October 31st, 2013 § Leave a Comment
I can’t remember what initiated the fight. What I remember of it was our youngest’s reaction to it. It was a couple years ago, so that would put her at about six or seven years old. We were all sitting at dinner, when I started in on it with my wife who was sitting across from me. It was heated, but not out of control – voices raised, animated, but not out of line. As I pled my case, I caught out of the corner of my eye my daughter begin to cry.
What’s the matter? Are you crying because we’re fighting?
(A nod. No eye contact)
Why does it make you sad?
I’m afraid you’re going to get divorced.
(My wife and I look at each other)
Hey, we’re not going to get divorced. I love your Mom. I’m mad at her right now. We have a disagreement; we need to work it out. That’s what we’re doing. We’re mad at each other right now, but we’re not getting divorced. We love each other. We love you all. No matter what, we never think about divorce.
It put our daughter at ease. It put our other two kids at ease. The affirmation of our commitment to one another in the midst of a fight actually threw cold water on it. Within a few minutes, apologies were exchanged; forgiveness extended. This event, it wasn’t something that just happened; it was in a way, planned. We had decided some time before this occurred to do our fighting in the open, not behind closed doors. Unlike our own upbringing, we planned to teach our kids how to fight. And like most things, they were going to learn first by seeing us do it.
We’ve continued to do our fighting in the open. Our hope is that when required, our kids will put up a good fight: A fight that is courageously open, that moves toward reconciliation, and displays self-control.
October 24th, 2013 § Leave a Comment
A fight isn’t all bad. In fact, depending on the circumstances, avoiding one might be the real crime. Somethings require a fight, demand a fight. When that something occurs, best know how to go about fighting. That’s my point. In those instances when a fight was the best course before me, I shrank from my obligation. There’s all kinds of things I could point to but more likely than not, like most, I ran because I was scared. The fear was mostly of letting her in, availing myself to her, showing her the soft underbelly. “Nah, I’m fine. Whatever.”
When a fight is required, and not initiated, something even worse happens. That thing gets buried … or better, it gets sown. Eventually, it sprouts and takes over. Once that happens you’re no longer out for understanding. Reconciliation is not the goal. It’s all about payback. “Oh yeah? Is that how it’s going to be? Okay. We’ll see about that. Let’s see how you like it.”
Those sound like fighting words, but they’re not. They only sound like it because we don’t know what a good fight sounds like. We’ve not been taught. Those words are cowardly and out of control. They reek of toxic things like revenge and retribution.
A good fight has some important elements: 1. A good goal. In marriage, the goal is not to win, not to make your point. It’s reconciliation; 2. Discipline. All’s not fair in love and war. It’s not about satisfaction. The passions inflamed in a fight make it all the more important to remain self-controlled. 3. Like all fights, it requires a great deal of courage. Do not give in to fear. In interpersonal relations, fear is a poor counselor.
Just learning, but I’m getting pretty good at it. As we learn, we’ve begun to teach our kids how to fight properly.
October 8th, 2013 § 1 Comment
I never did learn to fight. No one ever taught me. So I watched. Did what came natural. The trouble with this approach is that I was watching people who like me had never learned to fight. They too had watched others; they too did what came natural. And what comes natural? That’s right boys and girls: The will to win. We fight to win. And then I got married.
A couple years into our marriage, I realized we didn’t fight. Oh, we had our conflicts. There were hurts, disappointments. When these arose as they do in every relationship, I didn’t know what to do. I did what came natural. I ran. In retreat, I scorched the earth. It drove my wife nuts. She’s far too kind and well-mannered to put it this way, but if I could speak for her, she’d say, “You chicken shit. Come out and fight like a real man.”
In the past few years, I’ve done just that … come out into the open and fought. I owed her as much. In doing so, I’ve learned a few things. For one, I’ve learned the reason for which I fight. It’s not to win; not to express myself, be justified, get some relief. All these compound the sense of separation that led me into the fight. I fight to get back to her, to close the gap created by the wrong done, the hurt inflicted. For me this has meant that I go to her and start talking. I must resist the temptation to run, to snipe her from the shadows. Funny. Even in a fight, I must not afford myself what I naturally crave.
Learn to fight. We are all different – our spouses, our marriages. A good fight may mean something very different to you. Whatever you do, don’t fight to win. Fight to get back to her, to close the gap and restore the relationship.