I last week I read a thought provoking post from Blair. She was guest posting on the Good Women project about how she and her husband never fight. (Alright now, go read it. I'll wait, tapping my toes.) She says, "No, my partner of seven years and husband of almost five and I do not fight because years ago, I pledged to honor and cherish him."
I had three immediate reactions that had so much more to do with my own marriage than anything about Blair's:
1. I cried. I cried because we had been fighting that very morning, not even half an hour before.
2. I felt like a failure, like a crap wife. I am clearly not a "Good Woman" (nor would I want to be, but that's a topic for another time)
3. And then I got bristly, because HEY NOW, you don't go around making my marriage feel like junk.
I am loud. Jon is loud. We talk loudly, laugh loudly, walk loudly– and yell loudly. Though we don't fight often we do fight. I can't deny that I get angry and push his buttons, even sometimes just because hey I'm mad or PAY ATTENTION TO ME or YOU'RE REALLY BEING STUPID. Add on top that both of us have some pretty thick stubborn skin and yeah, we fight.
After ten years there's a kind of rhythm to our marital disputes that we've grown to expect. Get angry, fight; push and push and angry and maybe yell; come to an impasse– get quiet; think/reflect/calm; get it all out there; laugh. It's a weird sort of progression but since we both know the groove we can navigate the pathways. Now after years of practice we can often shortcut and go straight from mad to laugh, or yelling to thinking. We're getting smarter, better, and fighting fairly and cleanly. It took a long time to set some ground rules of what is/isn't fair play and how to keep ourselves respectful while still being pretty honest.
I can't always say that I'm happy that we fight, or that we bicker sometimes. It can be frustrating and definitely cloud your viewpoints. But what I can say instead is that it works for us. It's exactly the system that the two of us need. Sometimes I feel like I'm not being heard; sometimes it takes a wake up call from him for me to realize I'm being annoying and work on my own behavior.
What I've come to see is that I'm the kind of person who NEEDS to fight. I have to get it out, I have to. If those feelings of sit in there and fester they don't go away. I'm personally unable to put them aside for love of him. There's a selfishness in me that needs to be heard. I think that was what stung me most about Blair's post– it made me face the fact that I am not selfless in my marriage. Maybe I should be, but it's not reality. And not only do I need to let my own craziness out but I need to know that the person who loves me can take it. I need to know that he can see the very worst in me, the worst I can be, put it all out there– and still love me. I value that honesty and that bluntness more than I value quiet peaceful words. I need the kind of connection that can truly put up with that kind of testing. Regardless of how angry I get when we return to order our commitment to each other has been strengthened, not diminished, because we both value the other too much to let fighting get in the way.
By the end of the day I read Blair's post I wasn't angry. I wasn't resentful. I didn't feel like a failure. After some reflection on why exactly I had been so threatened by her words I felt lucky– lucky to have a partnership where I'm allowed to express myself freely and be appreciated despite (or for) letting the emotions fly even in the heat of anger. Marriage is bizarre, the way two people with histories come together and find the energy to live together day after day is delicate dance of orchestrated chaos. Each marriage is unique. In mine, we fight. And I wouldn't change a thing.