Recently I read a blog posting from one of my favorite bloggers (Spo of "Spo Reflections") in which he said he didn't know how to fight because he never saw his parents fight. He said he believed as a consequence of never having seen his parents fight he didn't know how to handle himself in a marital row. He asked the readers of his blog posting: "....if you are comfortable, please tell me how often fights arise in your relationship. How bad do they get and how are they resolved?"
First, I also never saw my parents fight. My parents were married for sixty years when my father died in 2000. Never once did I witness or hear a raised voice in an argument or a fight. That doesn't mean they didn't have their disagreements. Oh yes, they did.
Perhaps the biggest "disagreement" was when my father was catting around when my Mother was trying to raise three young boys all under the age of five years old. Maybe there was some loud words exchanged then but I don't remember any of it. A few years before my Mother died (she died September 16th of this year, I miss her terribly), she came out with all the details of my father's philandering with other women while my she was trying to fed and care for her three boys (me and my two younger brothers). She told me she confronted my father about his behavior and he stopped. I don't know what she did but he never strayed again.
What I do remember is when my Mother got mad or angry with my father she would give him "The Look." He knew he was in trouble. Usually because he wanted to buy a new car (when he didn't need one) or go off fishing with his buddies and leave her with all the garden and housework. After a few days of the Silent Treatment, Pop came around. Never, I repeat NEVER did I hear a raised voice between either one of them. By the way, I never saw him get angry with her. But of course I understood because I was one of those lucky children. My brothers and I had a Mom who was the Best Mom in the World. She was totally devoted to her family. I honestly cannot say I remember one thing that she did wrong. Nothing. Sure, she got a little persnickety in her old age when dementia crept in. That was nothing, we forgave her.
So is this reluctance or inability to have a marital row inherited? No way. At least not with me. Bill and I have been living together (in sin) for the past 46 years. We had our first big marital row about a year into the relationship. And we have had them with regularity every year since to the present day. In fact our last Big Fight (over what I can't remember which is usually the case) was only a couple of weeks ago. Anyone who knows us for any length of time knows that Bill and Ron Go At It on a regular basis. Do I enjoy these fights? No, I don't. Bill hates them. But we are of two distinct different personalities so I guess it is inevitable that we don't agree on every issue. Does that mean that I love Bill any the less? No. We're still together and will remain so until one of us dies.
How about my brothers? Well, my next younger brother Isaac has had his moments. In fact we have been in tremendous rows ourselves. He is also divorced so I assumed there was some voicing of disagreement with him and his former wife. But my youngest brother John? No, we don't fight. I remember one time when I got into a fight with both of my brothers at a school bus stop. We were all wrestling on the ground and gravel when the school bus pulled up, opened its double doors, observed the 12, 13, and 14 year old boys grappling with each other on the ground, closed its doors and took off without us. We Faced the Music when we had to go home and explained why we missed the bus and had to be driven to school. That was the last fight I can remember with my brother John. All of us are good friends now. By the way, I don't believe John has ever fought with his wife in all the 47 years they have been married. So I don't think the Fighting Gene is passed down through generations.
I've always been a fighter. It is in my nature. Bill, is also a fighter. I likened our relationship to two butch men (that's us!) dancing together. Each one of us want to lead. That, inevitably, leads to fights.
So how do our fights end? We both do a lot of shouting (nothing every physical by the way - NEVER), then Bill retreats into silence. He gives me the Silent Treatment. Sometimes the Silent Treatment lasts three or four days. It has been known to last as long as two weeks. But it is always me who makes the First Move. Twice in our relationship Bill has made the First Move. Both times I was going to end the relationship. He saw that I mean business and he knew that I wasn't going to make the First Move.
After 46 years, we know how these battles will turn out yet we keep slipping into them. In a way I think they have made our relationship stronger. However, my advice is not to try our way of handling disagreements at your home. This is what has worked for us. I guess you could say our blowouts are a cathartic experience for both of us. We get to vent and then resume our usual positions. I can't imagine keeping my feelings bottled up in my. I would explode.
So I guess my answer is whatever works for you in your relationship. I know in mine, I usually apologize, even though I'm not at fault I (which is rare). Bill is one of those people who has a genetic inability to admit a mistake or wrong. I can admit a wrong. I think it takes at least one person in a relationship who is willing to give in and compromise once their feelings are vented.
Relationships are complex. There are no exceptions. And believe me, Nancy and Ronald Reagan had their differences too.