My favorite TV show of all time is Parenthood. I love how real it is: it’s not about a bunch of trumped-up, crazy drama. It’s all about real life situations with characters I can 100% relate to.
Because I can relate to those characters well, I feel like I learn a lot from their struggles.
**Spoiler alert, if you haven’t seen the series.**
There’s one scene in particular that hits me every time I watch it (because I’ve seen the entire series through about 4-5 times.) It’s when Julia and Joel are talking after they’ve reunited. Julia wants to talk about what happened while they were separated, but Joel says he’s too scared to fight. He just wants things to be peaceful – he doesn’t want to stir up drama or scare the kids.
Her response is that she’s too scared not to fight.
They end up sitting in the car in their driveway and hashing it out. It’s totally not a fun or comfortable conversation, at all. The topics they’re discussing are super serious and have the capacity to break couples up (see, I’m talking in broad strokes so it’s not too much of a spoiler if you haven’t seen it – because you totally shoud :))
The next scene you see them in, they’re in bed together snuggling, waking up with smiles on their faces.
The truth is, you don’t need to be afraid to fight.
This scene is so incongruous with what you expect to see when you think of fighting. When you think of fighting with your spouse, you think of negativity. You think of hurting one another’s feelings. You might feel like fighting with your spouse is a sign you’ve got it all wrong.
This? It paints fighting with your spouse as it should be – as communication. Good ol’ communication, plain and simple.
The difference with Joel and Julia is that they’re fighting to work things out. While the conversation they have isn’t totally pleasant, it’s honest. They’re being truthful with one another about how they feel and what they want from each other.
Do they completely agree? Nope. But they don’t have to – the point is they’re talking about it, figuring it out, and negotiating what’s best for both of them.
I’m not going to lie: I hate fighting. I hate bringing up stuff that’s bugging me. I’m much more prone to wanting to sweep it under the rug and be a peacekeeper.
It’s not 100% a bad quality, but if I do that too much, it builds a wall between myself and my husband.
If I keep things to myself with the intention of avoiding a fight, it’s sometimes okay. Sometimes the things I’m holding back are genuinely small, inconsequential irritations that aren’t worth discussing (like when I was pregnant and I hated the sound of him eating chips and salsa – not worth mentioning.)
But the big things? The things that truly hurt my feelings, or make me feel alone or unappreciated? It’s actually super selfish of me to keep them bottled up. I might feel like I’m doing him a favor, but my actions hurt both of us.
It hurts me because I don’t get what I need, and it hurts him because I withdraw from him and he doesn’t understand why – which hurts him, and that starts a big, bad cycle that can be dangerous to our marriage.
What should really scare you is what you’re not fighting about.
If you tend to be more of a peacekeeper like myself, fighting scares you. You don’t want to hurt his feelings, and you don’t want him to hurt yours (even if he’s a sweet guy, I know this goes through your mind!)
But you know what’s much scarier? The issues that go unmentioned.
You should be absolutely terrified of the things you’re holding back from your spouse. Because those silent little annoyances can slowly grow and build up huge walls between yourself and your spouse. You should be afraid of losing the ability to communicate honestly with each other, especially for the big issues. You should be afraid of disconnecting from your spouse and your marriage.
With all this being said, be sure to choose your battles wisely.
Like I said – there are things that are totally not worth fighting over. There’s something to be said for extending grace on the annoying quirks you and your husband both have – because that’s just a nice thing to do.
Can I be honest? None of this comes naturally to me. None of it. So if you’re reading this thinking, “Well, that’s nice for her, but that wouldn’t work for me,” I feel you. I do.
Just, promise me something? Next time you have an issue with your husband, be honest with him. And tell him how much your marriage means to you.
Because if you’re fighting to resolve an issue, you’re ultimately fighting for your marriage. And that’s always worth the struggle.