(About a 4 minute read)
Well, I tried. I tried to come up with a post title that more accurately described my topic than the one you see, but alas! The Great Muse of Titles was indifferent to me today, not even responding to my promises to generously sacrifice the annoying Teresums if she gave better than I got.
So to be more precise than my necessarily brief post title, have you ever wondered why so many articles and columns advising people on what to look for in a potential spouse fail to note the full importance of finding someone who fights you — when you do get into fights — in a way that you yourself can accept and respect?
Just yesterday, I overheard a conversation between two extraordinarily knowledgeable and impressively wise authorities on marriage in which both parties raised exactly that point and then went on to agree that actually liking — in the sense of “approving of” — your partner’s style of fighting you is a solid, but quite often overlooked, key to a successful marriage.
That’s to say, my cleaning lady, Evelyn, and I were talking about it with each other. Moreover, I was listening — really listening — to both of us because I fully possess the virtue of having great respect for people I deem to be authorities on any given subject, even if one of those people happens to be me. Call me a “fool” about most things if you must, but I certainly do not tolerate harboring any ugly biases against myself. Instead, I have standards. High standards that I passionately and stubbornly enforce.
In my both admittedly limited experience and just as admittedly unlimited opinions, a whole lot of new couples simply cannot image they will ever get into a serious fight with each other — let alone a fair number of serious fights over the years. Such idealism!
Actually, my own mother believed that for quite some years. Her mother and father were quite adamant about never fighting in front of their children. Never. They’d send her and her sister off to play, then retreat to their bedroom where, behind the closed door, they’d fight without raising their voices loud enough to be overheard.
Mom grew up thinking her parents never fought, but of course, she eventually figured out that all couples fight sooner or later — which I too believe to be true. As does my cleaning lady. There you have it — a three person consensus of experts in the field. What more do you want?
I’ve had two wives, but never a wife I was truly compatible with when it came to fighting — and I think that tells you one of the reasons I am now twice divorced.
I was least compatible with my second wife. Despite that I loved and cherished her, she was abusive, and so I involuntarily lost a bit of respect for her each time we fought, until there wasn’t enough respect left to glue us together. When I left her, I didn’t emotionally suffer even for a day.
Make no mistake: Respect was key. Not love — I loved her long after I left her for, among other things, she was as brilliant as she was cruel. But respect, more than love, is what solidifies a couple.
Or so the scientists tell us. Following a series of somewhat controversial studies, John Gottman theorized that contempt — the opposite of respect — was the signal most significant factor leading to divorce in young couples. Gottman is considered by some to be the leading scientist on the subject of why couples divorce, and he seems quite confident that a lack of respect is more telling than even a lack of love in determining whether a relatively young couple will make it together for more than a few years.
I think it’s a fair presumption that a man as well informed and wise on the subject as Gottman is bound to agree with Evelyn and me that folks should definitely not get married unless and until they know just how their potential spouse fights, and they approve of his or her style well enough to still respect them afterwards.
Comments? Questions? Unholy offers to email me tasteful, but subversive, nude selfies in order to poignantly remind me of what I’m missing by remaining voluntarily celibate? Self-flattering screeds on how your natural body orders are a pleasing stench in the nostrils of the gods?