Fight Or Flight
Marriage is hard.
The list of things my husband, Jason, and I have fought about in the last month includes: Christmas, a look I gave him at dinner, religion, the laundry, whether or not the pork was cooked, Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, parking, and his “tone.”
I hate fighting. Like any good Midwesterner, I prefer to shove everything deep down inside and never talk about it again until one day I passively aggressively give him the smaller piece of chicken.
My husband is just the opposite. He believes arguing airs out our grievances and helps us remain open and honest with each other.
Last week, I found out I wasn’t pregnant (again) and let’s just say I didn’t handle it well. There were tears. There was wine. There was googling of things like, “How can you tell when you’re barren?”
Jason was kind and loving and sweet. But somehow emotions were stirred and a loving talk about staying positive turned into a full-blown fight.
By the end of the night, we went to bed angry. Yes, we broke the cardinal rule of marriage. Jason wanted us to apologize five minutes after our argument ended but I was too stubborn.
I just don’t get over things as fast as he does.
Jason’s anger is like a firework – it’s dazzling and over in a second. I’m more like hot coals. I might not look like much, but I can permanently damage the feelings in your fingertips.
The next morning, Jason left for a work trip and although he tried again to talk about our fight, I just wasn’t ready. I stewed over it on my commute, all day at work, and that night at drinks with my friend.
I thought about all the things I should have said, all the excellent counter-arguments I could think of now. If Jason was going to force me to fight with him then dammit, I was going to make him pay. I had points – so many good points – and I was going to win this fight.
Jason and I are different in a lot of ways and mostly, that’s a good thing. But this, this has been the most difficult struggle of our marriage.
Our idea of what “healthy” means is completely different. We have been married for a year and half now and slowly, slowly he is learning to say a little bit less and I’m learning to say a little bit more.
That night, I lay in bed alone, exhausted from thinking about it. What was the point of all this stress? All this turning and thinking and point making. I knew I was angry but…why, again?
After lying awake for hours, I decided to pull out a book Jason and I exchanged at our wedding. They are small, “fill-in-the-blanks” books on what we love about each other. We read them out loud on our honeymoon and it was one of the happiest moments of the trip. I hadn’t looked at it since.
I opened it and read a few pages.
“Number 40: I love the feel of… your head on my shoulder.”
Well, that’s nice, I thought.
“Number 13: “I wish I had known you when…I’m glad I know you now.”
I smiled a little at that one.
“Number 11: It’s hard to put into words how strongly I feel about your… dirty car floor.”
Despite myself, I laughed.
“Number 50: I am so…grateful…that I…found you.
Ughhhhhhhh. I felt myself completely cracking. Here was someone who loved me tremendous amounts and I’m still hanging on to a fight I can barely remember?
The whole idea felt so stupid. What was the point of holding on to my anger? I’m not going to leave him. I’m not going to make him pay forever (despite what I threaten.)
The next day, Jason came home from his job and I was ready with my apology, my forgiveness, and my open heart. I promised to try harder and so did he.
That night at dinner, we sat down refreshed and ready to move past it.
“It’s such a relief to move on,” I told him as I passed him the smaller piece of chicken.
This piece was originally written for the Fargo Forum. You can find them (and me) here.
Photo by The Image Is Found