Fight the Good Fight

I can remember a handful of times my parents fought in the same room that I was in. The reason for the argument is lost to the sands of time, but I remember how it made me feel. Scared.

Flash forward to middle school and my best friend’s parents were getting a divorce. I had no concept of divorce. Breaking up always seemed like a bad thing. Something to avoid.

Looking back, I remember trying to comfort him in an awkward kind of way and he was actively repulsed by my attempt. I thought he needed a friend to talk to and maybe help deal. In reality, he was probably relieved. My 13-year-old self couldn’t fathom what that felt like.

I was married once before and during that time in my life, my spouse and I rarely fought. It may sound like bliss, but it was far from harmonious. By not fighting, we rarely communicated our true feelings to the other person. Looking back, I’m not even sure we were invested in our marriage the way we should have been. Our daughter was a priority, but our marriage really wasn’t. We simply never argued, so I thought we were fine and we were far from fine. After just a short while we were divorced, I was blindsided, and I didn’t remarry for a long, long time.

If someone were to ask me what the key is to a successful marriage my answer would be communication. Not just “How was your day?” and “Please pass the salt” kind of communicating either. My wife of a little over a year and a half, Maria, calls it “talking about what’s real.” She could care less about a conversation about what someone made for dinner the other night. She wants to dig deeper past the superficial topics of weather, sports, or politics. What’s really going on? What’s their true motivation?

She would’ve made an excellent counselor.

Maria and I don’t really argue often, but I hate it when we do. She’s highly skilled at making arguments and finding the quickest route to get to the heart of the matter. She can’t stand bullshit and cuts through it like a samurai warrior wielding a katana.

I love and hate this about her simultaneously.

When we do fight, it is loud and then quiet. It is usually me fumbling, yelling, saying something incredibly stupid and her deftly throwing out word bombs destroying whatever feeble justification I was flaccidly making.

Looking back at our fights, it is always over something that I thought was a big deal at the time but I can never remember the specifics. Our fights usually turn into conversations once we both calm down and I stop doubling or tripling down on my ridiculousness. Still, every time we fight I get worried we shouldn’t be fighting. I get scared. I tell myself how much I hate feeling this way and I ask myself if we’re heading toward divorce.

I asked Maria if she thought we fought too much. She said, “Of course not. Fighting is communicating feelings and sometimes I have to raise my voice and get angry for people to pay attention.”

Not putting her in that position is something I’m going to be working on for the rest of our life together.

Constantly fighting doesn’t ever seem like a good thing and trust is of the utmost importance in a relationship. We can fight because we love and trust each other and we go at it to try and make a situation better. In my first marriage, I had no concept of this. Now, instead of holding things in we talk about it. Sometimes it’s just too much and voices are raised, but ultimately what we are saying to each other is, “I don’t like this. Can we fix it?”

These kind of arguments can make a marriage better. In the first year we were married, we argued a lot about the kids, our budget, who cooks, and a million other small things. It was us finding out how the blending of our families was going to work.

Today, I need to remember when we argue it’s mostly about wanting to change something in our life. I still hate it when we fight, but not fighting would be worse. Not talking would mean we’ve give up and I don’t ever want to give up on our relationship.

Marriage is about working together, growing together, and learning together. When we fight, we’re telling each other our feelings in one of the most passionate ways we know how.

We listen to passion.