On the first anniversary of our meeting, we made an astounding discovery. We realized that we had never had an argument, had never fought, not even a little. It has now been twelve years we’ve been together (ten since we got married) and it is still true; we have never had a fight, never argued, never felt distanced, alienated, or estranged from one another. We do not accomplish this by ignoring issues or by not communicating or by suppressing our feelings. Quite the opposite; we share the deepest feelings and desires of our hearts constantly with each other. Both of us are strong, separate individuals, and at the same time we are in a relationship with a profound experience of union.
You may read this with disbelief. You may say to yourself “Good for you, but what does that have to do with us, with our relationship? We’ve been together for 15 years and we have many arguments and distance has grown between us.” Or you might say, “Well, I’m just going into a relationship, but I have never had the experience of being with someone without conflict and arguing! How can I experience something if I don’t know if it really exists?”
The view that arguments are inevitable in relationships is unfortunately one that has been popularized. Thankfully, there are a few people speaking out against this basic fallacy. In her excellent article in Psychology Today “Beware Of Mistaken Marriage Advice That All Couples Fight”, Dr. Susan Heitler writes:
Several years ago, addressing a large audience of several thousand marriage educators at a SmartMarriages conference, Gottman said with great confidence, “Of course we all know that all couples fight…” Here’s better marriage advice about fighting. Don’t fight. Talk cooperatively. Marriage fights, that is, arguing at any level of intensity, reflect a breakdown in partnership. It means you have switched to a stance of being opponents, arguing for yourself and against your partner. Fighting is adversarial dialogue; the goal is to win, not to build mutual understanding.
In our latest book, “How Two: Have a Successful Relationship” we say:
Open your minds and your hearts to another way. We are living proof that it is possible to love without hardship and difficulty. You do not always have to struggle and work in order for your relationship to be full of calm, ease, and at the same time, juicy passion.
We are not suggesting that both of you will always see things the same way. Difference and even disagreement are not the same as conflict, argument or estrangement. No couple agrees on everything, but there are ways to resolve issues that, improbable as it may sound, reach a solution that works for both people without requiring any compromise.
Other writers and couples have talked about this, too. For most of them, their blissful state was preceded by years of conflict, but in the end, they took that leap. It is a leap because it is not simply a matter of degree, but of a qualitative difference.
So how does change like that come about? Sometimes it is by slow degrees, like a tree growing around a fence, but often it happens all at once by a change in understanding, like solving a crossword clue that previously made no sense. Once you fully get what a peaceful relationship means, there is no going back; it’s not something you might lapse from, like taking up cigarettes again; it’s a learned behavior with such great results that there is no reason to ever go back. It’s like riding a bike – something you don’t forget.
Changing your viewpoint to see your relationship differently can be a difficult leap. You may be holding beliefs that get in the way; for example, that you are unworthy, that competition necessarily arises in any union, or that you have expectations about how relationships must be. This is work that you have to do on yourself. You make changes in a relationship by changing yourself, not your partner.
So if you’re in a committed relationship but still arguing, look at why that is. Is it because you feel you don’t deserve better, or because you “know” that all relationships are like that? They’re not, and we are the proof. For those of you who have traveled a road of distance and separateness in your relationship, a change to behaving as partners will bring a joy and fulfillment that is unimaginable but most definitely achievable with belief, intention, and the right tools. There is no reason that you cannot have a relationship like ours, too. For that to happen, you need these things.
- Commitment. You’re past the dating phase, you’re past the “Are they the one?” question; you want to make it work.
- Core Values. You know what your core values are, and your partner’s core values are compatible with yours.
- Belief. You have to believe a peaceful relationship is possible. We are living proof it exists. If it can happen for us, it can happen for you.
- No Expectations. You don’t have rules about how your partner should be, and vice versa. Result: an extraordinary feeling of freedom.
- Intention. You can have all of the above, but you have to put it all into practice.
Armed with these values, you can create a union founded on finding mutual solutions and growing a peaceful relationship. You will find a level of joy and a profound sense of well-being that was previously unknown.
We’ve written in detail about all of this, plus how to resolve differences without arguing, in our book “How Two: Have a Successful Relationship,” available at all good Amazons, and Chaucer’s Bookstore in Santa Barbara. Join us and others promoting and working for peaceful relationships by living one, and by doing so, spread peace, one relationship at a time!
EXTRA! EXTRA! From May 17-19, 2017, the eBook of “How Two: Have a Successful Relationship” will be OFFERED FOR FREE!