly long working hours. Unfortunately, we don’t always have a choice when it comes to work. (We should! We should!). Its not really about the time you spend, but I suppose how much you invest in getting to KNOW your family. I have seen dads working over 70 hours a week, who will still declare a Sunday sacred and pitch in with family chores, activities and fun. In a lot of relationships today, where both partners work, its obvious that there will be times when one person has to pitch in more with domestic chores. There will also be instances where either a mom or a dad decide to stay at home to be with the children and take upon themselves the lions share of the work at home. I would like to clarify that I’m not dissing people in these situations at all.

I’m dissing the tone of this text. The taking-for-granted going on here and the glorification of the “woman’s lot”. Annoyed senseless that its still gigglegiggle and haha-hehe when a man acts like he is visiting the family he belongs to. We wouldn’t be trying to imply there are so few good men, would we?

Ladies and gentlemen, end of rant.

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