Fighting, in some form or another, is natural for couples. Humans cannot live in such a connected space as coupledom without coming to terms, in one way or another, with the many misaligned components of themselves and their joint world. Just as every person is different, every combination of people is also different and so people naturally need to find their foundational rules with each other in a way that is agreeable to their own particular natures. For some couples, a certain less-than-enthusiastic look or word will be the extent of their fight but the effect will be the same as a big argument. It will send the couple into a self-examination of what was meant, if what was meant was right, and what to do about it. For other more robust couples with robust relationships, fighting can safely be a fairly major event.
A bad fight is anything which does not help to move the relationship and the people involved forward. If one dominates the other, it will eventually be at the expense of the relationship. Everything depends on the intention. If the intention is to hurt, belittle, ignore, reject, or win then good will struggle to come from that. If the intention is to protect one’s own rights, wrestle with some boundaries, and deal with unresolved issues then most things are fine. The argument will be monitored by the internal referencing of love for the other person, respect for one’s own rights and, above all, a desire to make the relationship work which, after all, is why we fight. We want the relationship to honestly work.
My first long term relationship was over, for all intense purposes, before two years were up yet it remained for another eight. We didn’t fight anymore but nor did we communicate for those last eight years. When issues come up in those first few years, if they are not dealt with in a healthy way, if we do not treat our partner with respect and listen to them, if our only thought is to protect ourself at all cost then the cost will be the actual relationship. If a couple can’t argue well, they can’t live together well either.
I remember a couple who went on to become well known authors and marriage counsellors. The husband would sometimes say in his talks that their first ten years together saw a lot of very loud fighting. So much so that they had to live on a five acre property for privacy. However, a combination of the birth of their first child and most of the rough edges being worn off them meant that they were able to transition into a quieter, more harmonious stage and they consequently moved back to suburbia.
In a healthy relationship, arguing often goes in cycles. Issues come up and may need a whole series of arguments before the issue is satisfactorily put to bed. Often the people themselves do not fully understand what is at the basis of the argument and so it may take numerous discussions before the real crux of the matter is reached. This is particularly so with sensitive issues when we are reluctant to say what the real issue is. Spiritual teacher, Eckhart Tolle, sometimes tells his students that they are more likely to make spiritual progress by spending two years in a relationship then they are by spending two years in a cave meditating.
The beginning of a relationship often has teething problems. Couples struggle to align with each other as a functioning team. Sometimes, we hold onto things tightly but with a little time we can let them go. It’s important to know which things within ourselves are the ones we cannot let go of. They are the non-negotiable ones – as in, if I am here, I don’t let go of these things. If the foundational issues are not dealt with and jointly come to terms with, the relationship will not last very long. After that, there will be favourite issues which will repeatedly arise for discussion, often, heated discussion and over the years these testing grounds will form both us and the relationship.
The favourite topics of fights for most couples are money, sex, extended family (including in-laws and step-families), and the boundaries we have with other men/women. Although money is one of our favourite topics for fighting, at the same time, we are also extremely reluctant to talk about it frankly. It is very common for couples to complain about money related matters but to avoid serious discussion of the topic like the plague. This has a harmful effect both on the money management of the couple and the secret fears and resentments couples have about their financial future.
We need to talk about money. Although difficult to talk about, discussing money is crucial to the health of a relationship. Right from the beginning of a living together relationship, there needs to be some frank discussions about who brings what money, where it goes, what each expects of the other, what is fair, and that most horrible topic of all, what happens if we are no longer together. The latter is a topic no one likes to talk about but the problem with not talking about it is that one or both people can carry secret fears about it for years. If it is discussed until both people feel it is fair then it is one less worry in life. As the years go on, it needs to be reassessed. What is fair in a two-year relationship is not fair in a ten-year relationship or a life-long one.
The best basis for arguments is an understanding that, “We don’t move on this until we both agree.” We don’t have to think the same way as each other but we have to come to some agreed upon conclusion that both people think is fair and acceptable. If that can’t be reached then the whole thing is still on the boil, open for resolution, waiting for some other factor to be introduced. That other factor is often the softening of one or both people.
We give our all to our relationships. We give our love, our pain, our joy, our hurt, our fears, and our hopes. We trust the other person with our very life; all that we are. Fighting is a small price to pay for the opportunity to give something as beautiful as a person’s whole being. The really beneficial relationships are the ones where we are deeply connected to the other. Sometimes, they tear us apart and then reform us. They can be painful and scary ventures. One has to have courage. One day, there will be nothing left to fight about.
This article is from Love’s Longing