Life was way too busy - as usual. But, that particular morning, the kids woke up late and crabby. She didn’t sleep well. He had an important meeting scheduled to start at who-knows-what-thirty. They were loaded for bear even before the little one dropped a bowl full of Coco Puffs plus milk onto the solid wood floor.
And then they realized daughter number two hadn’t turned in her assignment yesterday.
HER: You were in charge of that!
HIM: Why didn’t you tell her it was due?!?
HER: Don’t you care about our kids' education?!?!
HIM: Why do I have to do EVERYTHING AROUND HERE!?!?
Doors slammed. The kids cried. He left the house and missed his meeting. She called a friend and cried - told her she couldn’t stand one more day in this messed up so-called marriage.
Sometimes I get to be with them on Zoom during a fight. I guess this isn’t everyone’s idea of a good time, but I learn a lot by watching couples fight. It’s an honor that they let me into the rawness. Seeing the way they interact gives me insight.
We expect couples to fight. But I push back on the idea that this kind of intense fighting is helpful. Sharing our feelings is important. So is being witnessed. And heard.
But a lot of what we call fighting is often an attempt to make our partner wrong about something we’re worried about that has nothing to do with him/her/them.
When they calmed down enough to talk, they realized they were both concerned about their daughter’s learning style. They were exhausted by COVID, kids, stress, and fresh out of patience. They were getting to the end of their ropes. Exhausted.
It makes sense that they blew up, considering.
But their fight actually bled them of their limited personal resources. It kept them from solving the problem that was in front of them. It threatened them and frightened their daughter. In that moment, they needed each other to be loving and helpful.
If this sounds like your life, you’re not alone. Even the most skillful couples are losing it these days. And couples who’ve been struggling are going straight to the mat.
It’s happening. But you can stop it. You can solve problems without taking each other apart.
One day at a time. It’s going to get better.