“I’m not ready to make nice, I’m not ready to back down.” The Dixie Chicks
If you never fight, then nobody’s home. Trouble in relationships is always about the extremes. It’s just as problematic as fighting all the time because both lack respect for two people. Often couples arrive in my office surprised to be there “because we never fight.” Never fighting means someone is feeling invisible.
This post is near one on low self-esteem because a never-fighting couple has at least one person who qualifies. One person has decided to cater to the other if there is no fighting. That person may not even be aware of how they are becoming very resentful over six, seven or even eight years. The resentments are insidious and eat away at the connectivity until there is nothing left.
That’s one danger of a relationship with a great age difference. This is captured in the book Blame by Michelle Huneven. The character of Patsy allows herself to be overlooked and disregarded by Cal, her much older husband. He’s a good guy but because of his age he is very definitive about who he is and he does not pay attention to learning how she is different. Fighting in a problem solving way means there is respect for two agendas.
There are always two sets of priorities because there are two people. This is why marriage/partnership requires so much work.
Fighting means both people matter. It’s why the founding fathers set up Congress the way they did, to encourage and nurture the greater truths which emerge from the messiness of fighting. Fighting over petty matters often means there are larger, unacknowledged truths underneath. It’s worth digging around for patterns and themes to head towards problem solving.
Of course, valuable fighting doesn’t mean fighting constantly either. Fighting all the time is just as unproductive as not fighting at all.
The ones who cater too much have to learn to pay attention to their anger instead of subverting it. The ones who have things going their way need to recognize something is amiss. If you are single, don’t swallow your wants out of love. Find out if the other person is willing to negotiate, problem solve and recognize there are two sets of values to work through.
If two people are in a relationship there are two sets of wants. The only way to make it for the long haul is to be certain that important wants are attended to. Codependence often means a pattern of catering to someone else which evolves into resentment that piles up to create a giant ocean-sized gap and ultimately the death of the relationship.
If we only go around once on the planet earth then there is something that really matters about not wasting decades. Figure out how to fight with respect about the things that matter. Fighting respectfully matters, not fighting is a delusion of success.
Read more on my website: therapyideas.net Listen to my podcast “What Healthy Couples Know that You Don’t” on website, iTunes or download with your favorite podcast app.