Dating can be tough. After being single for years, you get into patterns -- making decisions without considering anyone else, feeling the way you feel whenever you feel it and, in my case, living by the seat of my pants. Every day for years, I've woken up and made a decision about what to do that day, without asking anyone else's opinion. Whether it's to go for brunch or to the park with my dog or to jump on a last-minute flight back to Bali (my personal paradise!), it's only been up to me.
Now that I've been dating a wonderful man (with all of the muscles! swoon) for a few months, I'm adjusting to living life a pas de deux (for all the non-French speakers, it literally translates to "step of two," which is a beautiful two-person ballet dance.) And don't get me wrong... I'm absolutely thrilled to be with a man as sweet and thoughtful and fun as he is, but it can be difficult (at times) to make those adjustments.
One thing that has been particularly difficult is accepting that, when you're only one half of a couple, there will, sometimes, be disagreements. No matter how compatible you are or how many common interests you have, there will be times in which you don't see eye-to-eye.
But when you've been single for as long as I have, you can forget what it's like to be in a real relationship; every time a disagreement arises, it can seem like the relationship is destined for failure. Yes, I know... talk about an overreaction. But if you think about what messages we are fed in every rom com or from our friends gushing over their (so-called) perfect relationships, you get one message: fighting = a breakup is imminent.
This (incorrect) belief is definitely something that I've been struggling with of late. Recently my boo and I went away for a long-weekend together; although we are very compatible (in terms of our interests, travel styles and all the things that matter when taking a trip or just spending days and days together on end), it turned out that we could still fall prey to issues.
My immediate reaction (when the issue was raised) was to shut down. In minutes, I started rebuilding my emotional walls, preparing for the end; if the worst did happen, I would need to protect my sensitive heart, so I started telling myself that I didn't need him, that I would be fine, that maybe I shouldn't bother dating again, all the while berating myself for caring for him so much. I started acting defensively and turned into one of the bullies that I hate (as I was severely bullied for most of my young life... read more about it here). From the 19 year-old girl who was wearing half a shirt (and flashing all of her bra), to the older, posh-looking lady sitting near us, I started nitpicking in an attempt to deflect the negative attention away from me. Basically, I fell into a pathetic spiral of sadness, vulnerability and shame.
But somehow, despite my emotional wipeout, we managed to get through our disagreement calmly, without any drama. We talked about the issue, discussed what we each wanted/needed and brainstormed how we could address the issue going forward. We talked about it until we were both feeling better and, thankfully, I was able to knock my emotional walls back down once again.
Phew, crisis averted.
Although we did come out of the situation unscathed, it was a very interesting experience for me, as it made me realize that I needed to chill the f*ck out in regards to the importance of fights. I needed to remember that just because we had a disagreement, it didn't mean the relationship was over or that we weren't compatible in the long run.
In truth, disagreements and fighting are absolutely normal in a relationship. When you create a relationship between two separate individuals -- with different habits, different tastes, different ideas, different values, different feelings and different histories -- issues are bound to arise once in awhile. It's a fact... no matter how laidback or easygoing the two people are, there will always be instances where you don't agree.
In my opinion, that isn't always a bad thing. I firmly believe (although I do sometimes need a reminder) that if you care enough about a person and your relationship, you should be passionate about them -- both in the amazing and the difficult times. When I hear people say that they've been together for years and never gotten in a fight, I always cringe inwardly; in my opinion, what they are really saying is that they are so disinterested and unimpassioned with each other that they can't even be bothered to feel strongly about any situation, no matter how bad.
There are hidden benefits to fights and disagreements as well. In many cases, fighting is the way that you find out the most about each other's emotional triggers and past relationships. It's how you get to know all of the good (and sometimes annoying) quirks that make your significant other the wonderful, complex, deep person that he/she is. As well, disagreements and fights help you cultivate the open, honest discussion (and problem-solving skills) that builds true intimacy in a relationship. And, let's be honest... there's also something to be said for the benefits of a fight because... make-up sex!
So if you are in a relationship and you find yourself, as I did, pushing the eject button every time even the smallest issue arises, take it from me: the most important thing is not whether or not you fight; it's how you make it through the fight, as a couple, that makes your relationship a success or a failure.