Eliza’s super empowering post about fighting seemed like a great way to lead into the holidays, because, lets be honest, is it even possible to make it through the high-stress holidays without a fight or two? (If you can, shhhhh! None of us mere mortals want to hear about it!) I’m blessed with a relationship where we’re comfortable fighting with each other. We have two kinds of fights: the blowing off steam fights, which don’t mean very much, and the really painful moving things forward fights. And the truth is, the world doesn’t have much to say about how amazingly helpful fighting has the potential of being. So without further ado, Eliza, and the power of the fight:
Last night my fiance and I were talking about the year – like a pre-NYE resolution look back, if you will. We do this most years in December, but this year it felt particularly huge. This has been the year we’ve gotten engaged, the year we’ve planned our wedding together. And at the start of the year, it was the year of being pre-engaged. This was a year in which I started a new job, and in which lots of my expectations about my career got turned upside down. 2010 has been a really huge year for us individually, and for our relationship. But what stood out, and what we wound up talking about, were the fights we’d had. Not petty squabbles or spats about being tired or whose way of stacking the dishwasher is the “right way”, but the important stuff.
Over the last four and a half years – but mostly since moving in together two and a half years ago - we have had big fights. We have fought about the way we live in our home. About space, and silence, and how to treat each other in certain situations. About family – our extended families, our birth families, how often we see them and how those occasions should go. We have fought about affection, about sex, about what our wedding should be like, about how it should be organised. (We don’t fight about money, but in this I think we are unusual.) More than anything else, we have fought about communication – how we communicate, what it means, and how we wish it worked, how we want it to work in the future.
And our relationship is freaking AWESOME, you guys. We are incredibly, stupidly happy together. In large part, because those fights? We resolved them. We don’t have the same fights over and over again. When something is an issue, we push and prod and pull at it until we figure it out, and then we stop fighting about it. Sure, some things come up again – but then, the old fight is a reference point. Because we fight fair – no name calling, no bitchiness (mostly), respecting each others views, not fighting when we’re tired – the fights we have are useful later on. It’s all part of one bigger conversation about the way we want to live together.
When I look back on the path of our relationship, the fights stand out. And not in a bad way. When I picture it in my mind, the fights are like monoliths. Looming, noticeable, permanent. They say, this is done. They say, you have figured this out now. They say, don’t go back this way. They point the way that the relationship should go from there onwards. They feel like achievements. Problems solved.
Fights can seem scary, impossible, signs that your relationship isn’t working, signs that it just sucks. And hey, sometimes they are, and I’m not discounting that. If you want opposite things out of life, or if you have diametrically opposed values, it may be time to reconsider. This is why having discussions or fights about those things before you get married is good – because you find out if that’s the case. But I think you probably already have a hunch that you have different values, if you do. If you’re brave enough to look those value disjuncts in the face, you will see them without even looking too hard. But it’s not one or the other – you can have a great relationship and fight a lot, or you can have a terrible relationship and never fight at all, because you sweep everything under the carpet and refuse to admit that you aren’t meant to be long term. (Don’t do that second one.)
I wish someone had told me early on that fighting about the things that are important to you is a normal part of figuring out how to live together and still love each other. Fights happen when you are figuring out how to take two people with different views and opinions and personalities and have them share a life. Early on, I almost ran away from the best relationship I’ve ever had and the person who loves me most in the world, because I was scared – because we had fights. Because we didn’t agree on everything. I thought that meant we could never be together forever. The opposite is true: a great relationship is one you have with someone who will fight well with you, healthily and fairly. So I’m telling you what I wish someone had told me: it’s okay. It’s normal. Keep breathing. Fight fair, fight logically, and come out the other side. In the end, it will feel not just better – it will feel really good.