Date Night or Fight Night? You Can Have It All!
By Catherine Muss
If arguing is a release of pent up emotion, and it’s healthier to express yourself than not, then couples should totally fight it out, right?
What are you fighting about?
He didn’t take the garbage out. You didn’t put the remote back on the coffee table. His gym clothes have been in that bag for a week instead of the laundry. You didn’t tell him you were all going to your parents’ for dinner Saturday of the big game. He hasn’t made time to have dinner with you in a week. You went over budget last month. He quit his job. You called him a nasty name.
Every couple would prefer to work out their differences in a calm, civilized conversation when they’re unhappy. But sometimes we want to yell! We want to lay blame! We want someone else to fix the problems! Sure, you can calmly discuss the matter of whose turn it was to take out the garbage, (unless it was the fifth time in a row!) but if you’re fearful of the amount of debt you’ve accumulated then the conversation is likely to be emotional, fraught with anger and accusations. A fight brews and quickly. Things are said at top volume, curses are flung, and now you have to decide whether to share the bed with that miserable grouch or sleep on the couch tonight.
Are you fighting because you’re upset or are you fighting just to fight?
Arguing is a misunderstood form of communication. You may think he’s just being grumpy or argumentative for the sake of irritating you, but he’s unsuccessfully telling you something is very wrong. Just like when you don’t know how else to tell him that the fact this is the fifth time he’s forgotten to take the garbage out and you feel like you’re not in a partnership, but instead of saying that you snap at him that he’s got to get his lazy bones up off the couch and actually DO something. Make sure you stay on topic. Ask him if there is anything else that has upset him. Don’t take cheap shots just because you want to win; you won’t.
There’s a right way to fight.
In order for the argument to be effective 2 things have to happen:
There is a poorly conceived notion that women aren’t good at choosing the right words to accurately reflect our feelings. We’re actually very good at it, it’s that we tend use more words than a man would to make our point. There is a poorly conceived notion that men always say what they mean. And they do a fairly good job of it, but they tend choose something else to fight about instead of revealing they’re heartsick because society is still leery of the emotional man.
The silent treatment is deadly to relationships. It is akin to indifference. That’s not to say you can’t pause the argument and take some time to cool down, but in order to achieve a solid relationship, you have to be able to talk to each other about the tough stuff, even if it means arguing. Fighting means you care, that you have a vested interest in this relationship, and that you want to find resolution together. The silent treatment means someone is walking away. The solution needs to fit both parties, which is where compromise comes in. Not complacency. Both of you should be satisfied with the finale of this fight, even if it means you agree to disagree – it’s not your fault he likes the wrong hockey team! But he does, and that doesn’t hurt you, so enjoy a healthy hockey rivalry. It’s likely that your heated arguments are about personal emotions, and this is worth fighting for.
The relationship also needs forgiveness. Once forgiveness has been given, the rest is forgotten. You don’t tease him about something you’ve forgiven him for. He doesn’t bring up something he’s forgiven you for as an argument point later.
So fight, but fight with heart instead of heat.
Catherine Muss is a freelance writer based in Waterloo Region. She has a Bachelor of Journalism from Ryerson University, and she would have minored in psychology if she’d taken the “right” psych classes. To the benefit of this blog, she took the fun ones.