“We never fight!” she tells me for the third time. “No, really, we just don’t fight. We love each other so much, so there are never real fights!”
Right. I smile, and pretend to be interested in hearing about how her relationship is so smooth, so peaceful, and so wonderfully carefree. It’s a wonder they’re not relationship coaches! Seriously, though, my bullshit detector is immediately activated when a couple assures me that they do not fight. This assertion nearly always follows my own admission that, yes, in my relationship, there are often fights.
Before jumping into the thick of things, I just want to make clear that I will be talking about heterosexual, man-woman relationships in this article, because this is the kind of relationship that I am familiar with. I have heard from several lesbian friends that there are fewer fights and squabbles in their relationships because, in their words, “our relationships with another woman are not based on a power struggle.”
I don’t know if that is true or not, but I would love to hear from other couples, both homosexual and heterosexual, about their relationship problems. Please share your story!
With that out of the way, I must say that I have always believed that fighting with my boyfriend or husband is an unpleasant but unfortunately necessary part of a healthy relationship. “Put your cards on the table!” I would always say. But just being open is not enough; timing is also important. It took me years to wait to choose the right time to bring up some touchy topics to my husband, but it also took him years to want to really listen to me. The problem was two-fold: he had no time to work things out with me, nor could he be bothered to read my angry letters, which was the last means of communication I had left with him to resolve our relationship problems.
The first thing to do is not to ignore the fight, and the cause of the fight, however insignificant it may seem, because it never really goes away. The energy of the unresolved fight only grows and festers. If you have children around, the tension can get really awkward for everyone involved. Try to make it a point to retreat to another part of the house, away from the kids to give you some down time as you try to resolve the problem. One way or the other, the children will know something is wrong between their parents, but it is better that they learn the mature and responsible way of addressing stress, rather than be shown how to put a mask on, and pretend nothing is wrong.
Marital fights: Regular, Real and Ideal
But you said this, but you said that. How could you have said this when…etc
This is the regular fight, unpleasant especially when we are eating, which generally seems to be the timing of this sort of fight (in my personal experience). Maybe it is because we are finally together in the same room. It starts off spontaneously, and usually with one of the two having made a comment targeting the other, but pretending it was not so. Thus, the other party, on the receiving end of the nasty feeling from the loaded remark starts feeling bad, and needs to shoot something back as well.
Think of us, throwing back the ball every time it hits us. I would stop eating at this point, and periodically take deep breaths, while defending myself or simply fighting back tit for tat. It is as though we were bowling, but the pins are one another.
In the regular fight, nobody really gets burnt; at most we pay the cost of the indigestion and a few tears, and it ruins the evening for both. Some couples call this normal life. After all, you don’t need to scream in a regular fight; even the most passive aggressive can “regular fight” and still pretend nothing happened, except that they feel very tense around one another.
The regular fight is a normal relationship problem, and should not be made more than what it is in essence: a man and a woman bumping into one another trying to define their territory in the relationship. My best advice is to accept the regular fight as a reality, and, if they are dealt with in a healthy way, they will get more spaced out, and become much shorter. You are, and I am not writing this tongue-in-cheek, developing a wider emotional intimacy with your beloved. You get to know the person more profoundly, his or her pains, anger, or, at the very least, his/her emotional range. I go by this rule: the wider the range of emotions my romantic partner can have, the more interesting, but complicated I find it. A word of advice: if you like a more simple and predictable relationship, stay away from people who have a wide field of emotions.
The most important aspect of this “regular” type of fight, which is a sort of low-intensity skirmish, is that, at least in my case, I usually can receive new information from my partner, because he hasn’t pushed my big buttons and triggered me into throwing the aquarium at him, or something similar. I am open to reflecting on his comments and criticisms because I do not feel threatened at this level of confrontation.
The Real Fight
In the real fight, as I define it, all is allowed except for domestic violence which would then make for an abusive relationship, and that is not the topic of this article. I have written several articles on this site that take up abuse, in many of its forms, including sexual abuse and emotional abuse.
In the real fight, you go at each other with the intention of inflicting serious damage to your beloved’s ego or heart. You are both attacking, and it is damaging to both of you, even though one or the other may seem to be the apparent winner. This fight might end with a broken house object and/or a bleeding ego or two, and you are both worn out from screaming and fighting.
In the real fight, you both are trying to get in the last word. Your rage will tell you that you need to go back for some more until you get the last words officially. You generally go back for seconds in the real fight, as each is recharging, and processing most of his/her rage outside of oneself. Instead of circulating our rage at least half of the time on our own, we aim more of it at our romantic partner, who in return is also doing the same thing back at us.
