In marriage there are no manners to keep up, and beneath the wildest accusations no real criticism. Each is familiar with that ancient child in the other who may erupt again.... We are not ridiculous to ourselves. We are ageless. That is the luxury of the wedding ring.
Enid Bagnold, 1969
Yesterday I started talking about some of the challenges of our married life, and lessons learned. The first lesson was about having realistic expectations, and about the importance of viewing ourselves as on the same team. Today I am sharing how I learned to fight fair.
After the first few months of dating, most of our courtship was long distance; but talking to the Captain on the phone for an hour a night over the course of a year told me much of what I needed to know: he had the character I wanted in a mate. The rest would work itself out.
The nice thing about this arrangement was that I entered marriage with very few expectations about behavior or habits. Most of the surprises quickly became humorous moments. See posts from earlier this week for details.
One important habit we did not practice while dating, was how to fight. We had our first fight four months into our marriage, and it sprang out of playtime. Like all of our first three fights, which occurred during the first six years of our marriage, it was such a dumb little thing, not really worth making it a "hill to die on."
We were taking a shower together, as young married couples frequently do. I accidentally bumped him into the cold tile wall of the shower. He bristled, so I playfully pushed harder. In response, he held me under the shower spray and turned off the hot water. Or maybe it happened the other way around, I don't remember anymore. What I do remember is that I felt shocked and betrayed. He was furious, and left to take a shower in the other bathroom.
In three seconds, our playful moment had escalated into warfare. What just happened?
I fixed the temperature of the shower spray, then stood under it and cried. The whole thing was completely blown out of proportion in my mind. Our perfect relationship was shattered. I was a failure as a wife. He had rejected me by leaving the scene of the crime.
Five minutes later, he quietly returned. Swallowing his pride and probable innocence, he apologized for having overreacted, for having been a jerk, for simply being wrong. HE was apologizing to ME! He concluded with, "Besides, there was a silverfish in that other shower, and I'd like to come back to this one."
What did I learn from this about how to fight? Humility, honesty and a dash of humor go a long way toward bringing two friends back together again.
If you live to be a hundred, I want
To live to be a hundred minus one day,
So I never have to live without you.
Winnie the Pooh
Come back tomorrow to read about the one simple rule that has greatly blessed our marriage.