“How long did it take you to have your first fight after you said ‘I do?’”
In our circle at the marriage seminar, the atmosphere relaxed as one couple admitted they had fought over wedding photos before they even got to the reception, and another had a heated disagreement disrupt marital bliss at the airport en route to the honeymoon.
I didn’t speak up, but I blushed as I remembered how mad I had been at my husband during our actual first dance, when he couldn’t seem to put his feet right. It was a slow dance, for crying out loud!
As we shared these stories, it was obvious the anger had long since dissipated. We laughed out loud over just how little time it had taken to go from “happily ever after” to fighting mad. Clearly, love was a work in progress, even on what was supposed to be the most blissful day of our lives.
We talked about ways to navigate future conflict in our relationships by seeking to understand each other, responding to each other kindly, and forgiving quickly. And the thing was, it was fun to talk about these things and apply these principles to our own lives. Here I was, sitting next to the man I’d chosen and was still pretty much in love with, talking about how to love each other better. Maybe it wasn’t all easy, but it was good. And we were dying to try out the new things we’d learned right away.
But timing is everything. If we had been in the middle of a fight and trying to work through it, I can imagine our experience being much different. Talking about conflict would have been frustrating and difficult. Hearing other peoples’ stories might have made me insecure, instead of encouraging and amusing me.
It seems counterintuitive, but I’m finding there’s real value in working on relationship skills when you feel your relationship doesn’t need the work. When things are good in a marriage or dating relationship, they’re great—it’s hard to even imagine that conflict, let alone a knock-down, drag-out fight is lurking around the corner. Sometimes I can get cocky and think my husband and I have it all figured out and our worst fights are behind us.
Of course, that’s totally ridiculous.
So, if we get used to talking about conflict now – not just in the abstract, but deconstructing our own past fights – and we go over ways to improve our listening and communication skills, and care for each other better, I hope our next disagreement won’t catch us off-guard.
I suppose it’s sort of like practicing piano ahead of your concert recital, or diligently putting in the trail miles ahead of the big road race. Everyone knows you need to do those things, but with relationships, there’s a certain temptation to avoid the issue of conflict when things seem good, and just sort of hope that love will carry you through the rough spots.
So, I invite you to join me in doing the work while things seem good and communication is easy. I’ll let you know how the strategy pays off next time a fight disturbs the peace.