As a former revolutionary freedom-fighter (ha! in my mind, maybe) I can be way rougher on Ken than I need to be. Or at least way rougher than some of my friends.
Then I read a couple of articles that helped me put things into perspective. The first one talked about the importance of navigating sibling conflict and how those early patterns play out later in life. If your parents helped you and your sibling(s) learn to comprise and navigate conflict when you were young, the author suggested, you’re way ahead of the game. If they didn’t, you’ve probably got a lot more conflict in your life.
The second article delved into marital fights and talked about how spouses often pick fights with their loved ones when they’re feeling disconnected. Because—let’s face it—when you’re fighting with your honey-bunny, at least you’re connected again. In a painful, awful sort of way.
Now, this isn’t something we’re doing consciously—I mean, it’s not like we’re waking up and saying, “I know what I’m going to do today! I’m going to fight with my husband!” But damn if this article didn’t get my attention. There was a lot of conflict in my family when I was growing up, and for a long time this was how I connected with people. (When I wasn’t twisting their arms behind their backs, that is, but hey, that’s another story.)
In my family, you were sharp, you were witty; you skewered someone with your words. It was all about outthinking and outmaneuvering your opponent, and let me tell you, I took this shit seriously.
For 43 years.
But you know what? I just can’t do it anymore. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that me brain’s no longer a-functioning like it used to, and these days, I’m lucky if I can just gurgle out a decent hello without a giant cup of coffee.
But it’s also the knowledge that I’ve wasted so goddamn much of my life arguing with the world (not to mention myself). When you lose a parent, it’s a pretty good time to step back and figure out what you’re ready to change in your life. For me, that means putting the kabash on the drama. If I’m lucky enough to get another 43 years on this planet, I don’t want to spend it walking some unlucky bastard off the plank.
Especially if that unlucky bastard happens to my husband.
The truth is, I’m tired of looking at Ken like he’s my enemy, tired of picking fights with him to connect. In the past two years, we’ve been to hell and back—caring for, then burying two parents, dealing with a chronic illness and adjusting to life with a severe peanut allergy. For much of that time, we fought. We fought in the morning, we fought in the afternoon, we fought at night—both of us scrambling for a foothold in a world that was breaking apart by the minute.
But now that we’ve finally come up for air, I see how lucky I am to have a spouse who’s stood by me during some of the worst days of my life. Sure, plenty of times I’ve had to tell him what I needed from him—literally, minute by minute. But he’s rallied, my honey-bunny, and his near-constant willingness to step up to the plate has helped me realize—has helped knock it through my thick head, that is—that my husband’s really there for me. That in fact, he’s always been there for me—I just couldn’t see it.
Now, getting there hasn’t been easy, and I don’t want to pretend that it just magically happened—it’s taken a lot of work on both our parts, doing things like speaking up and asking for help when we need it. Taking care of our shit instead of blaming it on others. And figuring out the larger patterns that were keeping us stuck, so that we could do something to change them.
But we’re getting there. Bit by bit, we’re learning how to break the cycle. And with any luck, we’ll teach our children to do the same—setting them up for a lifetime of…dare I say it… peace, love and harmony…or hell, at least some conflict resolution skills.
Beats the hell out of wedgies and waterboarding, don’t you think?
How bout you? Has fighting helped you feel closer to your spouse? What have been some of your biggest fights, and how have you resolved them?
Bonus Points: How often have you seen your fights play out with your kids? C’mon, be honest: we’re all offenders here. Sister/brother, you are not alone!