I remember having a sleepover at a cool girl’s house in fourth grade. Her whole family was cool. Her Dad was an architect, her Mom was super pretty and full of spunk, and her big sister was the local beauty pageant winner. Imagine my surprise at the sleepover when my entire stay, her parents yelled angrily at eat other across their architecturally super-cool house. I thought for sure, they were doomed for divorce, though I can’t say if they ever did.
Richard and Linda Eyre describe three types of married couples who never fight: 1) a relationship where one is domineering and one is a doormat--one always gets what they want and one gets walked all over to keep the peace. 2) a relationship of two uncaring people: they live separate lives and come together for administrative decisions, but because of little interest, they have little reason to fight. 3) a dead couple (tongue in cheek).
The first couple who never fights: The domineering/doormat relationship describes a perfect setup for codependency. The doormat lives to keep the other happy. To do this, they compromise their own boundaries over and over. This works fine until resentment peaks and you see a couple married 32 years suddenly snap. Or relentless depression sets in. Or rebellion renders an otherwise docile person a defiant maniac.
The doormat may live under the premise of give, give, give, and forgive, forgive, forgive. If bad feelings emerge, they’ll have nothing to do with negative energy and be the first to repent lest anyone go to sleep angry.
The second type of couple who doesn’t fight of a relationship of two uncaring people is very tenuous. They stay together for the kids or convenience, but not for love. It’s easier to “wall off” and live separate lives than come together as God intended, learning from and strengthening each other.
The third type, the dead couple? Well even then, how is their eternity together?
John Gottman says a couple who stays together happily doesn’t fight any less than the couple that stays together unhappily; the difference is that the couple that stays happily together knows they are safe with each other; they can express themselves and still be alright.
This doesn’t mean it’s okay to fight; Maurice Harker champions couples who can work out differences and still maintain the spirit. As soon as one of the partners can’t feel the spirit, it’s time to stop. He suggests using “I statements” instead of attacking “you,” and coming again together when the friction has abated and the issue is truly an issue (as opposed to pride/ego).
If a couple is going to fight, why not fight for each other? Be each other’s heroes, advocate, supporter, and defender. Once they get their hard emotions (fighting) acknowledged and treated as soft emotions (fear), then they can step up together on the same side of the battle and fight for each other’s dreams to come true.
And build mansions of awesomeness where laughter and joy reverberates across the walls.