Duking it Out
Thursday, April 14, 2011 at 8:18AM
Louise in Important Love Stuff, Marriage Prep

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I was all set to write a post today that was all ooey and gooey and sickly romantic about a conversation I had with The Candyman yesterday1, but then it became morning time and that plan was blown to bits. Why? Let’s just say that The Candyman doesn’t really do morning and as a result, there are times when we don’t do morning.

I mean, I’m groggy when I wake up, but I’m generally someone who can be awake and full-tilt about 30 seconds after I have my first gulp of coffee. The Candyman? Not so much. It takes him forever to really wake up. A cup of coffee doesn’t always do the trick. The Candyman walks around and looks like a normal person, but the man has a hair-trigger of a temper that can be tripped at the slightest of morning-infractions. We’ve had some of our worst fights ever between the hours of 6:30am and 8:30am. Sometimes our fights remind me of those old Army ad slogans, “We do more before 9am than most people do all day.” Yes, exactly. I mean, how is it possible to go from zero to 100mph that early in the morning? I’m not sure, but we manage it somehow.

Often after we’ve fought, I will immerse myself in chores. When I’m pissed, I clean the shit out of some stuff. I’ll be squatting inside the tub with my soap-scum-busting cleaner and a sponge, scrubbing the hell out of the imaginary line on the tub, cursing The Candyman and deciding whose fault it was. It’s almost always his fault when I’m in the midst of anger-cleaning. This makes me feel better as I continue to scour the house until it’s bright and shiny and clean. And it’s ammunition too. I can say to myself, “Look! Look at all I’ve done today! I cleaned this house from top to bottom! What did HE do today? Huh? Tell me!” And it really doesn’t matter what he did that day, because it won’t ever be enough. When I’m still angry, it doesn’t matter who does what.

I’m no different from anyone else. I have to work through my anger. Some people can be over something in a nano-second. Me? Not so much. I’m a grudge-holder. I stew. I assign fault. I am the judge and jury. In the heat of the moment, The Candyman has the habit of assuming the very worst about me. He assumes I’m behaving in a particular way on purpose, that I’m being mean or self-centered or manipulative. Neither of us listen or care to listen. Usually, if the fight reaches this point, our imaginary referee rings the bell and  we go to our respective corners, get some coaching and decide who will throw in the towel first. I hate throwing in the towel. Even though the fight should be over and done, I’m still holding on to the “rightness” of the fight. Whose fault is it? To me, assigning fault is the key. If we can determine whose fault it is, then the problem is solved. If it’s my fault, then I say I’m sorry and stop the behavior. Same goes for The Candyman. We used to do this in therapy. We’d rehash our fights, assign blame and move on. This worked for about….oh, who am I kidding? It never really worked. I thought it worked. If it wasn’t my fault, it wasn’t my problem. Period. The problem with this kind of non-problem-solving is that it doesn’t take emotions into account. It doesn’t take into account the fact that you’re actually sharing a living space with someone, that the person you’re fighting with doesn’t care about the “facts.”  The real facts are that the person you’re sharing your life with is angry too. Since we all process anger differently, there’s a lot to learn and accomplish when you fight with your partner. I think this learning process takes a while. It might take a whole lifetime.

*We interrupt this post to answer the phone and talk to a now-calm Candyman.*

Just when I was getting good and ready to attack the microscopic grout-grunge behind the toilet, The Candyman calls. We apologize. I read him this post. He agrees. We talk about what happened (without assigning blame) how and why it happened and how we can avoid it in the future. The conversation takes less than 10 minutes and the fight is over. Anyone witnessing our 7am exchange might be shocked at the intensity of it and how we get from there to forgiveness so quickly.

The answer is practice. We know our own faults and our therapist gave us the tools to make our fights work for us. Everyone couple fights, one way or the other. Ours are more of the explosive variety. If you think just because you’re not yelling that you’re not fighting…. well, you’re wrong. Silence can be the stuff of divorce. My bad habit of stewing and grudge-holding and resentment are unhealthy for our relationship. I have to fight with myself not to do that. The Candyman’s bad habit of assuming the worst is his challenge and I know he struggles with that too. For us, it’s the process of looking inside ourselves as individuals to work through what we’ve got going on in our partnership.

What’s your struggle? Is there a behavior, mind-set, time-of-day trigger for your fights? How do you resolve your conflict? Do you put on the gloves and go at it for a couple of rounds or do you nit-pick each other to death? Do tell.

1See tomorrow’s post.

Article originally appeared on The Thirty-Something Bride Wedding Blog (http://thethirtysomethingbride.com/).
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