I rented a car recently while my car was in the shop and the young man at the service desk asked me what I did. I told him about my blog, he told me he’d been married for a couple of years and asked me what was the one thing he could do to help his marriage. Aside from making a note to myself to be better prepared for these questions, I said, “learn to handle your disagreements respectfully.”
I do believe if you suppress something that’s bothering you because you’re afraid how your spouse might react, the issue will just pop up somewhere further down the road. Mama J and I got to talking about this and she agreed. Fighting has its place in a marriage. Here’s what she said.
I don’t remember there being a lot of conflict about much of anything in my relationship with my ex. It wasn’t like we were best friends and always got along. There just wasn’t much interaction whether it was fighting or not. And my ex definitely thought that if you fought, it meant the marriage wasn’t healthy.
I remember during a counseling session, the counselor said to him,
“Shouldn’t you just be able to work it out?”
“We shouldn’t fight. That’s not what a marriage is about,” my ex said.
“That’s a healthy part of a marriage. You should be able to work things out.”
“My parents never fought.”
“You know what? I bet your parents fought. They just didn’t fight in front of you because they didn’t want it to be a painful thing for you to see.”
Now, I think it’s definitely healthy for my children to see my husband, SJ and I disagree. I wouldn’t choose to do it in front of the children but unless it’s something about them, there’s no reason why they shouldn’t see us actively discussing the pros, the cons, why we agree and don’t agree. We may go our separate ways for a couple of hours and then come back and talk about it and the next day we’re sitting on the couch holding hands again. I think it’s helpful for our children to see us working through issues.
SJ just met my eldest daughter’s new boyfriend and she asked SJ if he liked him.
“He’s a nice enough young man, but talk to me after you’ve had your first argument,” said SJ.
“What are you talking about? We haven’t had an argument.”
“I’m going to decide if I like him depending on how he responds to your first argument,” said SJ. Does he get abusive? Does he say, ‘OK, honey whatever.” Or do you have a good discussion about it?”
It really gave her something to think about.
It isn’t always easy to vocalize your feelings – Mama J says she’s still learning, even after 19 years of marriage. I definitely had some issues early on in my marriage that never got resolved, in part because I thought early on the best way of dealing with them was to avoid them, that they work themselves out. mmmh … that strategy definitely didn’t work. Visit again tomorrow to read about an early lesson Mama J had in learning to fight.
I don’t remember my parents fighting much. I do remember my Dad having quite a temper and when we wanted something my mum would say ‘leave it with me, I’ll talk to your Dad.” I always thought then it was best to let her handle it. In hindsight now, I wonder if I would have been better prepared for my marriage (and life) if I’d had more “training” at home about how to handle disagreements. I think this is something I’m going to work on with my children.
What do you remember about your parents’ arguing? Did they give you a good framework for handling disagreements in a marriage? How did or do you and your spouse argue?