A Valentine's Day Lesson For My Son: Know How to FightHeather Turgeon
Sure, it could be that communication is smooth and you always see eye-to-eye. Or you perfectly employ “I” statements and empathetic listening.
But as a therapist, I see lots of couples in my office who don’t fight and aren’t happy. The no-fighting phenomenon comes up for many reasons, not all of which are desirable.
Here are the top 3 unhealthy reasons couples don’t fight, and the one thing I want my son to know about love and fighting:
1. One person is conflict-avoidant and ends up sitting on tough feelings in order not to rock the boat. Sometimes this person comes from a family in which anger wasn’t okay.
2. One person has trouble expressing anger and immediately goes to sadness or hurt. We all have emotions we’re more skilled with, and others that we’re not. Many women that I work with tend towards hurt instead of embracing and using anger.
3. One person cuts off when things get tense. When some people get overwhelmed, they shut down. If you fear you could get physically out of control or be very hurtful, it’s a decent strategy to take a break. Otherwise, it tends to be an avoidance tactic.
We learn these emotional patterns from a young age, so with my son I try to acknowledge his anger and let him express it. Occasional fighting in front of our kids is okay, as long as they aren’t scared, we aren’t out of control, and we check in with them about it afterwords instead of pretending like nothing happened.
Fighting is fine — it’s part of a healthy relationship. What matters is that we repair things and stay connected. I don’t have a problem with my son knowing that my husband and I get angry sometimes — it doesn’t change how much we love each other.