I can honestly say I think the one remarkable factor that has kept my marital union chugging along for the past 16 years is the fact that we argue. And not the kind of arguments that result from long-held grudges, walking around with clenched teeth and fists, ruminating over things we're angry about. No, my husband and I fight in the moment (or at least I do and have convinced my husband he should too).
So last night, when he was going through the mail and I asked him a question- my husband (not one to multi-task) didn't answer. I thought that perhaps he hadn't heard me. But NO, he just plain IGNORED ME.
So I raised my voice and said, “You know I am really angry at how you ignore me when I ask you a question,” which of course led to a bit of a heated exchange and then three minutes later it was done. We both said our pieces with anger-laden voices (released it out there rather than walking around with it -or rather than me walking around with a pit in my stomach) and then it was done. The feelings were cleared, the anger lifted, and that was it.
And that is what I love about my marriage- that I can argue and that I don't have to walk around with grudges and resentment. I think it's what has kept us going and hopefully will continue to help us as we navigate this minefield of marriage because this whole living with someone is HARD!
Of course my husband- who was not raised in a home where he was encouraged to voice his frustrations and feelings has had a bit of a learning curve when it comes to fighting it out. But after 16 years, I think I'm finally getting him to understand and agree that getting it out as opposed to letting the anger fester inside and cause a cancer (okay I might be exaggerating just a bit on that one) is better than carrying around resentment baggage.
One thing my husband does agree with me on is the fact that arguing even within ear shot of our kids– not that we try to do that, but when and if it does happen–can actually teach them valuable lessons about dealing with their feelings, communicating their needs and not internalizing and harboring negativity. When my husband and I argue we try to do so in such a way that we are not screaming and yelling at one another. Rather we are expressing our anger in as productive a way as possible to communicate and let the other one know what we need to work on as both individuals and as a couple. While it may initially be uncomfortable for our kids to hear us raise our voices to one another, I hope what my kids glean from these experiences is that fighting can be constructive and a useful tool for communication, if done in a non-threatening fashion. I also believe fighting in front of my kids teaches them that no relationship is perfect, a marriage requires work and that ultimately even spouses who love each other need -at times-to appropriately vent their frustrations.
What do you think–is fighting in front of your kids good or bad?