Sunday, May 13, 2007

Argue, If You Must, But Don't Fight

My second wedding anniversary is coming up in a week and some change. It's -really- hard to believe that i even got married in the first place, let alone that it's already been two years. Time really does fly when you're having fun, and i'm having a -blast-.

So, with that milestone coming up, naturally relationship success is on my mind. What makes this one different from the other ones? What are the necessary ingredients for the survival of a good, happy, long-term relationship with another person?

Well, to answer my first question i'd have to compare my marriage to past relationships, and i really don't like to do that. I respect all of my relationships for the experience they've given me, the person they've helped shape me into, and for helping me understand what it is i really want from a person. Above all, i respect them for helping prepare me for the real thing.

So on to the second question. I believe the list is short, but essential: Honesty, trust, forgiveness, communication, compatibility and of course, love. I don't think any relationship can be complete or happy if even one of these is missing. I guess i'll start from the back of the list, since it's the easiest one to talk about.

Love. Well, that's kind of self-explanatory.

Compatibility. Everyone's heard the phrase 'Opposites attract'. This is true, i suppose, to some degree, but you seldom hear about opposites still being together after 25 years. Long term relationships can be hard enough at times without throwing lack of things in common into the mix. Without some degree of common interest, it's easy to stop doing things together and grow apart. Without some degree of common belief, priorities, values, or views on issues, the playful debates can eventually become bitter fighting. I'm not saying two people have to agree on everything in order to stay together, but I really believe there's only so much oppositeness a relationship can handle. Having similar interests and similar core values really makes things a whole lot easier.

Communication. When things are going well, communication is the easiest thing in the world. It's when things aren't going so well, just talking to (and knowing how to talk to) your partner becomes more difficult than you'd ever imagined. I've found that arguing with your partner is inevitable, but fighting is always a bad idea. When you're upset or angry with your partner, it's REALLY hard to tell that person what's wrong without lashing out at them or pointing fingers. It is absolutely vital to understand that some things can't be taken back once said, and how hard it is to heal from that kind of wound. It's even more important to be able to keep that in the back of your mind while you're arguing. Being able to walk away from a person and tell them you can't talk to them right now, and continuing the arguement once the heads have cooled is one of the most difficult skills i've had to acquire. The other is getting over the need to win or be right. Instead of trying to be right, try to get them to understand where you're coming from (keep in mind, this isn't an easy thing to do in the middle of an arguement; expect some resistance, but be patient and keep trying). Return the favour: try to understand what your partner is trying to say. Even if you don't agree with what your parter is saying, it's really hard to fight about something you've truly made the effort to understand. At the end of the day, your relationship has to be more important to you than being right or winning.

Honesty and trust are impossible to separate. You can't have trust without being honest with each other. If you aren't honest with your partner, it'll always come back to bite you in the ass sometime down the line. If you've fucked up, just come out and tell him/her. Trust is a difficult thing to regain once it's been lost, and can be a terrible source of frustration for the person trying to regain it. Inevitably, the person who isn't honest (and gets caught) thinks they've done enough to regain the trust, while the offended person may not agree. They may not understand that the offended person isn't trying to make them suffer or jump through hoops, that it's just that hard to believe what someone's saying once they've lied. Not being trusted hurts and is (for lack of a better word) really inconvenient. Telling the truth and being honest aren't always easy, but they're always easier than trying to make someone believe you're telling the truth and being honest.

Finally, there's forgiveness (i jumped a little out of order..sorry for that). Understand that nobody is perfect, and your partner is going to make mistakes, and sometimes those mistakes are going to hurt. You are going to make mistakes, and sometimes, those mistakes are going to hurt your partner. Lick your wounds for a minute if you have to, it's a natural thing to want to do. Then get over it. Don't hold those mistakes and hurts over your partner's head... you already know you don't want them to do that to you. Chances are, your partner is already hurting knowing that they've hurt you, and being forgiven will help you both to heal. Don't just say the words. Mean it.

Well! That turned out to be a lot longer (and more than a little lecture-ish) than i intended. Anyway, Jim and i have been together for five years, and married for almost two. I feel we have a healthy mix of love, honesty, trust, forgiveness, communication and compatibility. While things haven't always been easy for us, the effort we've both put into (and continue to put into) the care and nurturing of our relationship and each other has carried us past rocky times and brought us a lot of happiness. I feel this relationship is going to be there to comfort us when we're old. I think we're going to look back on big arguements we've had and laugh at how big we thought they were at the time. I have faith in our love and its strength; I believe it will grow with us. I am happy in my marriage and with my husband. I love you, Jim.