Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Arguing Is Healthy

Today marks two years with this crazy husband of mine. We've driven at least 5000 miles. We've lived in four different homes. We've obtained two very different pets (guinea pig and parrot: same size brain, completely different IQ levels). We've watched at least a dozen sci-fi shows from start to finish.

We laugh about the stupid fights we had in the beginning, two years ago. One of our worst was a completely philosophical argument about state education, fee hikes, and student loans. We also had a meltdown in Ikea over lamps. Turns out our luminescent decorating styles are completely different and, ya know, that's worth crying over.

You can see why we laugh.

We've gotten over those things, learned we're different people, and nowadays expect to be at odds over some things. We surrendered to the chaos that is two different people making one life together. I gave up having the house spick-and-span every moment, and he gave up jurisdiction over what goes on the walls.

The other day he thanked me for doing the dishes. It dawned on me that in the beginning of our marriage, he didn't thank me for things I did around the house. Now, he does at least 40% of the chores around here, but I still do 60% and one of my love languages is Words of Affirmation. I asked him if he could start thanking me when I do things for him, because it helps me feel like his wife, not a maid.

He agreed. But, of course, it didn't become habit over night. Off and on he would remember to thank me. I eventually realized he wouldn't--probably couldn't--change, and got used to it. Simultaneously, he was slowly changing. Two years later, not only does he thank me automatically, but I don't expect it and thus am all the more grateful when he does.

Loving each other is still something we have to work on, but at least we've learned a lot of what works and what doesn't. Surrender and acceptance come more easily these days. Even though we both like arguing, we've learned how to play nice and still love each other before, during, and after. That's probably the most important thing we've learned yet.

Arguing and wrestling over things is a natural part of any long-term relationship. For us, it became more pronounced when we got married. Long before we started dating, we lived in the same apartment complex, less than 100 yards from each other. Throughout our relationship, we washed cars and got groceries together. We started combining our finances months before the wedding.

It wasn't any of those Two-Lives-Coming-Together things that made us argue more: it was the commitment. The vow made us trust each other more. Both our parents are still together, so we don't have as much cynicism about marriage as a lot of our generation does. When we promised forever, we believed each other--believed that the other person really would keep working at it without bailing no matter how hard it got.

Consequently, we felt more at ease. The other person couldn't break up with us or leave us for being our true self. We didn't have to be on best behavior. Not that we consciously were holding back before--not at all! The vow made us more real with each other in a way we didn't realize we could be.

So we argued. A lot. We had the security of the vow and knew that the other person wouldn't leave just because we insisted that is the ugliest couch I've ever seen and I demand that we get rid of it.

I like healthy arguments. I like that we know how to play fair, how to struggle, how to listen, how to communicate without blaming. These are all things we learned from hashing out our disagreements. We wouldn't know how to communicate the tough stuff if it weren't for the fact that we were the tough stuff.

Marriage is both hard and easy. Ultimately, it's no different from anything else in life. Getting a new job, starting a new relationship, moving to a new place: all of these involve lots of change. They involve struggle, accomplishment, hardship, and joy. Marriage isn't this big thing we make it out to be, but it's also not nothing. It's...life. With someone else. It's special because it's nothing special.

Despite the arguments and meltdowns--partially because of them--I'm happy with the last two years. I'm looking forward to the rest of the years ahead. Like anything else in life, I don't know if they'll be good or bad. I can only affect how I'll react to them. Knowing me, with arguments, stubbornness, and commitment.

Love you, hubs.


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