“Just because we fight all the time, doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with our relationship. It doesn’t mean we don’t love each other.”
How many times have you heard—or said—some version of this? How often has this been used as justification for all manner of neglect, disrespect, abuse and even violence between relationship partners? Many of us have been conditioned to translate a fact—there is no such thing as a perfect relationship—into an untruth: That hurtful and malicious fights and arguments are both normal and acceptable in relationships. We disagree; because something is common does not make it acceptable. If two people who claim to love each other fight all the time, something is wrong. If you can’t see that, perhaps you don’t know what good, healthy love is.
Are we saying that couples in healthy relationships never disagree? Absolutely not. However, we are saying that people in healthy relationships don’t treat each other as enemies when they disagree. They are able to hold opposing views without hurting or diminishing their partner. In our more than six years together, we have had plenty of (as in, daily) disagreements. Outright arguments? Less than a half dozen. Actual fights (this includes verbal attacks and emotional violence, as well as the silent treatment)? Zero. How is this possible? We both sincerely believe that if one of us loses, we both lose. It’s the choice between being dancers who both want to lead, or warriors in battle. With the former, it’s failure if either of you falls; with the latter, one of you must go down—every time.
The first and most important key to not allowing disagreement to devolve into adversarial confrontation is tending to the condition of the relationship between you and your partner when you are not in conflict and are generally content with each other. Is it healthy—defined in the Grown Zone as a demonstrated mutual commitment to honor, esteem and respect? Is yours a lifestyle of tenderness, compassion, forgiveness, loyalty, safety and trust (what we refer to as relationship sustainers in our book, Loving In The Grown Zone)?
If the foundation (the relationship) is solid, the house (the marriage/partnership) can withstand disagreements. If the foundation is faulty, then the union is in danger, no matter how much (or little) you disagree. To determine what kind of relationship you have, and thus, what kind of work you need to do before you can resolve any disagreement, consider this: