Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Fighting words

I read Mandy's post regarding fighting in a marriage yesterday. Her post also reminded me of Aidan's post about why it is so difficult for us to admit when we feel hurt.

My ex-husband and I rarely fought during our marriage. We fought while we were dating and it was excruciating for me. I hated when I hurt him. I hated admitting when he hurt me. I hated being wrong. I hated making mistakes. He spoke up about past hurt feelings when we were fighting.

Hated fighting. Hated it. Hated it.

So, because neither of us liked confrontation, he let me have my way and we rarely fought. Then I resented him for letting me have my way.

We were both so relationship-immature.

My parents fought a lot when I was a kid. I hated that too. I would hide in my room or, when I could drive, leave the house. Fighting, to me, was a bad sign. I don't like the negative energy and loud voice and harsh words. It just feels... ick!

Then Gentleman Jack taught me that perfect isn't all that it's cracked up to be and the truth really shows itself in those imperfect moments.


Early in our relationship, GJ admitted to me that he hates confrontation and fighting.

Well, amen to that brutha! Me too!

That statement is funny to me now because he is the FIRST one to tell me or anyone exactly how he feels or when he feels like something isn't right. He sort of knocks my socks off when he does it because I was *so* used to my ex who kept all of that to himself. My Gentleman doesn't let it slide. He nips it in the bud immediately.

To quote him:
"You can push the wound down deep and let it fester. Or you can clean out the wound, though it will hurt like hell, but at least it will heal faster."

Sometimes, I don't want to discuss what's bothering me or why I'm sad or what I meant... I don't want to upset him or hurt his feelings. I try and try to admit to my pain or disappointment without blaming and when he reacts to me anyway... UGH! That's when I want to say, "SEE?" and hang up the phone!

I promised him I would never do that though.

So our fights look like this:

I struggle through my disappointment and his pain (or vice versa). We both react defensively. There's frustration and anger on both sides. We're both exasperated. I'm crying. He's quiet.

Somewhere in there, one of us gains perspective, realizes that there is no intent to hurt and decides not to take things personally. Next our sentences begin with, "I felt like this is what you said..." and "I perceived that you did this..." and "I didn't mean to imply that... " and "I realize that I'm reacting to a past pain..." and suddenly the heaviness begins to lighten.

The next thing I know, we have a whole new understanding of the other person. It's like a new version of the partner just showed up. Then we're both communicating with loving words of gratitude for the understanding and patience and continued love.

It's pretty freakin' amazing. I had no idea you could put it out there, deal with it, and be over it.


What a concept.

Isn't it amazing that what you learn in your early relationships seems like *normal*? Then you find in subsequent relationships that it was actually, in fact, a dysfunction?

I'm still trying to break those past patterns and clean out the wounds. He's right though. Cleaning those wounds does hurt like hell. We will inevitably but unintentionally hurt the ones we love. That's part of a relationship. I'm happy to be with someone who allows me to make mistakes and learn from them.


If only I could be that gentle on myself...


  1. Reading your stuff... I swear your the female me. From the disdain of fighting to needing to be gentler on yourself. Glad you and Rascal can work things out when feelings are hurt.

  2. My mom once said that it is impossible to think that four (or more) different personalities can live under the same roof without conflict ever occuring. I can remember conflict in my home, but I also remember resolution, and that is what my sister and I saw growing up, a healthy cycle. Soon-to-be-Ex Mr. Llama, however, grew up with parents who never raised a voice to or disagreed with each other and thus thinks that married people just never disagree. So that was a huge issue from very early on in our relationship. Communication, especially through disagreements, is so essentially important.

    Nice thoughts, T. Take it easy on yourself...we are all a work in progress.

    Be well, T.

  3. Yeah, I'm trying to get to a point where I finally stop beating myself up over HIM. It's taking so much longer than I'd hoped.

    I'm more like Rascal. I'm direct. I like things out in the open. It's a struggle because I'm not big on confrontation, but I hate dwelling on things, the festering.

    Sounds like you two are on a good path...together. So happy for you.

  4. We are so much alike, sweetie.

    Figuring out how to be "healthy" in a relationship takes a whole lot of work. Ironically, check out my own blog post from today, it touches on a similar topic.

    Keep being gentle with yourself, T. Figuring all of this out takes time and patience - for the both of you.

    Love you. xo

  5. A very timely post for me and pretty much what I was eluding to in this post:

    Resolving conflict definitley takes two and if one person is not willing to allow the other to express that hurt or "clean their wound" as you put it, but instead pours salt in it, walks away and tells you it's your doing and your problem? Yeah, then you realize the truth. Like you said,

    "perfect isn't all that it's cracked up to be and the TRUTH really shows itself in those imperfect moments."

    And like this quote suggests:

    "Adversity doesn't build character, it reveals it."

  6. Thanks for the link T!

    I am not very good about discussing my feelings and I know this is an area I have a huge amount of growing to do. It'll be a challenge when I do eventually starting dating again. In the meantime, I'm practicing with my kids. I wonder if they realize??

  7. Some of us run from confrontation. And years later, realize we would've been better off if we hadn't.

  8. I have a question. How do you work on this relationship stuff without a relationship, or at least without someone else to point stuff out, call you out, or just challange you. I know the answer is work on myself, but sometimes I am not aware until someone shows me.
    Plus, the "Rascals" of the world seem to be a rare breed. The men that I come across are more comfortable with the non-growth.

  9. Great post! Disagreements and differing points of view are part of any relationships - husband/wife, boyfriend/girlfriend, parent/child. If you can address things respectfully, rather than ignoring the issue, or yelling/fighting about it, you're relationships will be a lot healthier.

  10. Sounds like you are doing very well with how you interact with each other. Who knew growing up could be fun!

  11. I just think it's unrealistic to take two people, who grew up in entirely different households, (after all, we are products of our environment to some point), put them together to live in ONE household, and never have arguments. Add in the facts of relationships, money, children ... OH and the fact that's a man and a woman?

    Yeah. Fighting and arguing WILL happen. And personally? I think it's needed.

    Just my 2 cents. :)

  12. I love how Coach Dad calls you the female him... You're you're the female me, too. Really!!

    I've heard that for a relationship to work, one person can go crazy at a time -- NOT both. So, as you said, when there's conflict, one of you steps out with "perspective, realizes that there is no intent to hurt and decides not to take things personally."

    How amazing that you and Rascal can take turns doing that.

  13. Great post! Before my (failed) marriage, I'd never been w/ a fighter before. I'd always been more of a talk-it-out person. Now, I'm even MORE aware of how important it is to confront issues upfront. It's so amazing what we can learn from past dysfunction!


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