You may well wonder why I didn’t apologise in my latest post for not having written in so long. Well. It occurred to me that since I haven’t made any promises about posting on a regular and frequent basis, I haven’t really let anyone down, and so there was nothing to apologise for. And I’m rather sure that even my most dedicated readers – if I have such – do not walk around crying for days if I haven’t posted in a while. So I figured maybe I’ll stop apologising for something that doesn’t really make anyone angry or sad.
Speaking of moods and feelings, those are things that have come to me easier of late. To people who have just met me, I tend to come off as a – and here I’m quoting comments that people who don’t know me have made on my behaviour and mannerisms – energetic, happy, enthusiastic, cute, nice person. I think this has something to do with a) I can get very easily excited by very silly and mundane things, b) I tend to smile and laugh a lot, because I noticed that people who cry all the time aren’t invited to parties as often, c) I have this problem where I need people to like me so I’ll be very friendly and d) if I don’t feel like I’m up to being social and nice I don’t leave the house.
But also, and most of all, I have since my teen-years done a really good job at hiding and suppressing my negative feelings about people or events. I have a fear of confrontation that prevents me from speaking my mind on many an occasion, and I constantly worry that other people will get down or depressed if I express any displeasure or sadness when around them. So in all of my friendships, I have very few fights, and never any serious ones. The last time I raised my voice at someone I was 16 and the someone were two random kids who ran past me at a summer-fair and sprayed me with that horrible gooey foam-stuff they have in cans. (To whomever invented those things; I kind of hate you.)
Most importantly of all, it has prevented me from having fights in my romantic relationships, at least until very recently. I was worried that I, when angered, would say hurtful things that I couldn’t take back, and that mayhap my outburst would lead to a break-up, or the other person seeing me in a different light, or that they might perhaps feel really guilty about their behaviour and try to make up for it for months afterwards. So instead I would do my best to shut up whenever something didn’t feel right, whenever I felt a bit mistreated or overlooked, and I would either try to blame it on my own inadequacy, or go around harbouring this grudge for really long, and eventually bring it up at some point months later, together with a long list of other misunderstandings and slights – guys, if this sounds familiar to you, that might be because lots of women tend to do this very same thing, only some of them just put hot sauce in your underwear instead of trying to discuss the issues at a later time -, which would make my other half very confused and quite hurt. This would generally end with me apologising for my behaviour, and the issues were never resolved.
I know, very healthy behaviour. I thought this was a bad cycle that could never be broken; me getting hurt or upset, not saying anything and bottling it all up, taking it out on myself or letting the other person know way past the issues expiration date (you know it’s past the expiration date when it starts getting this funny-looking red mould stuff on it) and eventually feeling like crap for saying anything, apologising and ending up with nothing resolved and a little more guilt on my conscience.
But you know how we tend to think we can’t change and then realise one day that we have? It hit me about a month or two ago, when I just had a fight with my boyfriend (who has a blog, check it out and pat him on the back for being such a good person to fight with!). Anger and hurt had been felt, words had been said – no name-calling though, to everyone’s relief. I suck at name-calling anyway -, misunderstandings had been had and eventually cleared up, apologies made and everything was back to normal. Then it dawned on me. I had never, NEVER had a fight with my significant other before! At first I panicked for a second, wondering if this was a bad sign perhaps, but then I mentally broke down laughing at myself. How could fighting be a bad sign in a relationship? Something so normal, something that everyone does, something that is perhaps vital to a healthy relationship?
I asked the relative of a friend of mine what she thought was the secret to a healthy long-term relationship, the very day after we’d – we = in this case, me and boyfriend – had a really proper fight, and to my great surprise her answer was, straight up, without hesitation; “You have to be able to fight”. Needless to say, I laughed helplessly for a few minutes. The world is strange sometimes. Over time I thought more and more about this, and tried to figure out why this was. Why were the fights necessary, why would they be good, would a relationship work without them, what are the pros and cons? I realised rather early on that of course there are different reasons why people fight, and HOW they fight, and that these differences are very crucial.
The unhealthy fights – and please remember I have only been an observer to these and can’t really speak from my own experience, so feel free to butt in with comments and your own perspective – often come from one or both parties feeling hurt/betrayed/overlooked etc. A dangerous thing with these fights is that one or both parties feel wronged, and that instantly also makes them go “I am the victim here, you are the bad guy, and I am right”. When someone steps into a fight with the “I’m right” card taped to their forehead, getting anywhere in that argument is going to be very difficult. These fights tend to escalate into the kind of screaming profanities at the top of your lungs, packing your bags, slamming doors kind of thing. I think it’s impossible for an argument like this to end well until both parties learn to listen to what the other person is saying and give them a bit of empty space to express themselves properly in.
The healthy fights – and if you don’t think there can be such a thing please say so and why – mostly come from one or both parties not really understanding where the other person is coming from, and why they are doing/saying what they are doing/saying. In these fights, people will be upset as well, but only because they can’t understand the person they love in this instance and that always makes people sad. This tends to not result in name-calling, but rather a lot of hand-waving and the voice climbing maybe and octave or so as you try to get the other person to listen. The reason these fights are good is because there is no “I’m right” card on anyone’s forehead, but simply a “Would you mind explaining what the hell you’re doing, you idiot. P.S I love you” sign on the wet floor. In these fights, there’s an unspoken understanding that whatever the other person is doing it’s probably not to hurt you, and nothing personal, and you will probably stop being so mad at them once you understand why. You can look past the upset feelings of the fight into a future – hopefully nearby, long fights are never fun – where you can understand why, and once you understand, you just love each other more.
So no, I’m not saying that constantly fighting is going to build a stronger, healthier relationship. Nor that yelling and feeling upset every once in a while is a fun and productive past-time. But I am saying that if you can’t fight, if there is never any reason for you to fight, then you are either cloned from each other and have no individual thoughts, or you are hiding the hurt feelings and misunderstandings, keeping them to yourself and sowing seeds of resentment that will eventually make cracks in the foundations of your relationship, so you had better talk while the wound is still fresh, or it might always leave a scar there.
(Seeing as how in this post I sound like some kind of relationship-guru that’s hopped up on caffeine and narcissus-gas, I would really like your input and stories from your own personal experience.)
Fun competition! First person to identify the quote I used for a title to this post and tell me the name of the author and the work it was in – in the comments below, creepy phone-calls from hidden numbers are discouraged – gets to pick the topic of my next post! Not much of a prise I know, but it’s the best I can do for now, I spent all of my money on Roombas.