In the real fight, you cannot take in new information, because you are way too involved in your own version of the fight---your own film if you will---and not receptive to anything coming from your target---your beloved one. After the initial clash, which is usually spontaneous, we each go into what we know, which is a series of conscious and unconscious chain reactions of which some have been part of our life since childhood.
The least we can say for sure is that the real fight is an all-consuming fight, from which it is very challenging to take a step back to stay with oneself a bit---a sort of checking-in with our energy resources and war plans!
The Ideal Fight
I can honestly say that I now have more and more “ideal” fights with my companion; this is coming from a relationship where a couple of “real” fights every week was pretty normal. Therefore, the ideal fight is a reachable ideal. Consciousness is in the house when we have an ideal fight. Being conscious does not necessarily mean pleasant; rather it means that you understand somewhat your involvement and responsibility in the fight, and you acknowledge it, and see the “why” of the fight.
An ideal fight is a fight where most of you is present, even though some the words your significant other fight backs with may be reminding you of your own past suffering. You are aware of what is and has passed. You have already self-reflected on some of your past. You can more be present in the actual fight in front of you, with your loved one who is also trying to do his or her part.
An ideal fight is one in which you are both conscious and both intending and keen on personal responsibility. The pain and harshness of arguing is still felt, but you will both have a tendency to stay specific, on topic, and not blame the other for every little and big problem of your life. In short, you are both willing to go through some pain and efforts to get to a real resolution.
When you do reunite after this fight, you generally are closer than you were before the fire ignited. The ideal fight can have an immediate positive outcome.
What generally makes a relationship obviously toxic is the fighting, but a relationship can be just as toxic, but not as obviously so, when there is no outward sign of any problems.
Your relationship can be toxic, but not necessarily abusive. I define a toxic relationship as one in which you are both involved at creating a regular malaise in your relationship by fighting. It is almost always the case that it takes two to tango. Each and every woman I met who claimed that she and her honey did not fight was one who repressed her anger and simply didn’t show her unhappiness. I know of some cases where the man relinquished his power and became the submissive one. But female led relationships are not good either if they simply allow the woman to assume the traditional male role of the controller. It can never be good when one controls the other.
One of my Canadian girlfriends was recently boasting about “15 years of bliss with my honey!” But every time I see her, she has put another couple of pounds on her body. This woman has accepted to abandon her free will to such a controlling relationship, while suppressing most of her desires to accommodate her husband’s insecurities, that she has ballooned from such self-denial. She keeps on gaining weight, and it isn’t from over-eating. There is no abuse or domestic violence in her marriage but he is very controlling and insecure, and she barely reacts to it. She gives in to accepting his sickness, and that denial directly hits her in her body shape and general health.
In another couple I know, it is the woman who is very controlling about the practical decisions of the house, even the ones in which she does not excel as he does, like the house finances. Of course, the consequences of her bad money decisions are heavy since they affect the entire family. It also puts a strain on their intimacy; he is quite passive aggressive and lets her know in his concealed-under-a-joke commentary that he finds fault with her financial handling. He does all this, plus suffers the material losses and financial consequences, so he does not have to fight out in the open with his wife. In that relationship, he is more afraid of losing her, than she is of losing him. Believe it or not, that man has gained a lot more weight as well!
I deal with my companion’s toxicity, just as he deals with mine, and we are better off for it in the long run, though admittedly it pushes us outside of our comfort zone and our relationship’s boundaries at times.
But you fight over small and petty things!
I am sick of hearing this description of the fights I have with my boyfriend. It is true that once you realize, after processing the fight by yourself, that the argument was really over nothing, you will have taken a small step towards becoming more conscious. On the other hand, we should not use the fact that the trigger point in the fight may have been minor to deny what came up inside of us and inside our significant other.
I can honestly say that a good part of my evolution in the last 11 years has come from processing as thoroughly as I could all the negativity and reactions I had come up around my marital quarrels. It is valuable information you get into about you and your patterns.
Admittedly, living with regular toxicity for the first 6 years of my relationship kept a strong tension in the air, and it was demanding on us both energetically and physically. To say we were often torn apart is an understatement. What helped us hang in there was the real attachment and love we have for our romantic couple. A strong love commitment to one’s partner will help this necessary detoxification process of the tensions and regular domestic fights.
If you’re not sure and are looking for a warning sign that your relationship has reached the point of a possible Titanic-like disaster, be alert when an enabler comes into action in your life as a couple. The enabler can be a situation, a series of situations such as infidelities or a friend that becomes the foe of one of you in the couple and launches the collapse of your love relationship. Keep in mind that the enabler, whether a person or situation, is never responsible for the relationship problems---the latter were there before the enabler became manifest in your life. It is the Universe’s way of pointing out serious trouble is on the horizon.
