Couples need to be tested. Couples need to be pushed to the brink and understand struggle. There has to be some “working out” of the relationship in order to make growth possible. I hear all of the time, “My boyfriend/girlfriend/spouse and I never argue or fight.” My first response to this, internally, is to be skeptical of the strength of that relationship. I am always wondering what catastrophic fight is looming on the horizon for couples when all the built up fights or arguments that should have been happening finally occur. My wife and I are in a very strong relationship, but it hasn’t come without being stressed and tested and pushed through the flames, and it sure isn’t because I haven’t done my fair share of inducing chaos into our relationship.
Now, I am not talking about fist fights, constant combat, or some crazy non-stop madness, but I am talking about disagreements and frustrations and the articulation thereof to one another–sometimes vehemently. There is no couple that exists where one individual has not hurt their opposite. If that hurt goes unchecked, it just builds and eventually there will be a release of pressure. Sadly, the resulting fight could have been much smaller in scale if, at the earlier point of friction, there was the requisite confrontation and subsequent resolution.
Fighting (and I use this term generally to include miniature battles between people who love each other) must happen. It has to, or one of you is either walking all over the other, or being walked on by the other.
That being said, I have been thinking about things that couples need to experience to help forge their relationship into the strongest entity it can be. These scenarios will either force the first fight, or be a result of a good fight. I have included the list for your perusal. Additionally, I think the list helps you realize how normal you may be in your life and relationships.
1. Couples need to go on one long road-trip together before getting in too deep.
Road-trips bring out the worst in every person in the world, but the worst doesn’t show up until hour eight of day two. Hour seven, seems okay. Hour seven lulls you into thinking that this relationship is indeed the perfect relationship and that you have found yourself an angel of a woman. Hour seven is a place you’d stay for the rest of your life. Hour eight is hour sevens ugly older sister.
Hour eight brings divulgence. Your partner begins using something called brutal honesty. They become less impressed with how closely your voice matches Eddie Vedder; they have developed an expertise in driving that requires them to give you pointers and correct your deficiencies; and they take extended naps and require the music (currently the only thing keeping you awake) to be turned to library audio standards. Hour eight is where you make your money. Hour eight is where you really get to know each other.
If, at the end of the road-trip, you still like the person you are with, you have got yourself a winner. If not, you just saved yourself a whole lot of pain and heartache.
2. Couples need to experience the constraints of a budget.
I don’t mean,
“Listen, sweetheart, if we stick to our budget, we will have one million dollars in our savings by next week” budget.
“Listen, darling, don’t touch the checking account, we’ll just eat ramen until our skin turns pale white. Have you ever thought about stripping? I think you would look good on a pole. Maybe you should actually respond to that email you got yesterday about the dude from Asia who claims to have left you money in his will and only needs some of your personal information for us to get rich. ” budget.
When you have lived through this kind of financial stress together, still laughed, and actually enjoyed yourselves together, you know you have graduated to the big time in relationships. When you can’t afford to run away and indulge, you are forced to just be with each other. Sometimes, these moments create better memories than the most expensive of vacations. Couples need to struggle financially—together, because this struggle is the quickest to cause a good fight especially if financial struggle is uncharted territory for a couple.
My wife and I have run the gamut in financial scenarios, from shopping (going to my parents or her parent’s house and rummaging through their cabinets) to 4-Star restaurants. I think some of our greatest moments we shared involved us being creative to save a buck.
3. Couples need to conduct at least one residential move.
I have done six of these with mine, and each one is just as awesome as the previous. For fun, get your wife pregnant and then move her across country—only makes it more awesomer. I am a big fan of mix and match when it comes to stressing relationships.
If you are not in the middle of a financial struggle as alluded to above, buy an RV and try to make the trip more pleasant. I say try, because an RV doesn’t make anything more pleasant…just so you know.
4. Couples need to see and hear their partner cry….or some semblance of crying if you are too manly to cry.
Even if it is during a sappy comercial, or that scene in Braveheart, or Mr Holland’s Opus, or when Daniel Larusso wins the All Valley Tournament in Karate Kid, or when Daniel Larusso has to beats up a Japanese man on his home turf as the result of a decads old beef between Mr Miyagi and Sato, or when Daniel Larusso beats the Bad Boy of Karate, Mike Barns, after turning his back on Mr. Miyagi for a trainer who will teach him to “sweep the leg.”
It doesn’t have to be because you make them cry, but even if that is the reason, there is value in this. One of the hardest things in the world to hear is the sound of your significant other crying. Couples need to hear the sound of pain in their partner’s voice, so that they will avoid inflicting it upon them. Holding your spouse when they cry is a different kind of hold. It is in these difficult moments that you realize the power of a hug—how much power and strength that gives them and it is a moment that changes a relationship.
5. Couples need to understand that there are points where you want to banish your spouse to an island for an eternity, so they will leave you alone.
Totally normal. Mentally banish to your heart’s content.
It’s okay. Even as you read this with your spouse, you will say to them, “I never feel this way about you,” but you will know, there was a moment when you would have sold them off to a gypsy if the opportunity presented itself. You remember the time you heard about the woman who ran her own husband over? Yes, of course you do; it was that moment you thought to yourself, “Damn, she actually went through with it…”
For the record, actually going through with it is wrong.
I am no expert in relationships, but I am pretty seasoned in struggle. Over the years, I have become an expert in driving my wife crazy. Horribly, sometimes I find myself doing it on purpose. But, as far as I can tell, she seems to enjoy the struggle as well. Although, I have probably been sent to a million make-believe islands.
I just want you to know, because I have been holding it in for years.