Do you fight a lot with your spouse or significant other? There’s one simple way to stop fights from defining your relationship: respect.
You Can’t Stop All the Fights, but You Can Stop Fights From Defining Your Relationship
A personal story
“I’m going to the grocery store so we can actually have supper,” I told The Hubby in a huff. I slammed the door on my way out. The cause of our fight? A discussion over what to eat. It was a stupid thing to fight over, but I was getting hungry and was out of ideas for meals to make. Instead of helping me, The Hubby responded to me with his signature sarcasm one too many times. I was hungry, he was hungry, and we didn’t have any Snicker bars to turn us back into our usual selves.
At the grocery store, I grabbed the missing ingredients for whatever meal my brain had settled on making. I was almost through when I spotted the green 2-Liter. To me, the soda tastes like poison. “The Hubby said he wanted Mountain Dew earlier today,” I thought. I was torn between spite and being nice. I hovered in front of the soda aisle. “Not buying a soda is a stupid revenge.” Still angry with The Hubby – in some ways even angrier with the idea of giving him a special treat – I put the 2-Liter in the cart with the other groceries.
In the time that it took me to check out, the heavens opened up and a deluge of water came pouring down. It was as if a waterfall had opened up, or as if we were facing a miniature version of Noah’s Flood. The rain only got heavier during my two minute drive home. I pulled up as close as I could get to our front porch, cut off the engine, and just sat there. I had no way to get back in without all of my clothes being soaked.
Suddenly, the door opened and out walked my hero with an umbrella. At the moment I had two thoughts:
- This is embarrassing after leaving in a huff.
- It’s like the old lovers comic that gets passed around Facebook.
Once we had the groceries and ourselves back inside, there was an awkward pause. “You got me Mountain Dew!” The Hubby said.
Even in Fights, You Can Choose Respect
While the dinner-time argument is our funniest fight, it helped me realize something big. We were already pretty good about not taking our fights outside of the walls of our home. So good, in fact, that our college friends didn’t realize that we were upset with each other in an unresolved argument right before meeting up with them on campus one day. The reason why we could do this is because – no matter how ticked we might have been at each other – we didn’t want to tear the other one down in front of everybody else.
Put simply, we still retained respect for each other even in the middle of our disagreement.
The dinner-time argument highlighted the fact that keeping that respect for the other was a personal choice. I could have chosen to be vindictive by not purchasing the Mountain Dew, but underneath that choice would have been the idea: you don’t deserve anything. He could have smugly waited for me to come sloshing in all soggy, but that would have been saying: I’m not going to help you.
Choosing anything else in that moment would have allowed our temporary anger to redefine our relationship. Respect would be withheld from anger; unconditional love would have proven to be conditional. In that instance, we would go from teammates to a “you vs. me” philosophy. And that whole philosophy leads to a slew of nasty words and insults that cannot be retracted.
Sure, you can apologize. You can make-up. At the same time, you can never change the fact that you lost sight of who your Significant Other is when you were in the middle of your anger. And really, how many times do you have to temporarily lose respect for somebody before it becomes a permanent effect?
Fighting Doesn’t Have to Be Personal
As I watched water drip off the umbrella onto our kitchen floor, I felt ashamed for more than leaving in a huff. Memories of another fight – a much worse one where I lost my mind and lambasted The Hubby with insults – flooded my mind. The things I called him that day stood in stark contrast to the young man who waited with umbrella in hand for his wife to come home. Had he changed?
Through both fights and the intervening months, he remained the same man. This was the man who always stood up for what he felt was right, who changed his life’s direction to follow God’s calling, and the man who made me smile almost every day of the year. Even when I made the choice to cave to my wrathful desire to hurt him, I knew that nothing about that argument had to be personal. I made it that way by attacking his character instead of addressing the underlying issue behind my hurt.
Now, whenever things get tense between us (which is thankfully not that often), I think about raindrops on an umbrella. I may still feel anger or irritation, but I also remember what a great man I have. I also remember that I always have a choice in what I say or do in the midst of the fight.