I’ve been wanting to write this essay for a while, stopped and started. Floundered.
Because while I feel strongly about the following issue, I find myself reluctant to admit openly that Skyspook and I have had disagreements. Which is ludicrous, really. But I’m a victim of social pressure. So many times have I heard people in relationships proudly proclaiming, “We never argue.” I was one of them. For the first 2 or 3 years, my ex-husband and I never had an argument. Of course, I was pushing down my opinions and striving to keep peace at all costs, and I was never happy.
But still. But still. We never fought. Or even really disagreed. And I was quite proud of this. To me, it proved how great our relationship was; we lived in perfect harmony. We were totally in sync.
It was a load of bullshit.
(The me from 7 years ago would kick my ass for saying such a thing, but I digress.)
All the concessions, my dishonesty, the sacrifices I’d made in the name of peace, came back to haunt me. Things reached a point where my core values were being violated. I couldn’t play along anymore. My ex-husband felt blindsided. Not only that, but he had no idea how to relate to me when I was in conflict with him, given that it was a new experience for him. He would lash out and retaliate at the slightest hint of disagreement – and began to view everything I said with skepticism, thinking that I spent a great deal of time placating him, finessing him, being disingenuous. The cycle fed itself. When he’d react badly to conflict, I’d want to share less of my differing opinions – which meant reverting back to covering up my feelings to keep things stable between us, which would feed his sense that I wasn’t being open and honest with my feelings (and I wasn’t) which would cause him reading conflict even into things to which I was indifferent.
So I will swallow my reluctance and admit that I love the way Skyspook and I disagree. I love that we can do it in front of people, that we’re civil and care about each other even in the face of conflict. We don’t have “fights” like a bar room, no. No one is yelling. Most people would call them “disagreements.” But still, it feels like a “fight” to me. I am emotionally invested. I care about their outcome. Often I cry. There’s a certain degree of stress about them in the moment.
And they are the best “fights” I’ve ever had.
One of the best examples happened a week or two ago. I was in a rotten mood, and we were chatting, and I was a little snarky, self-deprecating, what have you. Skyspook stopped me mid-sentence and said, “Cut it out with the emo already.”
“What do you mean?” I said, starting to cry.
He took a deep breath in and said, “Look, you’re turning everything I say the wrong way. It’s like you’re trying to feel bad. You’re misinterpreting me.”
I paused. Tried to consider his perspective. As much as I hated to admit it, he had a point. “Ahhh…” I nodded. “That has to be frustrating.” I said. “I can see what you mean.”
When I de-escalated a bit, he followed my lead. He hugged me, and we actually talked about the issues involved, why I was upset, why he was upset, etc, in a relatively calm, loving way. Sure, I was crying (and he was clearly emotionally affected as well), and some of what we discussed was painful, but it was a productive conversation. And there was always an air of respect. No name-calling, no raised voices.
So I’m starting to think you can tell more about a health of a couple by how productively they disagree than how often they agree.
Here’s to healthy conflict! Hip hip hooray!