Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Fighting

I'm a moderately confrontational person. At work, as a manager, I have to confront people now and then. I don't look forward to it, but if it has to be done I'll pull up my socks and do it. One of my bosses likes to know that I can "be a bulldog" when he needs me to. So, GRRRRRR!

With friends and family I'm a lot more likely to avoid uncomfortable issues. I hate fighting. It's such a painful, raw process. And when I'm not in a position of authority, I'm vulnerable.

Fighting with Ken is the worst of all. I usually don't talk about our conflicts on my blog. A) It wouldn't be fair to him because you'd only be getting my side of the story and B) he reads this blog so he'd know if I were whining to the world at large. I like that he reads here. It keeps me honest and accountable. His rule is that I can write anything about him that's true. I think that's more than fair.

We fight around once every couple of weeks. I think that's probably normal. Do you fight with your significant other, those of you who have them, more or less than that?

Ken and I have a co-dependent relationship. Full on, in your face, we are totally wrapped up in each other to the point where sometimes we drive each other crazy. Each of us finds it impossible to pull back to an emotional distance that would allow us not to worry about what the other one is feeling.

For my part, if Ken is upset, I'm upset. I can pretend to be Even Steven, going about my business, but if he's stressed out, I can't keep my head on straight for long. I'm worrying about him, suffering with him, feeling his feelings, and generally freaking out. I can't "be strong" for him in a reliable way if he's upset for more than a couple of hours. Intellectually I realize that this is screwed up, and I should be able to do better, but even my stubborn will isn't enough to make that happen. I fall into the same hole every time, even when I can see it coming.

Ken has his own way of being entwined with me. He's great at staying strong and comforting when I'm down. In fact, he never fails to rise to the occasion when I need someone to cling to. He's good at taking care of people; he's done it all his life. He has his own soft spots that make him sensitive. No matter what I may feel is true, I've re-worded the sentences numerous times but I still don't feel I have the right to expose Ken by listing the specifics.

Let's just say when we fight, it's awful. We don't enjoy making playful , witty jabs at each other. Neither of us gets a high from being self-righteous or sadistic. It's pure misery.

Usually it ends with Ken saying he can't take anymore. He puts his shoes on and goes for a long walk. This is an improvement from the days when he used to get into his car and drive like a maniac to blow off steam. At least I know that he'll probably come home safe from his walk, and that he won't go far.

It's also an improvement that I let him go. I used to go wild when he headed for the door, overcome by my terror of abandonment. It's been enough years, and enough fights, that I know it's best for him to go get some fresh air, and space. I've learned to trust that he'll come back.

And usually by the time he comes back, we've both calmed down. A little time and distance, even 3/4 of an hour, can work magic. And in the worst case scenario, if he goes to bed angry, he'll wake up as cheerful and fresh the next morning as if the fight never happened. I've never known him to hold onto a conflict overnight.

I'm different. If I go to bed sulking, I wake up sulking. I come from a long line (on my mother's side) of champion grudge-holders. Ken is more the type to explode in the moment, and then when it's over, it's over.

My father (who reads this blog: Hi Father!) says that it's actually good for couples to fight on a regular basis. It allows accumulated tensions from the relationship to be blown off, so they don't pile up too high. In the long run it's healthier for the relationship.

How do you fight?

11 comments:

G said...

Good question.

Usually my wife and I have knock down verbal assaults, which can last anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours.

Afterwards, we go our seperate ways and give each other enough space in the house so that we can calm down without sniping at each other.

By the end of the night (or day, morning or afternoon depending on when the difference of opinion took place) we're calm enough to resume normal conversation.

And we never discuss what got us going in the first place for at least a couple of days (or longer).

LL Cool Joe said...

We fight verbally, actually most of the time. We always have really, but when the chips are down and it's something important we always agree and never argue. It's just about trivia really. I get more fired up than my partner.

The fights normally end up with us both laughing. My partner is quite a control freak, and I refuse to be controlled. That's when the conflict happens.

Jenski said...

Even though my bf and I have been together about 10 months, living in different states has a way of warding of any type of disagreement...for the time being. I think that first fight is going to be rough. :-)

Vanessa (DarcsFalcon) said...

On average, the typical couple fights about 182 times a year, each fight lasting roughly 30 minutes.

I think I can count on 1 hand all the 30 min fights that Darc and I have had in our 11 years. We just don't, probably because we're so alike that we rarely disagree on anything.

