Do you fight with the people you love?

By Caitlin Kelly

English: Fight
English: Fight (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Thought-provoking post here from Jezebel; (read the comments as well, lots of good stuff in there):

What is a fight anyway? A disagreement, sure, but predicated
on what? Miscommunication typically. Unrealistic expectations. Actions by the
other person that are perceived as selfish or thoughtless or simply not in line
with whatever one person in a relationship thinks are the perceived agreed-upon
values, stated or otherwise, of the relationship.

And a big part of all this confusion is usually this weird concept of
unspoken agreements. Can I just say right here and now that the concept
of unspoken agreements is super baffling? The thing where someone does
something and you’re supposed to know it means X or Y whether they say
so or not and return the thing to them you didn’t know they did in the
first place because it’s all supposed to be understood?

I bet more relationships have ended by failure to mind-read than almost any other crime of the heart.

So it goes without saying that lots of fights could be avoided by talking
more, by improving communication, stating/negotiations and expectations, and by
lowering expectations. But we are mere mortals over here, not Deepak
Chopra. Fights are happening. Deal with it.

Some people go through life (medicated?) never having a fight with anyone, ever. Over anything.

I’d love to be one of them, but it’s highly unlikely.

Jose, my husband, and I have been together 13.5 years. We had our first fight before our first date.

Yes, really.

But, once we met, we were together after that first night.

We laugh often and loudly. We wince at the thought of ever losing one another. We’re both stubborn, hard-headed and opinionated. We also love each other deeply.

But we’re not averse to verbal fisticuffs, an issue we struggle with still. We were both badly bullied when were younger and neither of us were trained or socialized to beat the shit out of our tormentors. Instead, we learned to verbally annihilate them. We got really good at that.

And both of us are tough, competitive career journalists, a profession that best rewards aggressive winners, not calm, gentle, cooperation.

We also grew up in completely different emotional environments. His parents never fought (in front of him.) My family yelled a lot. I hated it, but it was what we learned. So taking the gloves off, so to speak, comes too quickly, a habitual behavior that’s tough to break, no matter how essential to do so.

English: A fight in ice hockey: LeBlanc vs. Po...
English: A fight in ice hockey: LeBlanc vs. Ponich. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When Jose and I first fought, there was an underlying meta-fight, like gasoline poured into flame, of his disbelief, outrage and shock that we were fighting at all. For me, it was business as usual. It took a long time for me express my needs more calmly.

Like every couple, we also carry ghosts of old hurts, sometimes arguing ferociously not with one another, really, but with an unresolved bit of business from our past.

Everyone in a lasting intimate relationship must find a way to negotiate through conflict.

I really liked this recent post from another blogging Caitlin at Fit & Feminist, which addresses how grouchy and (regretfully) argumentative we can get when we’re really just hungry:

A couple of weeks ago I found myself embroiled in a bit of an interpersonal snafu.  I was trying to broach a sensitive subject with care and delicacy, hoping that I could not only get my point across but that I could do so in a way that was diplomatic and fair.

The problem is, I tried to do this while I was hungry.  And so instead of being careful and delicate, I struggled to find the right words to convey what I wanted to say, and then finally, I became frustrated and blurted out exactly the wrong words required by the situation.

After I finally got to eat something, I realized what I had done, but it was too late – the damage had been done.  And not only that, but the damage had radiated outward in a domino effect of fuckery, and I found
myself spending the next couple of hours engaged in a desperate attempt to put band-aids over all of the social wounds my hunger-fueled carelessness had wrought.

It occurred to me later that if you could go back over the past several years and catalog all of the times I had really stepped in some big piles of shit with other people, then dig deep down to find the underlying causes of it, nine times out of ten your excavation will lead you to an empty, rumbling, pissed-off tummy.

Here’s one of the best songs ever about a remorseful lover (successfully) rushing to the train station to re-claim his sweetie who’s about to leave him after a fight, recorded in 1996 by British singer-songwriter Richard Thompson:

She’s sitting on the train, the train’s gonna to leave
Bags in her hand, tears on her sleeve
Banging on the window with all of my might
But she won’t look to the left or the right
We had a fight and it wasn’t pretty
Now she’s leaving, ain’t it a pity
Going to wait tables, down in the city
Hold that red light one more minute
6:18’s got my baby in it
Train don’t leave, heart don’t break
Train don’t leave, heart don’t break

And here’s a brilliant post from American business guru Seth Godin about the corrosive effects of tantrums at work.

As readers here know, from a recent string of critical comments, I have little stomach for fighting with strangers. Fighting with intimates is stressful enough.

Do you fight with the people you love?

How does it turn out?

25 thoughts on “Do you fight with the people you love?

