“I think it’s this place,” SC lamented. “It’s never going to be “our” place.”
It will always be the place he moved into to be with me. Come to think of it, here is this man, who never wanted to get married, married to a woman who never planned to get married, uprooting his entire life to be with me, in a place, albeit temporarily, that has been mine, and only mine, for three and a half years. Of course there’s tension.
It turns out that fighting with your spouse can actually be a sign that your relationship will work out well. A quick Google search will yield results from a 2012 study on couples who argue vs those who don’t. The study seemed to conclude that couples who argue, instead of shutting down, actually care about each other, the relationship, and coming to an amicable conclusion.
In an article titled, Something to Fight About: Couples Who Fight the Most Love Each Other the Most, writer Lauren Martin explains the following:
Relationship therapist Dana Ward explains, “Fighting is normal. While some couples may think fighting is the sign of a bad relationship, it is actually is very important. The key is fighting with a purpose.”
It’s the whole idea of “fight or flight.” The way species adapt and evolve is based on the psychological reactions that occur when a threat is perceived. You either stand your ground or flee the situation. Either way, you’re making a decision, one that questions whether the threat is worth attacking or running.
The couples most in love are willing to push aside those subconscious (and conscious) desires to flee, in favor of sticking it out and fighting for one another.
Think about that for a second, sticking around to argue means that we’ve overridden the part of our brain that simply wants to flee for the sake of self preservation. Even in a moment where the situation, and therefore our partner, might present a threat to our ego, we stand our ground and fight because the other person, and ultimately, the partnership are worth it.
SC approached me several times the day after about the events in the previous post. He was absolutely willing to fight, and I was willing to listen, although I declined to engage via text. He berated me for half the day.
He told me he’d be home late, which I knew was a bluff. He showed up a whole 8 minutes later than normal to me writing vigorously in my journal in an attempt to work out the changes I could make to avoid inflammatory discussions in the future.
He approached and gave a long speech that started with, “I don’t know if I’m the man you want to be married to. I know you care about me and may even love me, but I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop or the rug to be pulled out from underneath us.” (“…may even love me?” What?)
There you have it. The bottom line is we were both afraid that our marriage didn’t have legs to stand on.
He gave me short periods to rebut, but he was still angry and gave me the dirtiest looks each time I spoke. It was like he was trying to challenge the depth of my calm. I remained even keeled. I gave an example of a time I gave him the benefit of the doubt, a time where I could have jumped down his throat due to his “tone.” I circled back to how important the relationship is, how we could have my real estate agent start looking for a place immediately instead of waiting until November, how much I love him, and how sorry I was for the part I played, as I held back tears.
I don’t know what changed, but I saw a switch flip in his eyes. I had penetrated the wall he was determined to keep up. He let me finish, stood there for a long while looking at me, perhaps truly seeing me, and said, “I don’t have anything to say. I’m too restless for this. I’m going to hang out with Ray and his kids (five year old twin boys),” and walked out the back door.
Is it bad that I was excited for the chance to catch up on ‘Jane the Virgin’? It takes about 30 minutes to get to Ray’s. Forty minutes later, I heard the front door open and the all too familiar footsteps approaching the bedroom. SC had come back with a gift. A tiny glass pitcher with a cork. Not super impressive to the casual observer, I know, but a big gesture that speaks to his desire to have a home of our own together. He sat on the bed across from me, played a hilarious DMX/Reading Rainbow mashup, and invited me to Ray’s. All was well, again.
Fast forward to last night. SC did ALL of the pressing chores over the weekend from laundry to cooking and washing dishes in between hours us of packing up his place. He’s been stressed about a pressing work issue and has not been eating regularly. About an hour before I planned to go to bed he said, “I wish you’d offered to cook for me today.” Whoops. (I’ve only asked once in our entire relationship, and he declined.) He said he wasn’t hungry, anyway, so I shoved a delicious protein bar in his hands and pored over all of the dishes I could whip up over the next week. An hour later, when I was barely able to keep my eyes open, he asked for an elaborate, savory oatmeal dish.
My defenses were down, I was exhausted, and I was worried my first attempt at cooking for him would be a disaster. “I’m going to burn it and it will be disgusting,” I whined as I turned on the burner. I then proceeded to berate him for being rude to my dog. She’s been a terror for the last week and we’re back to crate training. His attitude is not helping.
I made the oatmeal and fled to the bedroom, realizing what I’d done. I could only think about what an asshole I’d been. Hadn’t I promised to chill the heck out?
He sat down on the bed, cup of oatmeal in hand, and said, “First off, this is delicious. Secondly, it was adorable how upset you got about possibly messing up the oatmeal.” He’d given me the benefit of the doubt, luckily. The argument that could have ensued would have totally been my fault.
This is all a work in progress. He followed the directive to give me the benefit of the doubt as I will follow the directive to offer to cook for him more often. Yes, I messed up when I got snippy about the oatmeal, but SC discerned the truth of the matter, that I didn’t want to give him food that I felt was inedible. I fell into old habits when I got snippy about cooking, but at least I caught it. They say awareness is the key to change. I think we are both aware of the adjustments we need to make.
In the meantime, I imagine we will argue about the things we need to in an effort to sort out all that needs to be sorted. I’ll try to think of it as each of us standing up for the partnership the best way we know how. That being said, we’ve made it 7 days without a fight, although we bickered over parking for a brief moment yesterday. I was the driver, but I let him take the win. (Insert snarky face here.)
Fingers crossed we can make it through the rest of the week happy (ish), argument free, and mostly unscathed.