My parent’s love story is unfortunately not the kind that fairytales are made of.
My mom told me she first contemplated divorce about ten years into their marriage. The thought then crossed her mind countless times for the next fifteen years. Yet she stayed because of the commitment my parents made on their wedding day. They both said “until death do us part” and my mom didn’t take those words lightly.
But 25 years after their wedding day, an official separation finally took place and my dad moved out of the house. Why they decided to call it quits after so long is another story. What I want to focus on is the root problem in their relationship: They never fought before getting married.
My dad has had some tough things thrown at him in life. And while I’m empathetic, his experiences contributed to him becoming a very angry person. One who abused alcohol and his family with loud, hurtful words and emotional manipulation. But he never showed that side of himself to my mom while they were dating or engaged. She told me she only ever remembers seeing my dad get a little frustrated once. That’s it. Everything was butterflies and rainbows and they fell in love with all the good in each other.
My mom has told me that if they had fought—if a stumbling block or disagreement had presented itself and in turn, brought out my dad’s anger—she may have never married him to begin with. They both avoided arguing like the plague, my mom because she is a people pleaser and hates confrontation, my dad because he was trying to hide his true colors.
It was a lose-lose situation.
Their first argument didn’t take place until their honeymoon, after the “I do’s” were recited and the papers already signed.
My mom has told my sister and I on many occasions that the hard parts of her marriage were worth it because of the two beautiful daughters she brought into this world. But she also grappled with sadness and frustration over a relationship that was never healthy to begin with.
If you are intentionally avoiding conflict like my mom and dad did while dating or engaged… stop. If a disagreement needs to be addressed, address it. If an argument presents itself, face it head on. Get to know every side of each other; see firsthand how each of you responds to tough situations.
It’s easy to get caught up in the honeymoon phase of a relationship and to forget that this person you love also has flaws—flaws that may for you be deal breakers. Not everyone will argue early on in their relationship, but when they do they should see it as an opportunity to grow. A healthy disagreement is usually beneficial in one of two ways:
1.) It will either bring you closer together as a couple. You will come out stronger on the other end and better understand what you both need to work on.
2.) It will help you see that the person you’re with maybe isn’t the right person for you.
None of this is to say that all couples will end up like my parents after having their first fight. The biggest thing my mom has taught me about relationships is not to avoid the occasional disagreement. This can be a challenge for those of us who hate conflict. But I can say from personal experience that putting this lesson into practice has been worth it. I’ve started dealing with problems head on in all my relationships, and it has been very beneficial.
If you feel like you and your partner have been avoiding conflict or putting off certain conversations, I challenge you to open up the can of worms and candidly talk with one another about what’s bothering you. No matter the outcome, you’ll be thankful for what you learned about each other.