  1. I and my sisters made sibling rivalry look like two-hand touch football without any contact but to stop someone. I’m not sure why we were so hateful of each other, but we were. Since I went away to college, things have been slightly better. I’m even getting on better with the sister I hated the most. Hopefully with plenty of space we’ll be able to get along better than we ever did when we were younger.

      1. A part of me actually still wouldn’t mind if I was an only child. But hey, my sisters aren’t all that bad. Sometimes they’re pretty awesome. The sister I mentioned who I got on the worst with…she’s helped spread news about my books through Twitter more than once. I love her for it, and it’s pretty good considering we were like the US and Soviet Union with weekly skirmishes.

  2. For me fighting is particularly awful. I don’t fight easily, usually being very placatory in most situations. I’m very slow to get to the boiling point but when I do it’s verbal acid time and I may just remember old hurts too. Because I’m slow to boil,I’m very slow to cool, even to the point of years. I’m an ass who doesn’t know how to make the right move towards showing forgiveness even though I may feel contrition at what’s been said. How lucky I am that most people don’t take me to that point and with age has come a calmness that makes reaching boiling point harder still.
    xxx Cwtch xxx

    1. I suspect many people are like you…I think few of us really relish conflict or a “good fight”. It’s very stressful

      If you really have forgiven someone, you need to show it…but it is very difficult if someone has hurt us deeply. I have this issue in my own family…have not spoken to my own mother since 2010. That might tell you how bad it gets.

  3. “Everyone in a lasting intimate relationship must find a way to negotiate through conflict.”

    Great line.

    Too many relationships, and of all sorts, founder on that rock.

    1. Thanks!

      But so true…I think many marriages would not end in divorce if people were willing or able to deal with their own shit, let alone their partner’s. It’s nasty and messy and no one wants to. We can get very primal when we fight and without therapy, which would really help some people, it’s very tough to even see the demons or ghosts that drive us. My first husband would simply clam up and refuse to negotiate. That’s why he’s my first..:-)

  4. Yes, it happens. But not all of the time. But when I feel the anger invading me, I tend to go silent for a minute or two to calm down. Anger makes it difficult to solve the dispute. I ask the same to the people I love if they raise their voice on me.

  5. i am not very good at fighting, having grown up with a lot of screaming from one of my parents and the other silently escaping, i never learned a very good technique for the art of argument. over time, i’ve learned to speak my mind, albeit pretty calmly, and try to reason with people. not always successful with this approach.

    1. Indeed. It’s very difficult to escape from the patterns we learned when young(er), even when we know they don’t work very well for us. Therapy can help.

      Only in the past few years have I begun to risk asking for what I really want, rather than getting frustrated or angry when I don’t get it. Not easy!

      Thanks for sharing…It’s interesting how few people are commenting on this one. I suspect it makes too many people nervous.

      1. i agree, it is very challenging to change our old patterns, and like you, i’ve only become more comfortable with the whole process later in life. i expect you are right about the low response on this one, people do find it hard to talk about arguing and all that goes with the process.

      2. I wonder if it’s frightening (probably) or something people just prefer not to think about.

        I wish I’d been taught, much younger, that what seems “normal” may not be so. We need to learn and share and talk about these issues — I doubt we’d see the epidemic of bullying if we did.

      3. i do think it it both frightening and something many don’t want to think about. too bad many of us did not have good models for how to argue. i think it is an important skill to have in place.

  6. I was raised to be civilized, which meant no raised voices. But I am a person who likes feeling and sound and words so that didn’t work too well. Anger comes and goes so why don’t we let it move through us like wind, like water through a sieve? All emotion generally lives a brief life all day long.The tricky part, as you well noted, is not doing damage in the midst of dispute. There need to be guiding rules for serious fusses, an ethical etiquette approved by the intimates. But that issue of words: they wield such power. My fights? They happen less and less as I age and when they happen I have less interest in ego’s dictates. Now I just fight for whom and what is crucial to my deepest well being.

  7. Of interest (to me) in terms of semantics: “Fight” is pretty strong tobacco. In my understanding of the word it means physical stand offs between two opposed parties.

    How much more gentle the word “argue” is. Don’t you agree? Not that arguing excludes raised voices, the occasional banging a door shut as loudly as possible to underline your point. Some people throw plates. I don’t. Though once forgot myself and hurled a cast iron casserole dish (including contents) across the kitchen. This was most unfortunate since I’d just had my broken arm reset with the help of K-wires. The weight of the casserole promptly dislodging one of them. Also kept finding dead pasta in most unlikely places for weeks.

    It’s a terrific, perceptive article, Caitlin. Made me smile. For reasons too many to expand on here.


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