The aftermath of fights:
What it means to take responsibility for yourself in domestic fights.
Any two people who have been together for a while at some point are going to fight.
The first step in the healing process is to accept that fights can be a part of your relationship, and that you will manage them in a life-sustaining way within time until they gradually subside.
It is not about avoiding, denying or even plunging into the domestic fights as if they were boxing matches, but about wanting and learning to manage your marital quarrels.
In my case, our fights are now usually brief and more often about an outside person’s damaging involvement in our lives rather than in reaction to one another’s shortcomings or old complaints. My nagging and screaming and his blame and moodiness are finally becoming things of the past.
Self-reflection is essential after your emotions have calmed down. If you have processed your feelings thoroughly, you will naturally get to an introspective state-of-mind. Know that you can be just as irritating to your partner as he/she is to you. In other words, whatever you are feeling is important, but you are not alone in feeling upset. The other’s reality needs to be integrated as well, and somehow you will have to find a middle ground with both perspectives taken into account.
It is generally better to retreat from the fight as early as you can when you are having a lover’s fight, to check in with yourself; as you will come to find out, nobody really wins. You both suffer from the fight, in your own way, because there is love between you two.
Give yourself enough time to get over your warring energy, the sulking, and also the little unimportant fight details that your mind may want to rationalize away. These fine points are often the keys to much bigger issues of ours. Furthermore, don’t force yourself to be more “mature” about the fight until you are actually feeling mature about it!
I first used to sit and brew emotionally for hours, struggling to try to stay with my anger in the moment, while my mind would fly off into punishments I was going to inflict on him, and how I was going to make him feel bad. Then I would go to him, still fuming, but pretending to have reached a so-called common vision of our mutual responsibility in the blowout. Often more fighting would ensue, because, for one thing, I was not done fighting! Today, I don’t spend time focusing mentally on the future destruction I will bring upon him/myself/our relationship, nor am I interested to look so superior to him in my ways of handling the fight. I move my anger and other emotions faster. I also end up missing the happy times with him, and so I try harder to get along with him. It took me years to not lose myself in planning what I was going to do to him or to me or us in some future retaliation, and it started with a firm intention to evolve---no matter what---out of this world war cycle between me and my beloved.
Manifesting intentions is an important part of the healing process, and I address it fully here. For now, suffice it to say that maintaining the firm intention to find a real resolution out of your lovers’ quarrels is a basic and unavoidable step.
As you grow in your healing process and as you grow together, it will seem less important who actually initiated the fight. In the past, the “big thing” was to get to put all the blame on the one who started, but, as you evolve, it is one of those details that become inconsequential. You are indeed more interested in resolving the relationship problem, than simply pointing the finger at the other.
A girlfriend of mine has gone through 5 or 6 relationships in the last few years, and almost every time she runs into similar problems. One of her big issues is that she refuses to take responsibility for her anger, or even the possibility of her being angry. A fine example of this is when she was fighting with her boyfriend and decided to break a plate in frustration, and then blamed him for it, by saying: “Look what you made me do!” The truth is that his fighting with her “inspired” her to break the plate, but she chose to break the plate; that was her reaction, and she needed to own it.
I have always let myself grieve a lot after the real fights. Every real fight is lived like a death in our heart, because the person we are fighting with is our sweetheart. Letting yourself grieve may at first bring up shame and self-hate because we are taught that that is showing our weakness, especially for men; yet, grieving is so beneficial to our heart’s health. My partner started to complain about heart pains at times when we’d fight violently, spewing rage and hatred back and forth at one another, and I would have to make a great effort to stop myself right there and then.
I first thought I was going at him too strongly, while begrudging him having to worry about his health when he obviously did not worry about my heart! Notwithstanding, it was true that because he would not deal with his emotions much at that time, our fights did indeed become harder and harder on his heart. My energy always circulated, and although I could still feel the intensity of the fight, I was and am used to a degree of emotional concentration moving in my body.
The more conscious you become in your fighting, the more you will learn about yourself and your partner at a deeper level. I discovered a tremendous amount about myself by staying alone with my visceral reactions after the fights. In that place, I could see the two of us “playing war”, and taking our positions during and after, as if we are following the same script over and over again.
Lastly, as you progress, the time lapse between the fight and the reuniting will get shorter, and the reuniting itself will be increasingly more beautiful and heartfelt. Whenever I heard people rave about make-up sex, they made it sound very naughty, whereas I have found that tenderness and slow sex was the most balanced way to go at reacquainting and relearning to love the person with whom we’ve lived such a poisonous exchange.
All in all, a long-term relationship with someone you really love can be one of the most challenging yet fulfilling aspects of your life.