A few things my husband, David and I have going against us that most couples don’t:
- We will never have the same native language
- We will never be able to both live in the same country as of our individual friends and families
- Being together requires the government involvement of two countries, tax complications which this year alone required three accountants and two trips to the IRS to resolve (last year it took the whole year to get sorted), lawyers, countless visits to government offices, embassies and consulates around the world, a lot of money, a ton of patience and to date – two large overflowing folders documenting every aspect of our individual and joint financial, work, legal, tax, health, education, living, relationship and family histories.
In addition to this and perhaps like other couples, David and I will likely never have the same tidiness habits – his being impeccable and mine being, well, let’s just say not impeccable. And to date, there has yet to be a time where we both had full-time jobs.
And yet, in spite of all of this, David and I never fight.
#1 David and I agree on how to spend, earn and save money
One of the most popular topics couples fight about? Money.
Not necessarily because they don’t have any, although this is sometimes the case, but because they are not in alignment on how to spend, earn or save it. Previously, I was in a relationship where we collectively earned well over $200,000 a year. And what did we do? Fought continuously about money.
We did not see eye-to-eye on how to spend, earn or save it. The simple conversation of where to eat dinner or what random thing we needed to buy for the house could, and did, result in massive blow outs.
Conversely, David and I earn good money but just not loads of it. As one of us will always need to live in a non-native country the ability to earn money can get quickly complicated, BUT – we have never fought about it.
Because you don’t argue about things you see eye-to-eye on.
Don’t want to fight about money? Find someone you align with in regards to it. Don’t align in financial philosophy? Determine a financial strategy you can both comply with – without resentment. Can’t come to this kind of agreement? Know you will fight about it and/or harbor enormous resentment in regards to it. Think getting married or living together will help “resolve” or “fix” your financial disagreements? HAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHA and more HAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.
#2 David and I seriously hate fighting
Before you say, “Well, don’t we all?!?!” I will say this – I know people who hate tomatoes, pop music and their old boss. And you know what? They will do absolutely everything, and I mean EVERYTHING, to avoid these things. These exact same people say they hate fighting and yet what do they do? Fight.
Does this mean if you fight it is because you like it?
Well…think of the other things you hate and the steps you take to avoid them. Now, think of how much you hate fighting? What steps do you take to avoid it? How do the steps you take to avoid fighting compare in level of effort to say, avoiding the food, person or place you despise? You see what I am saying here?
#3 Knowing the enormous difference between conflict and fighting
Imagine this – you are sitting at a coffee shop with a girlfriend. When you ask how her boyfriend is, she begins to tell you how “pissed off” she was at him last night.
What would be your first thought? The fight that ensued because of this, right?
Why does being slightly irritated or even enormously pissed off at someone require a fight? How old do we have to be and how many times do we have to “fight” before we realize that the yelling, screaming, name calling and absurd idle threats do nothing but further you from your goal of ensuring this thing that pissed you off does not happen again.
As I wrote in 40 Years, 25 Lessons, “Create your life story the way they write movies. Decide how you would like it to end and then create every scene that would lead up to it.” This is the same approach I try to take in moments of irritation when David (or most anyone) does something that I am not fancying so much. I decide how I want the story to end before I start a conversation about it.
Typically you do not want the end of the story to be, “I just really, really, really want this person to know what a fuckwit he/she is being.” Typically the end you truly want is more like, “I just really, really, really don’t want this to happen again.”
So what should you do?
Know how you would like your story to end before you begin.
If you want “that thing not to happen again” or for them to “help with this thing” then your best approach is probably not to start off by telling them they are a fuckwit. I mean, even if they are clearly being so.
A recent (non-relationship) experience to illustrate this – David and I find this gorgeous campground on Lake Dillon to spend the day and night. It is a campground with others a nice distance from us who seem to be enjoying the same things we are – the quiet tranquility of Colorado’s natural beauty.
Then, as every weather report predicted it starts to pour rain. As campers retreat, what does the fuckwit RV dude behind us do? Puts his generator as far away from his RV as possible (i.e as close to everyone else as possible) and turns it on.
Goodbye tranquil nature. Hello, super douchey RV guy.
As the rain pours down, the entire campground gets to experience exactly what we all wanted out of our mountain rendevous – the roar of a portable Honda generator. I am pissed the hell off. I think of every shitty thing to say to this selfish a-hole and then I think, “How do I want this to end?”
I want him to turn the generator off.
When the rain stopped, and the f’n generator was still on I walk over to him:
Me (cheerfully): “Hey there, how are you?”
Dude: “Good, how are you?”
Me (cheerfully): “Good. So, hey – do you know how much longer you are going to need to run your generator?”
Dude: “Oh God, sorry. I will turn it off. I know it is really annoying. I just have two little kids and when it starts to rain I think it is better for everyone if they can watch a little TV. Is it ok if I turn it off in 15 – 20 minutes?”
Me (cheerfully): “Sure, no problem.”
10 minutes later? No more generator.
The rest of the camping experience? Him and his wife apologize profusely and go out of their way to be nice to us.
Inevitably there will be situations for someone needing to be told, in no uncertain terms, that they are a massive fuckwit. (Not very Buddhist of me I realize.) But, when that rare situation arises two things should also happen/have happened:
1. You have tried the “Start the Conversation Knowing How You Would Like it to End” a handful of times and nothing or little has changed.
2. Telling them they are a fuckwit MUST be your one and only goal because after you tell them this it is highly unlikely you are going to get anything else you want out of the situation.
As David says, “There is always time to be a bitch. Try being nice first.”
#4 David and I enjoy each other
In order of least difficult to most difficult: loving someone, liking someone, enjoying someone.
I don’t spend my days, nights and weekends with David because we are married. I spend my days, nights and weekends with David because I enjoy him.
And in all of the time we are together (which is most of it) the percentage of it where we are legitimately on each other’s nerves is a tiny percentage of miniscule.
But you know what happens when those unnerving moments arise?
We have the foundation of two people who agree on issues where many have contention, we generally find fighting idiotically futile, we have an approach to conflict that I believe to be extremely healthy and we genuinely get a kick out of each other – and when you combine all of these things to together – goodness will and does prevail.
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