There's a difference in me when it comes to arguments. I don't mean a difference from him, though that exists too, but a difference from how I used to be about arguing, like back with The Ex. And Lord, were there lots of arguments back then. Not only did we argue about everything, small and large and in between; we also didn't know HOW to argue.
Because let's face it: arguments happen. Doesn't matter how well-matched a couple is, doesn't matter how much they love each other--at some point there will be disagreement and feelings will get hurt and anger will rise and there will be an argument.
Once upon a time I used to think that the smallest argument spelled doom for a relationship. I came by that impression easily enough: every time I was dating someone and there was a disagreement or argument, it DID spell doom for the relationship. I averaged one brief (and I do mean brief) relationship per year from junior high through high school. Not the best way to learn, really.
With The Ex, I still had that feeling. There was really never that sense that the foundation was strong enough to withstand the battering of conflict. So I did anything I could to "resolve" conflict when it arose. Which meant, for me and for that relationship, being the one to give in, to cave, to placate, to say I was wrong (even when I wasn't, or at least wasn't the only one), to slap that bandaid over a gaping wound so that we could pretend that everything was All Better.
And that, of course, worked so well.
I have learned more about conflict--and resolving it--from a year and a half going through separation and divorce than I did from the thirteen years of the relationship prior. I also learned more about myself, and what I wanted from a real relationship, and how much I was willing to compromise, and how to learn to agree to disagree.
And how to forgive.
MTL and I don't have a lot of arguments. Generally speaking, there aren't too many things upon which we disagree. We're also able, for most things, to talk about stuff without arguing, even when we don't end up at the same place.
But not always.
Our main point of disagreement--and the main source of actual arguments, when they happen--is about the children. More specifically, the issue of Discipline. Now, MTL has helped me enormously with getting my head straight about the concept and in determining how I wanted to approach discipline with my boys. I'd gotten into bad habits, and between PPD and the whole separation/divorce thing and general craziness of it all, the boys were getting away with murder. And I was helping it happen. I've learned so much from him, and things are so much better with the boys than they were before.
But...we don't always see eye to eye. He still thinks I am too easily manipulated by the boys and too permissive and soft with them. I think there are times when he is too harsh. I also think there are times when he has blinders on because it's me with my boys, and I could swear he does similar things with KlutzGirl.
Sometimes it might be handy to have videos around the house so we could check ourselves and see what the other sees, you know?
We had an argument the other night. (It apparently was the night for it, as I found the next day that several friends had fights and arguments with their beloveds the same night. Must have been the moon.) Somehow we got on the subject of Discipline, again, centered on a couple of recent incidents with the boys. It got fairly heated, more so than usual, because we were tired and we'd had such a frickin' emotional couple of weeks. Plus, I was angry that he had been angry about these incidents and hadn't talked to me about it.
Yeah. I was angry that he had been angry. Well, more that he had been angry and hadn't tried to work it out.
Really, this did make sense in my head.
So I ended up stomping downstairs in a huff to lie in my angry misery on the couch watching idiotic late night TV. MTL came down a bit later to see if I was going to come back to bed or not, and we argued some more, and he stomped away upstairs.
And I stewed.
It didn't take all that long, however, before I started thinking more reasonably, despite the anger. The reality is that Discipline and Child Rearing are some of the most frequent points in conflict for stepcouples. Don't take my word for it: check out the excellent advice of Dr. Susan Wisdom (no really, that's her name). MTL and I both want the same things for our children--independence, happiness, and strength of character. We agree on a good bit of how to get there. But not all.
So I lay there and realized I had a decision to make. Keep punishing him by refusing to go back up to our bed? Because that just punished me too. Keep that emotional distance between us? Because that would only widen into a chasm. Wait for him to throw himself at my feet and say he was all wrong? Because that wasn't going to happen. Wait for myself to feel that I should go throw myself at his feet and say I was all wrong? Because that wasn't going to happen either.
Or take that step toward reconciliation? Because reconciliation doesn't have to mean we agree on everything. Forgiveness doesn't have to mean one side is wholly right and the other is wholly wrong.
I went upstairs. He was awake, reading my latest DnD blog post on his phone. I crawled into bed, and our legs touched. Neither of us drew away. I turned to one side and curled into his back. He leaned ever so slightly into me.
We were both still angry. But I told him I was sorry for being so defensive and angry instead of talking things through calmly. We told each other we love each other--even when angry. We fell asleep body to body, anger fading enough to give way to exhaustion.
I woke with his arms around me. He kissed my ear and whispered Brat, the way he does that really means I love you anyway.
I love him anyway too.