If You're Not Fighting, You're Not Doing It Right
What We're Supposed to Think
The idea of arguing with a significant other most likely makes people cringe. The very acts of screaming, cursing, and throwing things possess enough violence to convince most that simply biting your tongue and suffering through a difference in opinion with your partner is the most ideal choice. The majority of people in relationships and marriages seem to believe that the more complacent the relationship, the happier the participants.
This is pretty much the silliest thing I've ever heard.
Society would like us to think that the modern day relationship consists of two people who are very cooperative and respectful towards one another at all times. Fights and arguments aren't normal, society says, as it repeatedly jams these perfect notions of romance and commitment down our throats.
This is one reason why some of us experience that sinking feeling whenever we watch romantic movies that feature "perfect" relationships. We sit and think to ourselves, "Is that really how it's supposed to be?". Sometimes, the dissonance that exists between our perception of a "perfect" relationship and our real-life relationship is enough to make us question the legitimacy of our feelings.
What Is Love?
Love is so many things to so many people. From all over the world, in both ancient and modern cultures alike, love has been the most prevalent concept of human emotion to ever be translated across thousands of languages, from the most primitive of cave paintings to the most elite of college psychology textbooks.
Love is simply what we are, and what drives us.
When we're children, we develop an idea about what love is and what it will be in the future. Our parents influence this notion as well; their interactions, their arguments, their signs of affections towards one another will one day shape how we ourselves behave in a romantic relationship.
As we progress through life, those same ideas of love will evolve. The opposite of our parents' behaviors might seem more attractive: boys who probably shouldn't be brought home to visit Mom, or girls who possess different ideals than what we're used to. The environment in which we continue to grow and develop shapes what we find attractive, and this is especially true during the tumultuous times of adolescence.
By the time we make it to adulthood, our concept of love is so different from its original form that it's likely foreign and unrecognizable. Now, we value things such as kindness, empathy, and motivation. Security and safety are crucial talking points. The desire to create and foster a family might top the list of a couple's goals.
Just as we've evolved over time from our childhood selves into full-fledged adults, our future partners have also undergone this transformation based on his or her own life experiences. We seek out people who compliment who we are as individuals. Love revolves around finding someone who provides the last few pieces to our one-thousand piece puzzles. However, these differences in selves and personalities often cause conflict, even among partners who are otherwise suited for one another. It is important to recognize the role that conflict plays within a relationship.
Why Do We Fight?
We understand love now as an emotional component as opposed to a chemical one. Yes, there is a biological background to "falling in love" and "falling out of love". Our bodies respond biochemically in the form of neurotransmitters that react excitedly to an escalated argument or confrontation, or to the intoxication we feel when we interact with our partners. But to most of us, the chemical means behind the concept of love is lost in translation more often than not.
Irregular fighting with your significant other is okay; it really is. I promise. Considering that a relationship consists of two different people who come from two different walks of life, arguing is sometimes even completely necessary. Because whereas "love" and all of its components can be described as being chemical in nature, our fighting typically stems from our emotions and the fact that we feel as if they're being trampled on. Fighting- in this sense- is synonymous with feeling.
Arguments within a relationship usually originate from a difference in values; one of us wants a baby, a job change, or an unexpected desire that our partner does not approve of. Our values change over the course of our lives, and sometimes our significant others struggle with those changes. If our core values change significantly enough, our partner might lose sense of what caused them to love us in the first place.
This all sounds very catastrophic and permanent, but it isn't. As human beings, we are wondrous works in progress. We change and fluctuate and learn as we live our lives, and no one person experiences something in the exact same way as another. This highly-individualized process also leads to disagreements.
The important thing to remember is that contrary to popular societal beliefs, relationships are based on shifting ground. The foundation of our relationship is not solid. As we change, our relationships change. As our partners change, we change to accommodate their change.
A little confusing, yes. But this explains why we argue with the ones we love from time to time. We fight because it's natural; we argue because we still care.
Please note: arguing in this sense is non-violent and respectful. Violence and abuse within a relationship- whether it is verbal, physical, or emotional- is never acceptable.
