Them’s Fightin’ Words

Every couple fights. It’s inevitable. When you are around someone that much, you are going to have disagreements. Or worse, you are going to have fights. Couples that have been together 20 plus years smile at the fights of new couples. Young couples just can’t seem to see the forest for the trees. Like us. Ultimately, however, the fights are going to happen. If done right, we think they need to happen. The problem is BOTC rarely fights right. Or fair for that matter. Here’s a glimpse into the fights that happen on The Couch. Most likely, one of many glimpses.

She Says: Socializing vs. Drinking vs. Arguing: Our Nights in a Nutshell With A Moral

Let me preface this entry with a few simple facts. My husband and I like to socialize. My husband and I like to drink when we socialize. My husband and I will get into an argument 9 times out of 10 when we drink. Therefore, almost every time we’re socializing, we end up disagreeing if not all out fighting about something.

After dating for close to 5 years and married for approximately 2 ½, I can say that I think we might have finally learned to better manage this issue of socializing vs. drinking vs. arguing. Yes, it took roughing it through the following drunk debacles – ending with the most recent event we’ll get to shortly – for the light bulb to not only flicker on, but crack us over our immature heads in an “ah ha” moment:

Exhibit A:

The first time I went back to Minnesota for an in-law visit one winter, my husband managed to win a bicycle – yes, a whole bike – in a neighborhood bar’s “Big Bike Give Away” (or something equally lame). In celebration, said husband got obliterated. In this fine form, he proclaims that he is riding his new bike all the way to his parent’s house where we were staying. He also instructs me to drive, solo and in a random town I don’t know, the Buick we took down to the bar earlier that night.

Everyone leaves the bar. I assume my loving husband will wait a minute to give me directions home. But alas, as I walk out of the bar, he has already sped off onto the snow speckled highway.  Oh, and for some reason, he decides that night is not the night to pick up his phone when I call.

Alone, cold, and pissed as all hell, I hop in the Buick and take off imagining that that night might be the night God performs a modern miracle and lights the path back to my in-laws’ house. Not so much … that night He had a sense of humor and, 15 minutes into my random drive, lights a path to my idiot husband swerving up a road on his brand new bike. Lucky me.

You can only guess how this story ends.

Exhibit B:

The T-Room, a local University of Portland bar, saw a lot of me in the four years I attended undergrad. Yes, she saw me dance on top of her tables in embarrassingly short skirts. She let me lay across the handicapped bathroom stall as I purged myself of her incredibly strong mixed drinks. And she fed me the most amazing breakfasts the mornings I thought I wasn’t going to live another second with “a hangover like that.”

She, however, had never seen my wrath quite as malicious as the nights I appeared with my husband slash then boyfriend. The night she, nor my husband or I, will ever forget was the night I walked into the bar with a friend. As I sat chatting with, oh lets call him Johnny, I randomly spy then boyfriend across the bar leaning against a table. And leaning conveniently against him, chest to chest, was a dirty skeezer he’d had a slight fling with while studying abroad.  Oh, and their faces were mere inches apart.

Suddenly my vision of the room fishbowled, zoning in on this hideous scene. I hear Jonny saying “it’s okay … he’s just talking to her … no need to get so mad … blah, blah, blah, blah.” I stand. I target. I walk. As I approach the former lovebirds, I notice that their hands, his right and her left, are both in the purse slung over her left shoulder. So what do I do? I grab that damn handbag and throw it across the bar. Shocked – I’m not sure from being busted or from how good my arm was – my husband pushes away from aforementioned dirty skeezer and faces me to inquire “what are you doing?”

“What am I doing?” I rebut.

You can only guess how this story ends.

Fast forward to Exhibit C:

This last Halloween, my husband decides that he is going to invite a young lady out with us whom we both met while she was waitressing at a local watering hole. And when I say young, I mean 21. She agrees and brings a date.

This date is already eying my husband up and down from the second he walks in the door. I assume it’s because my husbands costume includes a dirty wig, pleated khaki pants, and a cabbage patch doll in a sling. I was wrong. Moments later, I find out it’s because this pretty young thing has told her date that my husband has hit on her but that for some reason I must not care because we keep inviting her out places. Good start to the night for me.

So I drink. And I humor her. And I glare at my husband. And I drink.

And my husband has no idea that I am building up this ammunition to fire at the slightest wrong move he makes. Lucky for him, he just keeps drinking. And dancing in his goofy pleated pants. And drinking. And dapping hands with a few basketball buddies he invited. And drinking.

At the end of the night, we’re both three sheets to the wind and I give him the skinny on the sequence of events I’ve watched unfold.

You can only guess how this story ends …

Actually, on this one, we don’t fight. I don’t act like an insane priss and storm off. He doesn’t pretend like he wasn’t doing anything wrong and that I’m irrational. We leave the issue alone after I told him what happened. Then we go on enjoying our friends and each others company for the remainder of the evening.

I will say, the next day did entail a few under handed comments from me, which were immediately followed by eye rolls and comments about his innocence. But ultimately, we waited until lunch hour on Monday to really talk. And it was by far the most productive lunch meeting I think I’ve had in my marriage career. As ridiculous as it sounds, we were both perfectly calm and able to talk about issues we’ve had with each other around other people – particularly of the opposite sex. We both made an effort to listen. We both made an effort to be honest and concise about issues when we talked. Since, we’ve both admitted that through that lunch hour, we’ve made huge realizations about each others behavior.

