There’s a bad pattern that Kevin and I got into, early in our relationship. I would feel insecure, I would push him for signs of affection, often trying to get him to say things out loud, which is not his preferred mode of demonstrating affection. (That’s an understatement.) I’d often get more and more upset, as the argument continued, and it would end up escalating into a miserable middle-of-the-night fight, full of tears and an aching head. Eventually, we would fight through to some kind of emotional catharsis, and it was all very intense, and then we’d make up and that was great, and it felt very satisfying.
But that cycle was really bad for our relationship overall, because it just wore on us both, and exhausted our ease and comfort with each other. There came a point, oh, a dozen or so years in, when I found myself starting to spiral down, and I just thought — what if I didn’t? What if I went and read a book for half an hour instead, and if I was still upset, fine, come back and have it out, but maybe this is just a tiny insecurity that doesn’t need to be expanded into something huge? And amazingly, it worked — I went to read for a bit, felt fine when I stopped, gave him a kiss and went to sleep. Since that point, there’s been a lot less drama in our relationship, and a lot more simple happiness.
So here’s the funny thing — I think I’m reacting to political arguments on Facebook the same way. I enter a conversation, it gets contentious, and suddenly I’m in the midst of an adrenaline rush, and it all feels very intense and supremely important, like this is the thing that must be fixed right now, or everything will be awful forever. (Something is wrong on the internet.)
I’m practicing walking away, at least for a bit. I can always come back later, if there’s something there that I think is important to say, to clarify for the lurkers at least, if not for the main person I’m arguing with.
But I want to come back from a space of calm and clarity.
I don’t want to fight just because I’m addicted to the emotional rush of fighting. I have books to write.