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If you’re in any sort of long-term relationship, you have them. The big ones. The knock down, drag out Big Fights.
I don’t mean the drunk squabbles or the arguments about who ate the last piece of pizza. I mean the fights that leave you with absolutely no sense of who won and who didn’t. The fights where a moment of silence finally comes, and you sit there breathing hard, wondering when this started, or how, or why. The fights that shake you, that leave you waking up wondering if you’d imagined it at all, if it had just been a bad dream. I read some statistic once that said that a solid percentage of arguments are never resolved. Isn’t that weird to think about? They never reach a conclusion. The two people just agree to stop fighting about whatever caused the argument in the first place, but there’s never a compromise reached.
I had one of those mornings recently, where you wake up hoping the previous night was just a terrible dream.
Those kinds of fights leave an ache in your chest, a desperate need for comfort and reassurance buried underneath all the mad and hurt. One of the most upsetting things about fighting with the person you love more than anyone else is that in no other circumstance would you be in that kind of pain without seeking their comfort. But when the source of anger comes from that person, you’re left at a really strange point. I tend to go numb in those situations. I don’t typically cry, not because I don’t want to, but because I can’t. I’ll cry later– the next day, maybe, or in the bathroom in the middle of the night when we’ve finally gone to sleep, exhausted. But so much of the hurt comes not only from words inflicted upon me, but straight from her pain.
I spend much of my life doing the best I can to ensure that this person is happy. So when she’s sad, even when it’s at my hands, or maybe especially then, my instinct is to make it go away. But arguments bring out the ugliest parts of ourselves. The need to bring her comfort is overshadowed by that horrible thing your brain does after this sort of argument. It replays everything, the shouting and the hurtful words, and for a while afterward, that’s all I can see. It’s selfish, and it results in me wallowing in my pain while she wallows in hers.
But none of that is the weird thing that happens after a Big Fight.
The weird thing is that as we sleep, or as I wake for an instant in the night, I will still reach for her and she for me. The morning after a Big Fight is more awkward than usual, with us both tiptoeing around the other as we get ready for work, but she still kisses me goodbye before leaving. She says I love you, and I say it back. Because I do. I will. I had the strange realization that despite the few things we agree upon and the many more that we see from decidedly different viewpoints, I will never leave this person. I will never live my life without her. Not because I’m afraid to, afraid of starting over again alone. It’s a daunting thought, but only because living without her seems inconceivable. I have been with her, lived with her, loved her long enough to know her in a way that I think is totally unique to two people in love. The way we love each other is not love in a temporary form, or a fickle one. I learn something about her, and thus about myself, daily. Our love is not static, and as with any love, it is constantly changing and evolving as we are.
I love the new her that I wake up with every day. I commit myself to her changing heart and mind as she does to mine. I can see past the Big Fights, past the anger, and I am reminded that she would do anything for me, as I would for her. Love is generous. It doesn’t hold itself back, and it doesn’t calculate. It forgives the little things, and the big things. Sometimes it takes a Big Fight to be reminded of all that. I’m not recommending fighting as a form of couple’s therapy, here, but I am saying that that cliche about appreciating the sun more because of the rain, or whatever, speaks to me right now.
Love is complicated, man. But when you keep in mind that you love that person and they love you, the rest, good day or bad, is just details. .