I know this is going to sound weird, but I actually like when that first fight takes place with someone. Why? Because you actually learn a lot based on how someone reacts to conflict. Let’s just be realistic here– we are all going to have arguments with our loved ones– it may take 6 days or 6 months, but it is bound to happen sooner or later, and when it does, pay attention. How you resolve conflicts is a critical part to making a relationship last.
It is completely normal to have disagreements, to want different things at times, and have different points of view. And when something really matters to you, it is okay not be willing to compromise on something. What is NOT okay is having someone regress to being a three-year old having a temper tantrum because s/he is not getting his/her way.
What classifies at 3-yr old, unacceptable behavior? Well, for those of you who haven’t been around this age-group much recently, let me refresh your memory with my top 5 signs someone lacks the emotional tools to address problems in a positive way:
1. Spewing venom— when s/he starts cursing, hurling insults, or calls names. This may seem funny at first, but overtime, I promise this will wear on you.
2. Threats– this is easy to spot, if you don’t do this, then I won’t do that. The point is to force a certain outcome from you. The more hostile the threats, the more you can tell this person has serious anger management issues.
3. Defensive tactics– rather than own up to doing something hurtful, this person will do everything possible to defend his/her position. Saying “I’m sorry” is simply impossible for these individuals.
4. Blame-shifting– somehow, in ways you will never even be able to logically explain, these people make it all your fault. They are never in the wrong, it is always you. At first you may go along with this, but sooner or later you will wake up– hopefully sooner for your own sake.
5. Black and white thinkers— these individuals are unable to see the gray in life. One person has to be right, the other must be wrong. They are unable to walk a mile in another person’s shoes. Why? Because they lack empathy– it is either their way or the highway.
All of these behaviors are actually quite common among children, but they are simply unacceptable from adults– at least if you want to be in a loving, healthy relationship. While I realize that we all want to cut someone slack, I can tell you that each and every time I have done that, I have regretted it. The fact is that when we first start dating someone, that is typically when we are going to be on our best behavior, so if you see signs upfront that someone doesn’t know how to fight well, there is ZERO chance of that getting better later on.
Love is not meant to hurt, and being with someone should not make you cry on a regular basis– unless they are tears of joy. If you repeatedly keep getting into heated arguments, stop deluding yourself that this is normal or okay, unless you happen to be a glutton for punishment.
Someone who gets so angry at you that they clench their teeth, tense up, and either explode or shut down and refuse to touch you after an argument has issues well beyond what you should try to tackle. There are many sick, broken people out there, and unless you want to play the role of a social worker in your relationship, I say cut your losses early on and get out.
Now there are also positive signs to watch for in that first fight– if you find someone with immense emotional maturity that person will see that first conflict as an opportunity to work with you– to better understand you. They will calmly hear your side of the story, and then explain their point of view. They will draw near you and listen, acknowledge your feelings, and stay focused on resolving the issue at hand. In the end, you will feel like you have actually grown closer, that you met the challenge head on and have moved on to a better place. Does this sound too good to be true? I’m sorry to say if that answer is yes, then you haven’t experienced a true loving, healthy relationship.
In the end, I’m certainly not suggesting you go pick a fight for no reason, but I am telling you not to be afraid of that first fight. Just go into it with your eyes wide open– pay attention to the signs. A kind soul will make you feel safe to offer a dissenting opinion, and s/he will not rip your head off for making a mistake. It is that quality above all else that matters in the end, for life is full of conflict, and the world is full of people lacking good coping skills. So when you find that gifted individual that knows how to fight well with you, then have fun with your first fight for it will teach you a ton– and then well… go put that adrenaline to some good use and by all means go have some great make-up sex!
By Regina A. DeMeo, Esq.