All in all, I joke about exhibits (and believe me, the list goes far beyond Exhbit Z … but that’s for another post), but in the end, what I got out of the whole instance is this: Do not discuss high stress problems in high stress environments. Wait until you’re alone, in logical mindsets, are prepared to be brutally honest, and to receive brutal honesty in return.

So long to fighting under the influence. Although I can’t swear off chucking a purse or two from time to time.

He Says: We Need To Talk

The four most dreaded words to a man in any relationship: We Need to Talk. They are demoralizing and defeating at the same time. It doesn’t matter if the moment before those terrible words the relationship is on Cloud 9 or immersed in Phlegethon in the outer ring of the Seventh Circle. Those seemingly insignificant words are chock full of meaning. Maybe it’s the word “talk” that scares us men. Maybe the word “need”—a condition or situation in which something is required or wanted—is what we fear. No matter what it is, when women say those words of discomfiture, only one thing goes through the minds of men. As the all too hilarious comedian Dave Chapelle put it, all we men think is “Fu-!” I’ll  let you finish the thought yourself. The odd thing, though, is that I think this thought runs through men’s minds even if they are the ones that have to initiate the “We Need To Talk” conversation.

Maybe women are the same way and hate these talks as well. But I suspect otherwise. I have a sneaking suspicion that my wife loves saying those words. I have a niggling belief that women relish in the opportunity to put us men in our respective places. I realize that we men usually deserve it because of our constant stupidity, but women don’t understand the difficult blood-flow management that is required to maintain both heads with maximum efficiency. While women seem to love these talks, us men can’t stand them. Even when we are the driver of the We Need To Talk talk. We’ll try to find any way out of it. So she screamed expletives at me for thirty minutes for accidentally dropping my dirty fork on the carpet. We’re cuddlin’ up for a movie now. It’s water under the bridge.

I had one of these moments last week. It was horrible. I knew my wife and I had to talk, but I tried to think of every way around it. I couldn’t sleep all night because I was trying to talk myself out of it. “It’s really not that big of a deal,” I told myself. “You’re over over-reacting. So there’s six different things that have been really eating at you. So what? Just get a good night’s rest and pretend they never happened.” The problem was, I couldn’t. The next day these things we’re still really eating at me. I knew my wife and I had to talk about them. We had to address them for our relationship. Don’t get me wrong, these were very small, menial problems. In fact, they weren’t even problems. But they still had to be out in the open. As much for me being able to share my own current concerns with these issues as it was for my wife to know that they existed (and vice versa).

Well, the next day, after a mostly sleepless night, I was still trying to talk myself out of having the conversation. Early in the workday, we agreed to have lunch later that day. The next three hours I battled internally about whether I would “ruin” our lunch. I walked to lunch and John Kerry-ed the entire way. I got us a table for two and agonized about my next move while I waited for my lovely life companion to arrive. I think most men that truly care about the success of the relationship they are in go through he same pain. Maybe not to the same extent, but in all probability they try to avoid initiating the We Need To Talk discussion. What kind of sadist would enjoy being the initiator of that talk? Right men? To make my avoidance issues worse, my wonderful counterpart is a very strong and opinionated woman of Italian descent.  I knew anything I said at lunch would be thrown back in my face. I knew she would make me realize that I have acted in ways far more deserving of this talk than her. I knew I was in trouble. But I knew we had to have this talk.

The thing is, none of that happened. My wife hardly said a word in objection. There was never one “Yea but…” or “C’mon!” or “Well what about…” Not one. In fact, my better half was silently compassionate. And I’m sure it wasn’t because she agreed with everything I was saying. The things I wanted to discuss were really not that big of a deal. She could have easily put me in my place, but didn’t. And you know what? The lunch was incredibly humbling. Not for her. For me. Here I was bringing up these issues that were miniscule in the grand scheme of building a life with another person and my wife didn’t protest in the least. She simply listened, looked across the table, and said, “I understand. I’ll work on it.” Any anger or hurt I had melted away. Every word I had just said seemed ephemeral.  I spent the entire walk back to my office not thinking about our conversation, but thinking about ways I could better love my other half. My wife’s compassion left me unable to focus on anything other than my own shortcomings and how I could be a better husband.

Now maybe that was her plan all along. She is a very intelligent, plotting woman and I wouldn’t put it past her. In the midst of an argument, I’ve seen her flip the script on me so fast that I didn’t know which way was up. But even if it was her plan, how can compassion be a bad plan? It made me realize that I could use more compassion in my life. In every aspect of my life. Couldn’t we all? The epitome of compassion in our lifetimes, Mother Teresa, once said, “Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier. Be the living expression of kindness: kindness in your face, kindness in your eyes, kindness in your smile.” My wife took a page out of Mother Teresa’s book. I should do the same. We all should.

2 responses to “Them’s Fightin’ Words

  1. Oh BOTC. Thank you for this post. I think we can all use a reminder to be humble in our relationships and fight fair. It only makes things better in the long run. And the “we need to talk” talks are just as bad for women. Those are dreaded words. love you guys!!!

  2. This is a great post. I feel like I’m getting better prepared for when I find my better half.

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