How do you feel about fighting with your partner?
Fighting = Communication
Sometimes, we fight with our partners as a way to communicate our emotions. This occurs after breakdowns in communication or when our partners hurt our feelings. Often we feel that we are not being listened to, nor respected.
When we're frustrated, tired, or sick, our ability to tolerate things that we can normally handle decreases significantly. Sometimes the slightest things might blow you over the edge, causing you to lash out at someone around you for no reason.
In the case that arguing is fulfilling a need to communicate, there are better ways to achieve that task. This is something that I have learned gradually over the years both personally and professionally as my understanding of human nature developed. As human beings, we possess the ability to complicate what we mean as it is communicated to other people. We certainly know what we're attempting to say, but oftentimes the people around us cannot decipher our needs or wants because we fail to communicate them appropriately.
Fighting solves the communication deficit easily, but only temporarily. We lose our inhibitions during battles with our insignificant others, throwing out words and catch phrases that we would normally blush at. It's very freeing to call your partner the nastiest name in the book and then watch them outwardly cringe. It's freeing to do so because we wouldn't normally do it and it gets our point across almost instantaneously. But what many people fail to realize is that solid, effective communication requires monumental effort in times of arguing and fighting. We often simply resort to the more primitive forms of communication because the very idea of talking about feelings is a deterrent. It is important to remember that communication is absolutely essential during these circumstances, and at times it is merely better to try and talk things out regardless of the frustration that accompanies our efforts.
Whereas the occasional argument sometimes does a relationship good, constant squabbling on account of not being able to communicate appropriately will eventually sink that same relationship. It is more effective to simply sit down with your partner before your issues become a mountain and discuss them through one by one.
Tips for Better Communication
At this point, we just need to accept that sometimes, we fight with our partner and there's just no avoiding it. But for those times when a confrontation isn't necessary, here are some tips that have been trial-tested an infinite number of times within my own four-year relationship.
- Never name-call. Name-calling during an argument makes you seem childish and incapable of behaving in a civil manner. Calling someone a nasty name is also very hurtful; imagine how it would feel if the person you loved called you something horrible during a particularly fiery part of the fight? It would feel terrible and it would most likely be something that you'd hold onto for a while, so put yourself in his or her shoes and just don't do it.
- Take the high road. Some people like to fight and argue just to do it. Don't be like those people. If there is any indication that you can remain calm while your partner raves at you like a lunatic, take the high road and do just that. Your partner will wear him- or herself out after several minutes, and your calm will perpetuate calm on their behalf. Fight fire with serenity and don't engage if it can be helped.
- Don't bring up the past. Another really great way to lose all credibility is by dredging up something that occurred in the past. Distant arguments, slights, whatever it is is best left in the past when actually happened. Grudges from sometime long ago don't work during a very current argument; in fact, bringing up the past shifts the focus from your present issues to ones that you might have experienced in the past. Prevent this shift and forget the past.
- Choose a neutral setting. There are some places in your home where you feel more comfortable, such as your office or bedroom. Try not to fight in these locations. Arguing in a place that gives you comfort will only ignite the flames. Choose to speak to your partner in a place where you can both relate comfortably, neutrally, and privately.
- Walk away. Sometimes, it's just better to take a breather and walk away. It might save you from saying or doing something that you truly regret.
- Leave things where they lie. After the argument is over, drop it. Understand that relationships are complicated and that it can be difficult for two individuals to talk through their shared problems. Let it go!
A Parting Note
Love is really hard sometimes. Really, really hard. It requires work and maintenance just like your average houseplant. Without love and attention, it wilts in the very window it used to bloom in.
Sometimes it hurts to argue with your loved one and sometimes you feel like it's not even really worth it anymore anyway. Learn from your disagreements and work on what lies at their roots. Argue fairly but infrequently.
Too many people give up on each other these days. I urge you to take a step back and reevaluate your relationship when it's needed, and communicate openly with your partner about something every day. Your relationship or marriage is worth the extra time and work; treasure it always.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
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© 2013 Jennifer