My 1st marriage though, 182 fights a year would have been a relief, so I'm reserving the right to disagree with your dad on this one. :)

wigsf said...

I never been with somebody long enough to fight.

NicoleB said...

Hubby and I used to fight like cats and dogs.
It got a lot better over the years though.
Now, when he blows up, I usually am the one to just turn around and wait for him to calm down, get to his senses and come to me and talk like a normal person again.
But from time to time I still blow up as well.
But it seldom happens any more :)
And we usually settle it before we go to bed.

powdergirl said...

Yeah, we fight. Usually it ends with us laughing at something really stupid, or so far-reaching, that its just too funny to keep a straight face.
An example from years ago, I forget what we were fighting about, but we were both furious.

The husband ran out of things to say that were pertinent to the argument and did that far-reach, and he meant to really cut, but man did he miss the mark.

He said, "yeah, well, just eat a carrot!"
A physical insult like that from a 300 lb guy to a 135 lb woman was way to much for me, and for him. We had to laugh at exactly how stupid that was. Especially as our fighting never includes that sort of attack.

If there's no fighting, then I think you've either married a person with your exact same opinions,which would bore me but to each their own, or one of you is a door-mat to the other, which is the Suck.

Sorry, was I going on a bit?
You really do ask some of the most interesting questions, you're a thinker: )

Jameil said...

rashan and i don't argue too much probably once every couple of weeks. it's worst when we don't see each other for 3 weeks (our longest time apart ever). we get very antsy and i get snippy. he's generally very accommodating b/c he lets very little get to him but i know i goad him sometimes. it's not even intentional. what irritates me is that when i get to the point where i feel like we can make no more progress, i want to GET OFF THE PHONE or LEAVE THE HOUSE and he wants to sit there and chat it out. SO ANNOYING!! this will all be better if you just let me LEAVE!! i need time to think! when he's in a bad mood and i'm not (which has only happened to the extreme once so far) i'm understanding to a point (max 2 hours) and then i'm like okay move on!! we usually get past our stuff pretty quickly. luckily if we go to sleep annoyed then we both wake up ready to tackle the next challenges together.

Karen said...

I usually fight logically and semi-passive aggressively.

I am a lawyer and I hate confrontation. Not a great combination.

Sparkling Red said...

G: It helps to have a big enough home that you can each go to your own space and take some time to unwind. When I've lived in very small apartments, in the past, always made for much worse fights.

LL Cool Joe: You must have a very solid relationship. I'm happy to hear it. :-)
I've never ended a fight with laughter. It sounds like a pretty nice way to finish an argument!

Jenski: It's like how I've never had a real fight with my sister, because we didn't grow up in the same house. I'm sure we'll get around to it someday, but I know we'll work it out.

Vanessa: I love to hear that your marriage is so harmonious! :-)
There's definitely such a thing as too much fighting. I was there too by the end of my first marriage. What my father meant was that some couple descend into a deep freeze, not talking about anything until one day they wake up and realize there's no relationship left anymore. That would be sad.

182 fights a year is a lot! I'd guess that Ken and I out and out fight less than 50 times per year, and that's a generous estimate. We must be doing OK, relatively speaking.

WIGSF: Well then, it's something you have to look forward to. :-p

Nicole: Aging is one of the most reliable cures for bad temper. Although it does take a long time to make a small change. People do tend to mellow out with time.

Powdergirl: I agree with you exactly: if there are zero disagreements it's often a sign that something is wrong. Indeed, I am a thinker. I'm glad that you find my thoughts interesting. :-)

Jameil: It's lucky when you can wake up to a fresh start. I can just see you getting frustrated. He'd better learn to let you go when you need to go, no matter how hard it is.

Karen: Ah, the lawyer thing. Having an argument with a lawyer is definitely a big challenge. My mother used to accuse me of that when I was a teenager. I took it as kind of a compliment.

Aurora said...

E is so non-confrontational that it's endearing. He'll be like "Aww, don't be like that sweetie." --Appealing to my better nature. Sometimes it works.

When he gets grumpy I can tell because he gets really mocking (which totally kills conversation). But he never notices this until I point it out.

By this point in the relationship we're sensitive to when the other person is feeling annoyed, and I think we are both more comfy now, with asking 'what's wrong?' before it gets way of out of hand.