ooh. war. what is it good for?

by lizzie & isaiah on January 5, 2011 · 21 comments

beavis and butthead fighting via hate trackers on love your way design and wedding blog

image via hate trackers

There’s been a divorce in my family. It was fugly.

It has Isaiah and I talking a lot about what we do that works and what could, potentially, be an obstacle down the road for us. We are planning on doing pre-marital counseling soon, but we have always had completely open lines of communication.

I believe fighting is absolutely necessary. The couple who doesn’t fight (in my humble opinion) is a couple who has many things they’re not discussing and airing out.

We fight.

I believe we fight well. There are some ground rules we established after our first fight. We only had to hurt each other once to decide we never wanted to make each other feel that way again.

We break them from time to time. We are two hot-headed Chicagoans with particularly awesome sounding fuck you’s – no-no-no..fuck YOU’s. For the most part, we stick to the rules and fight within them.

Absolutely No Characterization

My mom recently read a book with an excerpt written by a marriage counselor that said the two most common things that were evident in couples that were divorced within five years were: Blaming and characterization. That was a longer sentence than it needed to be, but you see….I forgot the name of the book.

Characterization is saying, “You are _________” instead of “You do __________.”

We stopped doing this by eliminating “always” and “never” from our fights. Saying “You always forget” leaves the other person with an immediate defense of, “No I don’t always forget…Is that what you think of me?”

We keep our fights to things we have done that the other didn’t like…things we want to work on together. It helps.

No Fight is A “Or We’re Breaking Up” Fight

We establish immediately that no fight is about “the state of us.”

Keep the Partnership, Even in a Fight

We try to make sure we’re still on each other’s side…the side of working through something together…and not standing across a ring from one another, boxing gloves laced and what not.

Race to the Apology

We’re both eager to say we’re sorry when we know we f*cked up (I’ve reached my quota for the post, I believe). Neither of us ever has to beg the other to apologize for what they’ve done.

Physical Contact

Not the hitting kind. We try to hold hands or stay physically close to each other while we fight so the ice is broken immediately. Simple and obvious and stupid, I’m sure, but it works for us.

Letting Go

I am especially guilty of breaking this rule. My mind automatically saves hurt in filing cabinets, neatly categorized. Each time something links together with a past experience, I feel like it’s happened more often than it has. I exaggerate the pain I’m feeling so he really gets the gravity of the situation. He calls my bluff and realizes that I’m stacking experiences to make it seem more weighty.

This is a recent lesson I learned. Once you exaggerate a situation beyond the norm and make a bigger deal than it is…you’ve kind of lost rights to the original issue. While you’re apologizing for exaggerating, it feels like you should still be able to say, “But I’m still upset over this first thing.” Really, you should just let it go. Don’t “wait” for it to happen again. Stop looking for easily categorized actions from your love…Stop expecting disappointment. Err on the side of giving them more credit than they deserve…after all, this is your person.

It Doesn’t Seem Fair to Take Information Given at Close Range for the Gag and the Bound and the Ammunition Round

I love Fiona Apple, by the way. Her song, “Not About Love” is one of my favorites. This lyric, especially.

You know your spouse/fiance/boy/girl/love better than anyone, right? I know that I could walk up to Isaiah and say one sentence that would have him in tears. He could do the same.

If you want to ruin your relationship really quickly and create an environment of hostility instead of one of intimacy…go ahead and use that confidential information. If you want to live happily ever after, never use information you learned from vulnerability and openness against each other. That father issue you have, the abandonment issues you share and his fear of insert-something-masculine-and-manly here are yours to expose. They’re also yours to keep and cherish and protect to save each other just-shy-of-unbearable-pain.

In summary.

We are no experts on fighting. All of these things just come from a genuine care for your love’s feelings and heart and not wanting to be the one who breaks it. We don’t look to lash out. We don’t look to get even. We only fight to air out differences and move onward and upward, together. It’s always together.

What advice do you have for fighting? Any qualms with what we’ve shared?