The First Fight

My master bedroom project is still in the works so unfortunately I don't have that to share with you today. And unfortunately, because my "office" space is in my master bedroom, my desktop is currently disassembled while I await my new desk's arrival. This means I don't have easy access to typical photo catalog... that's not to say I couldn't hook up my external hard drive to my laptop and boom, problem solved, but I'm using all this as an excuse to write a blog post with words. Because that used to be all I did. Back in the early days of blogging, it was never about the pictures. And it's definitely fun to revisit that sense of freedom that words give you.

Today's post is about FIGHTING. Not Fight Club fighting, but marriage and relationship fighting. I know, what a happy topic! But I was thinking back on my old posts about Erik and our Team Power Awesome-ness and thinking about relationship milestones. What is the timeline of a relationship? There are so many firsts, but I think a huge one is your first fight. Everyone has one and I think the way you learn to deal with those fights is EVERYTHING.

It took a very long time for Erik and I to have our first REAL fight. I think we just have a lot of the same fundamental beliefs about things, so it took a while before we suddenly DIDN'T. I'm still not sure exactly how long we'd been dating when this happened, but we had been together for quite a while. I knew his family. He knew mine. And I happened to be at his family's house visiting for the weekend or holiday or whatever it was on this particular day. (Sidenote: Erik probably has a completely different recollection of this event and probably a different memory of a different first fight entirely... marriage is funny that way!)

Erik was in the shower when I spilled a glass of water from his nightstand onto his laptop on the floor below. At first, I panicked because I know Erik is very careful and meticulous with his things, especially the technological things! But when I was wiping the water up, it didn't seem so bad. The laptop had been folded closed so I wiped off the top and everything looked good.

Well, that was silly of me. 

Erik finished his shower and came into the room and I told him about the water, but said I had cleaned it up. Erik picked up the laptop. Opened it, and water may as well have come gushing out between every letter on the keyboard. It was soaked and to this day I don't know why it didn't occur to me to open it and check on this, but I'm going to blame it on my (VERY CORRECT) instinct of never touching any technology of Erik's for fear that I will accidentally ruin it haha. Which, I am great at. 

The laptop wouldn't turn on and Erik could not believe that I had let it sit there for 15-20 minutes soaking up water. He was enraged and it was a side of him I had never seen before. I was in shock. He got really quiet, and when I talked to him he would only snap at me. So I sat there in silence, like a deer in headlights, wondering what I was supposed to do with my suddenly furious boyfriend who had always been so simultaneously light-hearted and rational. Eventually, he had the laptop cleaned up and after an agonizingly tense half hour or so, the laptop actually turned back on and seemed good as new. I was RELIEVED because now this scary version of Erik could go back to whatever dark, miserable hole he had come out of.

But he didn't. Scary Erik was there to stay. And I didn't get it. What's funny is, his family got it. They were home too and they all flitted off to their separate corners to avoid angry Erik because that's how they'd been coping with temperamental Heidenthals for years. I, however, was getting kind of frustrated at the punishment I was enduring for what boiled down to an accident that had turned out okay in the end. Thus, the real fight began!

To me, intention is everything. If someone makes a mistake, I am rarely upset about it. If someone makes a deliberate CHOICE that is hurtful or selfish or whatever... That's a far greater offense. To Erik, it wouldn't have mattered (in the moment, I'm sure in hindsight it may matter a little more) if I had deliberately dropped that glass of water onto his laptop or if it was an accident, the results were the same. I could have broken the laptop and had done a terrible job rectifying the situation, thus putting him through a sudden bout of enormous stress. 

We had a fundamental difference of opinion. I couldn't understand why he couldn't just be relieved the laptop was fine and accept my apology and move on. He couldn't understand how I could be so careless and why his extreme anger was so shocking to me. From his perspective, he was holding it together pretty well by only silently fuming and occasionally snapping at me. And you know, he grew up in a household where people DID yell and get loud when they were upset, so I know now that he WAS working really hard to contain his temper. But I didn't know that at the time. I only saw this bubbling rage (which Erik is incapable of hiding when he's feeling it) that hadn't been present for months. I mean, in my house nobody yelled or got loud when they were angry. Honestly, nobody ever even got that angry. On rare occasions, someone may start crying or walk away because they were hurt, but even that was unusual and nobody would ever raise their voice in the process. Yeah, I realize I grew up in a happy little bubble... thanks mom and dad! ;) 

I'm sorry to say that I don't even remember how we reconciled that argument. I remember sitting on the front steps with him later that night, still trying to figure it out, still not understanding each other at all, but I don't remember what exactly we said. I know we repeated ourselves A LOT and that we both stubbornly clung to our positions. We always do that because we're both so passionate in our beliefs and it's why, even though our fights are very rare, they're brutal and painful and there's no end in sight when they happen. I know I had to learn to be apologetic because honestly, I hardly ever said I was sorry in the beginning of our relationship. In fact, I would say just the opposite to infuriate Erik more because I thought he was being absolutely ridiculous and unreasonable so I'd push him and say things like "I refuse to apologize for trying to do the right thing!" Haha sometimes I am awful and snarky that way. It probably took a couple years before I got to the point where I could easily let "I'm sorry" come out. I am stubborn and prideful, and really good at justifying my actions. I work hard to say and do everything with careful thought and consideration. So even when I make a mistake, I don't feel like I did anything wrong. At the time, I was trying to do the right thing and in my head, that's what matters.

But I think when you're together for a long time, you realize that your perspective is just half of what happened. And that good intentions are great, but even good intentions hurt people sometimes. I mean, when Erik loses his temper and snaps at me, but follows that up with "I'm sorry, I shouldn't have said that. I don't mean it" I feel so much better! Maybe not instantly, but it starts the healing process. And yet, I denied him that same consolation for a long time because it was easy to point to him as being the temperamental one who needed to get it together. Which was totally unfair.  

We fight a lot better now. I mean, everyone's going to fight. And it doesn't really matter if you're loud or quiet about it, the person you love the most can hurt you the most, so it's bound to happen. I think we're both better at listening and making concessions than we used to be. I apologize for stuff! It's crazy! And Erik knows that if he gets so angry he's going to yell then he needs to just step away for a little while because that makes me shut down and/or silently implode. During those years of figuring out how to fight and work out our problems, we went through a phase where we would write letters instead of actually arguing with each other because our "fighting communication" is so different. It kept him from saying things he'd regret later, which he inevitably would do in a fight. And it gave me the confidence to express myself without being talked over or overanalyzing whatever thing Erik had just said. Writing letters isn't necessary anymore, but I think it was a good transitional tool for us as we learned how to voice our concerns without completely destroying each other in the process... we can both be pretty brutal people when someone hurts us and are both fabulous button pushers! Just another lovely personality trait we have in common :)

I hope this post wasn't too ridiculously long and boring for everyone but me. It's fun for me to walk down memory lane and think about how far we've come together. We still have plenty to learn about each other, but I think that's all part of the fun.