Stupid Things We Fight About

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Blog CK2In honor of our anniversary coming up this weekend, I thought I’d take a look at how far we’ve come.

One Saturday morning, when we had been married for about six months (maybe less), I decided I was going to get up and make breakfast. I figured the noise would wake Christian up and he could start his day with this beautiful gift of love I was making in the form of eggs, sausage, pancakes, I don’t know. Some big breakfast.

But he didn’t wake up. So when I got it all ready, I went in, sat down on the edge of the bed, and shook him awake, telling him I had breakfast ready for him. I think he grunted.

I went back into the kitchen and waited. And waited. And waited. And I got madder…and madder…and madder. Until, with my gift of love stone cold on the table, I stormed back into the room and we had a rip-roaring fight on a Saturday morning.

When I said you couldn’t pay me enough to go back to age twenty-five? This is what I’m thinking of.

Some disagreements, however, are much more long-standing. For instance:

Hoover

We have been married for seventeen years, and for the past twelve, I think, this has been our vacuum cleaner. And for the past eight, I think, it has not worked properly.

Specifically, it overheats and shuts down after it runs for about five minutes. You let it rest ten and then it’ll do another four. Rest another ten, and you get three more minutes of vacuuming time. You get the idea.

We had such conflict over this vacuum cleaner for so long. See, I grew up with a Kirby.

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Ours was the Brigadoon-themed one there in the middle. Image by Master of Telxons, via Flickr

It was deep red and very loud, but by golly that thing had sucking power. And it never stopped working. Ever. I might have hated vacuuming, but at least I knew I was going to get the darned job done in one pass.

I tried to convince Christian to buy a Kirby, but he put his foot down: “We are NOT spending a thousand dollars on a vacuum cleaner! This one is just fine! It just needs the filter cleaned.”

So he’s been cleaning and replacing filters and patching the cord and I don’t know what else—for eight years. Until finally, when my grandmother died, I got her 1970s-era Kirby. I asked Christian to replace the plug, because it was an honest-to-God fire hazard, with fibers sticking out and touching the tines. But now I am a happy woman.

Kirby

Note the tape around the bottom and the rope around the top. But gosh darn it, the thing WORKS.

And now, at last, we no longer fight about vacuum cleaners. We keep Grandma’s Kirby on the 2nd floor and use the (insert your own descriptor; you’ll just have to imagine mine) Hoover for the living room and basement. (Although I must say, when I cleaned the van earlier this summer, I had to go get the 1970s-era Kirby, because the Hoover bought in the 2000s wouldn’t run long enough to get the job done.)

So, your turn: what stupid things do you fight about?

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How To Fight

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We really don't take enough pictures together.

We really don’t take enough pictures together.

If my husband is upset, he cannot eat. But he can always, always sleep.

If I am upset, I can always eat. But I cannot sleep.

Therein lies the challenge for us in conflict resolution.

Before we got married we were required to attend Engaged Encounter. One of the resource couples that weekend laid out some “rules for fighting.” They included things like “hold hands” and “stick to the subject” (a tricky one, because human beings are notoriously inconsistent in the standards we hold for ourselves versus others, and I routinely get called down by my husband when I point out what I perceive as such) and, of course, the practical application of Ephesians 4:26: Don’t go to bed angry.

I think that rule is a stroke of brilliance. Except it doesn’t work. At least not for us.

The way I look at it, every marital disagreement takes the shape of a mountain. The climb gets steeper and more treacherous until you reach the summit, but once you get there it’s all downhill.

I would rather stay up until three in the morning and work over a disagreement from every angle until it’s resolved. But Christian is not built that way. As conflict escalates, he retreats. Shuts down. I’m more like the Energizer bunny. I just keep going…and going…and going. The harder I push, the worse we both feel.

Image via Wiki Commons

I have yet to master the art of going to sleep angry, but even I can see how smoothly and quickly our conflicts are resolved at 5:35 a.m., compared to trying to do it at 10:30 at night. I’ve only managed to make myself postpone the argument until morning once or twice. Those were not restful nights.

But then, neither is it a restful night when I try to force conflict resolution on my own terms. Even when we do try to haggle it out before bed, real resolution still doesn’t come until 5:35 a.m.

Fighting sucks.

The only real solution is to avoid getting into fights in the first place. That means a full-on, intentional commitment to communication–no easy thing. By the time we get to the end of the day, with work commitments done and lessons taught and Down syndrome or NFP conference calls finished and four kids to bed–well, by then we’re shot. We can’t even think what we ought to be talking about, much less summon the energy to do it. We’d rather just veg in front of the TV. Besides, there are all those red-sleeved DVDs coming in the mail. If we’re going to fork over all that dough on a monthly basis, by golly, we’re going to get our money’s worth.

But when we are taking time to talk to each other regularly–over lunch hour by phone, around the heads of the kids while preparing dinner, or on the couch after bedtime–we rarely fight. We still have conflicts, but we can resolve them calmly, like rational people who love each other and are willing to compromise for the good of the other.

It’s living parallel lives in the same house for weeks on end that leads to trouble. It’s far easier to slip into that habit than it is to establish a routine of making time for each other. But the payoff is worth it.

It reminds me of a paradoxical lesson I learned in grad school about playing the flute: if it’s hard to get a good sound, you’re doing something wrong–but in order to achieve that ease, you have to work harder.