Sunday, March 16, 2014

No Fighting: A Marriage Vow

When I was a teenager, my Bishop told me he and his wife didn't fight. I was close to their family and knew them well.  I knew this wasn't a case of one spouse being submissive to the other.  I understood this was a choice.  I wanted a relationship like that; where I could be free to express my feelings without the other person blowing up at me.

I was 19 when my mother gave me this advice.  The only good fight in a marriage is the fight to keep it together.  Back then I understood "fight" as in "work hard" to keep your marriage together.  But now I find deeper meaning.  "The fight to keep it together" as in resisting the urge to blow up or get defensive - "fighting" to keep my emotions in check, to "keep it together."

I posted this on Facebook this morning: A little over 2 years ago I found a man who could make me laugh without trying, calmed me without shushing me, made my heart leap and my eyes sparkle, understood my jokes without me having to explain, who didn't ask me to be anything but my authentic truest self, and who loved me enough to do anything to keep me.  We built our relationship on a solid foundation of friendship, love, and trust, with a belief in open communication and an agreement to always give each other the benefit of the doubt.  One year ago today, I married that man.  I told him I would love him "forever & always" and I still do.  Happy Anniversary Eric!  I love you!!!

When I met Eric in January 2012, we flirted and had fun together.  We approached our affiliation as something for fun, nothing either of us wanted to get serious about.  In a matter of weeks I knew I wanted more.  5 months in, I knew I loved him, and 6 months in, he told me he loved me. And while all of the aforementioned affirmations are true, we didn't rush to an engagement.  There were issues in his past relationships that led him to be cautious.  I knew if I wanted to have a chance at marrying him, I had to be patient and go at his pace.  Looking back, this was a good thing for us.  It gave us the opportunity to continue the friendship aspect and build a solid foundation.  I didn't want to give him any reason to call it all off, so I became more aware of myself and filtered A.LOT.

I don't mean to say that I suppressed myself or my feelings.  I simply chose my words with more clarity.  I would actually think things through before saying them. If something was bugging me (which didn't happen too often), I could usually work it out in my mind without having to say anything at all, mostly by giving him the benefit of the doubt.  When I examined the evidence of his intent, it was hard to find fault.  Most of the time, if something was amiss, it was either he was tired or I was, or perhaps one of us was having a bad day and forgot to check it at the door.

If there was something I could not let go of, instead of allowing myself to feel hurt or trampled, I would ask him about it.  He did the same for me.  He gave me the benefit of the doubt and examined the evidence of my intent.  Once he made the comment, "I love how we never fight."  Only then did I learn that he too had known someone who never fought with his wife, and wanted that sort of relationship for himself.

Giving the benefit of the doubt, no doubt gives benefits in any relationship.   Giving someone the benefit of the doubt is different than making excuses for them.  It is not the same thing as being submissive or enabling the other person to treat you with disrespect.  Giving the benefit of the doubt doesn't mean ignoring issues which are toxic to the relationship either.  It simply means not jumping to conclusions. Step back, take the drama out of your initial "fight or flight" response and ask yourself what is really going on here?  And then trust your gut.  When I found time and time again, he had no motives or hidden agenda, that he wasn't trying to pick a fight, etc., I knew we could have the kind of relationship we've always wanted.

A few weeks shy of his proposal to me, Eric asked, "What happens if we decide to get married and then we disagree on something, or something happens you don't like - then what?"  He wanted to know I was in it to the end, I wouldn't just throw in the towel and run off.  I told him I don't think it would even be an issue.  Look at how we already communicate, how we already deal with conflict.  We have laid a healthy foundation for our future. We will deal with things like we do now.  We will talk and listen without judgment and we will be quick to apologize when one of us acts stupid, and we will always love each other, because that is what we already do. This has become our pattern.

And it's true.  This is how things have continued.  We do not fight.  Sure, there are times when one of us might get our knickers in a twist.  But the other one knows to stand down.  And because there isn't a knee-jerk reaction leading to a fight, stupidity is rapidly owned and apologized for.  We talk through a lot of things and I for one haven't regretted that.  I've heard some people say couples should argue to strengthen their relationship.  I don't buy that.  I think it's okay for couples to disagree, but they can do so without having to hurt or offend.  I've been in a relationship with fighting before.  It did nothing to strengthen it.  Toxicity bred more toxicity, until the whole thing was poisoned and irreconcilable.

I love my marriage.  I love my husband.  I love that we do not fight and I love that we never plan to.

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