I’m always surprised when I hear couples say they only have those “normal” fights every couple has—the ones in which there is plenty of screaming, and mild to moderate insults, that is, when it doesn’t devolve into shoving or worse. There are multiple reasons for these arguments, but they’re almost always about jealousy, money issues or differences of opinion on mostly irrelevant subjects. Basically, couples fight over things that maybe should be talked about, negotiated and politely discussed while truly attempting to understand one another’s views.
Why is it so hard to be considerate and polite precisely to the person who, as a rule, you love the most? Why are differences of opinion so insulting? Because the first reaction to a disagreement is a feeling of betrayal, “if you’re not with me, you’re my enemy.” It’s an absurd proposition, especially in this day and age in which women and men receive the same education and are perfectly capable of thinking for themselves. It can be very enriching and useful to live with someone who holds different points of view, if only people in the relationship can stop taking the most sincere expression of individuality, opinions, as an insult.
There is a “me,” a “you” and an “us” in a couple, and that is a good thing. During a fight, most people don’t attempt, however, to find common ground; instead, they’re trying to change their partner’s point of view and opinions. Their goal is not to exchange ideas, but take control and make their opinions prevail. Since this kind of behavior is usually met with opposition, heated arguments take place, almost always followed by shouting and all that entails. It’s not dialogue; it’s a duel.
Usually, one of the partners has a quicker temper: the most immature one, who is worse at handling stumbling blocks and controversy, which is how they interpret differences of opinion. These people want to be in control and have the last word. Often, their more tolerant significant others act as if they accept that behavior as a final decision, pretending to agree with their louder partner just to cut the fight short—but they collect resentment, which might explode later, or make them drift away. Any person in a relationship who has common sense should think not only of their own well-being and happiness, but of that of their partner’s, too.
It seems like pointless arguments happen when the couple is has been going through a happy, peaceful phase. It’s as if they can’t stand more than a certain dose of harmony and contentment; from a point forward, they need to throw cold water on their warm, harmonious environment. Excessive and prolonged happiness seems threatening, as if it were going to invite misfortune into their lives. That is called fear of happiness, which is the impression people get that the risk of tragedy increases alongside happiness. It’s not true, but those who get afraid end up creating small conflicts to mar their contentment, to avoid the supposed bigger evil.
Learning to handle differences of opinion demands good sense and perseverance. As a rule, I statements should be used: “I get sad when this happens”; “I wish some things worked differently.” Always “I” and never “I want you to…” Nobody is required to do anything for anyone else. People in a relationship should be told what makes their partners happy, annoyed and upset. Then, they might choose to show concern, or not, about the latter’s well-being. If a person doesn’t care about causing their significant other pain, then their partner has to decide if they want to put up with it or walk way.
People who love each other must also learn to hear their partner’s arguments without immediately thinking of a counterpoint. They should listen to see if their partner is right, and even change their minds whenever they hear something that makes sense to them. It makes the relationship evolve, an essential condition for long-lasting, healthy relationships.
But fear of happiness is always there, making people amplify small issues and erode part of what they have built. It’s important to always be aware of its existence, but also, to know that, most certainly, happiness does not kill.
Tradução: Amanda Morris