How We Fight
Legend has it you should never go to bed angry.
I’ve never been much of a fighter. Give me a topic I’m truly passionate about and I’ll argue/debate it for days on end. But let’s face it, you’d probably agree with me before it came to that.
Even as a child I was big on keeping the peace. In fact, now that I think about it, I was actually a designated playground peacekeeper in elementary school, providing mediation for kids who just couldn’t share their Puppy Surprise or stop biting each other or whatever.
My parents didn’t yell at us often, which meant if they did, we were in deep trouble, mister. They would argue like all humans sharing a living space must, but I think I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve heard them raise their voices at each other.
I know I had some loud, dramatic fights with my parents on occasion when they’d get fed up with my angsty, ungrateful little teenage tornado of belly tops and silver eyeliner and hormone/boredom-driven antics (is there anything on earth more dramatic than a teenage girl’s social life?).
They actually didn’t yell when I came home at 16 years old and threw up a vodka slurpee and about half a bottle of scotch one night after my first big heartbreak. They just told me to drink some water, take an advil and go to bed.
No question I was reeeeaal grounded though.
On those rare occasions when all semblance of cool was abandoned in favour of plain old angry shouting, it was never long before either they or I ran out of steam enough to relent at least a little, apologize for any hurt caused and calmly explain our frustration. And even before amends were made, I never doubted that I was loved, or that I was welcome in my home.
Some people say that it’s healthy to fight in relationships. To even go ahead and shout if you feel like shouting. To get things out in the open and express yourself honestly. I have to say I’m skeptical though. The few fights I’ve had within relationships or friendships where there was yelling or even overly harsh words exchanged in overly harsh tones have never been the ones I found the most productive.
Maybe it’s just my personality, or the aforementioned lack of yelling in the home I grew up in, but I find it extremely shocking and upsetting to be yelled at. Maybe I just need a thicker skin, but the second voices are raised or angry tears are shed, a deflector shield around my own emotions is activated. If I’m attacked, I just shut down. But the words don’t bounce off. Some of the message might still get through, but I carry angry words thrown my way around with me for years and that can overshadow what might be a legitimate point the hurler of words is trying to get across.
That said, I have been known to lose control from time to time with, looking back, kind of hilarious results. I remember one late-night/early morning fight with an ex that ended with him being so fed up he left the bed and went to sleep on the couch in what was in my mind an attempt to punish me. So I one-upped him by leaving the entire apartment and wandering around the streets in the snow to punish him. Except that, of course, he was warm and cozy on the couch while I was freezing my ass off. It probably cooled me down though.
Our other most memorable fight ended with me being so furious at not only whatever we were fighting about but the fact that he could barely keep his eyes open to listen to me rant about it that I leapt out of bed, ran into the hallway and hurled his drying Gi (jiu jitsu robe thingy) down the stairs.
That’s right, don’t mess with me or the laundry gets it!
So much for laying out my case in a calm, unaccusatory and rational manner.
Which makes me think, maybe sometimes it’s not so bad to go to bed angry after all.