Sometimes we fight. Like really fight. We have blow-ups packed with shouting and lots of my tears.
In the heat of the moment, embracing anger can be so satisfying and empowering. It’s so easy to slam doors and stew in separate rooms — especially after bombarding each other with grievances old and new.
Thankfully, these fights are few and far between. But they can hurt like a hangover for days on end.
They make it hard for me to look in the mirror. They make it hard for me to look at my spouse. They make me question my relationship, if I really am in love….worse yet, if I’m really loved.
They almost always play to script. Husband stays out late (so like midnight or so cuz we’re old) with friends. Wife is initially totally fine with the situation, being home and likely in bed. Then she starts to worry about drinking. Then she starts to worry about the time. Then she starts to get angry because it’s getting late and she hasn’t heard from Husband. The anger and fear build.
Husband eventually comes to bed, not suspecting anything. Wife finds some issue with the situation, a light left on, the toilet flushing, the wind in the trees. Wife makes a passive aggressive comment. Husband tries to ignore it, but Wife pushes.
Wife is upset, not about the drinking (ok maybe a little) or the time, but she doesn’t know that yet. All she knows is she is upset and now is the perfect time to voice it. She lets it all out.
Husband feels attacked. He goes into battle, unloading all the ammo he has been silently collecting.
Wife, not feeling acknowledged or heard, stands her ground. She should know to anticipate this defense, but she feels the ground pulled from under her. She tries to explain, tries to receive the response she is looking for, perhaps acknowledgment or sympathy or some magical unicorn of feeling this man has no chance of ever expressing.
At the climax, they reach the cliche “Go sleep in the guest room.” “Fine, I didn’t want to sleep here anyway.”
But here’s where the script changes. Wife used to go to sleep, aka lay awake and cry silently for hours, then wake up feeling distant and disengaged from the relationship. Husband would sleep and may or may not wake up feeling like the night’s events are basically resolved.
Now, Wife won’t go to bed angry. She didn’t want to start a fight, she just needed something. She knows she’s not always good at communicating, but she hopes talking about it will make things better.
Wife follows Husband to the guest room. Wife tries to listen, to understand. She hopes Husband will do the same. Wife and Husband slowly begin to realize they are both upset, but that neither party is the enemy.
Husband and Wife realize their actions are not malicious. That what is a perceived injustice is actually a mistake or ignorance or a projection of their own fear/anger.
Husband and Wife go to bed, together.
Wife is still upset when the alarm goes off, but she’s digesting her emotions, processing them slowly. Husband and Wife are sorry. They are tentative with each other. They know how fragile love and people really are. They start to make peace offerings. They start to forgive each other and themselves.