Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Happiness is fighting without regrets

Every couple fights. I don't care how compatible or idyllic, sooner or later there will be a disagreement. I learned over this weekend that the most important thing for me to remember is to avoid saying or doing something in a fight that I'll regret later.

That was my goal on Sunday morning when JD came in and (I thought) started laying down ultimatums as to how I should behave in public. I was confused, hurt and angry, but held onto that "no regrettable words or actions" rule. Unfortunately, I had NO reactions to what he'd said that didn't involve hurting him back as badly as I could. So instead of replying at all, I asked him to give me time and space to think about some things. Of course at that point it was his decision to walk away or demand an immediate answer. He made the absolute right decision and gave me the space I needed.

This was big, so I took two days. Silence reigned in the house and I stayed icily polite while I worked things through in my head, ran through the high emotions, and arrived at a place where I could firmly lay down my own boundaries without anger.

Of course at that point I found out that I had COMPLETELY misunderstood what he had originally said. There were no ultimatums. He wasn't trying to change me at all.

Now part of me thinks I wasted two days of our relationship by agonizing over something that could have been resolved immediately by asking for clarification. On the other hand, if we two very upset people had tried to resolve anything in that moment, it would have never happened. I would have been yelling and crying and verbally slicing him open, he would have defended himself by cutting back, and it would have dealt our relationship a serious blow that would linger over every future disagreement we ever had.
Instead we had a very short, calm discussion in which we could actually laugh at the misunderstanding, and ended up strengthening our relationship.

I can't ever claim to be always rational by any stretch of the imagination. I'm frequently (and unfortunately) mean and snarky, and very well able to do real harm with my words. It's been the destruction of a few friendships in my life when my cutting remarks turned a normal fight into a relationship-killer. I think, though, that trying to be mindful of the long-term effects of my words and actions in a highly emotional situation will end up being the saving grace of my relationships. I can't take back words and actions, and apologising never erases.

On the flip side, when I'm upset and express it or ask for something to change, it can be really frustrating to wait for an answer. If it's important to me, I want to know NOW. I have to remember the example JD set this weekend. Giving the person time and space can mean that I will get a more reasoned, well-considered answer instead of a kneejerk reaction. If the person gives their response plenty of thought, I don't feel like I have to argue by listing points they might not have considered. It's hard of course, but I think I'll have better relationships for it.

Currently Reading:
Tom Jones, by Henry Fielding
A History of Pagan Europe by Prudence Jones

New Random Interest Links Added:
Passive Aggressive

University of Pennsylvania Happiness questionnaires

New Quotes Added:
"Do you really think ... that it is weakness that yields to temptation? I tell you that there are terrible temptations that it requires strength, strength and courage, to yield to. To stake all one's life on a single moment, to risk everything on one throw, whether the stake be power or pleasure, I care not -- there is no weakness in that."
OSCAR WILDE, An Ideal Husband

“The best way out is always through.”
-Robert Frost

“I have come to the frightening conclusion that I am the decisive element. It is my personal approach that creates the climate. It is my daily mood that makes the weather.”

"It is a common mistake on the part of cooler, self-contained natures to assume that those who have a giving and ebullient character are what they are only because they cannot help it—that they are fed from a spring that will never stop rather than a reservoir that can be exhausted. Hence the feeling of stark disbelief or unpleasant shock on the part of others when the reservoir of effort and energy—for it turns out to be a reservoir—is almost gone….the principal reward for those who give lavishly rather than meagerly is the expectation that they remain true to form and continue to give."
 - W. Jackson Bate

“Everything turns out to be valuable that one does for one’s self without thought of profit.”
-Marguerite Yourcenar

"Now and then it's good to pause in our pursuit of happiness and just be happy."
- Guillaume Apollinaire

“We are never so much disposed to quarrel with others as when we are dissatisfied with ourselves.”
- William Hazlitt

1 comment:

JennyRose said...

You may have lost a few days but you avoided a huge problem due to a misunderstanding. I think what happened between you is very positive and will just make your relationship stronger. You also can't undo the good stuff you learn.

I hate when my husband I argue. I know it happens but when it happens I have a hard time accepting it. It always fees wrong. Once we arguing and he said some things that were untrue and accusatory. I argued in my head with him all day, even when I was at yoga. I was ready and when I got home I told him in a firm, calm voice that I didn't do the things he said and that he owed me an apology. His response was that I was right and he was wrong. It was kind of a let down and I wasted the morning arguing with him in my head. Of course, I always win arguments in my head. The people I argue with say such silly things and are always ultimately impressed by my analysis.