We never fought

"That's why God created marriage - so that people don't have to fight with strangers."
~Garrison Keillor from Prairie Home Companion

We never fought - never even argued really. The only time I remember raising my voice to J was when we were dating. It was very brief, and I was just venting my frustration for the fact that she had made us late for the fourth day in a row. Pet peeve of mine.

As I've mentioned previously, neither of us have a combative personality. I have been around several couples that argue regularly. It is not just difference of opinion being expressed, but fighting with some venom. And fighting unfairly - bringing up unrelated grievances, exaggerating wildly, and attacking personally. I can't imagine having a relationship like that. I'm glad that J and I did not act that way.

When J called one of our friends to tell her that we were getting a divorce, the friend didn't pick up the phone the first time because she was in the middle of an argument with her husband. When they connected a day later and the friend explained why she didn't pick up, I guess J said "at least you were arguing!" I guess she felt like she/we weren't able to do that.

It's not like we didn't talk about things and have differences of opinion, it just never got heated. But of course I am finding out that she wasn't being entirely open about her feelings. I kind of knew that she held on to resentments, like when she'd bring up a slight from a friend or co-worker that had happened (to me) a long time ago. I just didn't know she was holding them against me. I guess I assumed that if something was really bothering her, that she felt close enough to me to tell me about it. Or at the very least it would be blurted out in a moment of frustration.

An incident that came up in counseling - J and I were discussing getting a flat-screen tv for our anniversary. It was her suggestion and she asked what I thought. My opinion was that we already had two working tv's, so it wasn't something I wanted to spend money on. I also mentioned something about the only place to mount it was over the fireplace, and that it didn't really help the already awkward layout of the room. It turns out she was, in her words, so spitting mad that she thought she might say something she'd regret, so she said nothing. So I guess we were having arguments, but I just wasn't invited to them. Or too clueless to notice.

Later on, I asked J why she said "at least you were arguing" to our friend. I haven't argued with women I've dated in the past either, so I asked J if it was something that I was putting out that made her feel like she couldn't voice her opinions/frustrations/resentments. The only thing she said was that I was almost always right and that she found that very frustrating.

What do I do with that? No one likes to be wrong, and I am no different/better. Stupid mistakes bother me much more than getting facts or answers wrong. And I don't feel a compulsion to tell the world when I get something right, and I never try to make anyone feel bad when they're wrong. And anyway, in matters of opinion no one is really wrong - its just an opinion.

I think I am a rather rational person and my thought processes tend to run along that line. I don't really have arguments with anyone, least of all my significant other.  I am interested in how other people think and what their opinions are. When I talk about things, I'm more interested in learning than proving a point. I prefer to discuss rather than debate, and I don't feel that it is important that people think that I am 'right'. I don't think I hang on to resentments either. If something bothers me enough, I will say something, but I generally just let the little things slide. I wrote something about this last year. I'm no Zen master, and things still get to me, but the failings I carry around with me are mostly my own. 

I asked J what she thought I would say if after listening to my opinion on the flat screen tv she said, "this is important to me and I really think we should get it." I can say with lots of confidence that I would have agreed. She was bringing in a majority of the money to our household at the time anyway, and really, who wouldn't want to be talked into a fancy tv?

But clearly there was something between us that prevented open communication. So I need to look at myself and how I behave when I discuss things. It is of course possible that I am deluding myself in thinking I am so fair and balanced. Another friend said that in discussions and matters of opinion with his wife, he defers to the person who has the stronger feelings about the subject. That sounds like a pretty good place to start.

One more story. A man goes to a pastor about difficulties in his marriage. The pastor asks the man, "how long have you been lying to your wife?" The man gets indignant, proclaiming that he has always been honest and would not lie to his wife. The pastor just sits back, letting the man play out the rope. When the man finishes his rant, the pastor says, "when your wife asks what is bothering you and you say 'nothing', you are lying to her". Oh.

Arguing and fighting are certainly not the goal, but of course communication is so critical to any relationship. So be honest and open, learn from each other, stand up for what is important to you, trust in their understanding, don't let resentments grow, and if you must fight, fight fair. Give yourselves, each other and your marriage a chance.


matt said...

Nice one

Me said...

"when your wife asks what is bothering you and you say 'nothing', you are lying to her".


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