Dear Carolyn: I’m the letter-writer who got burned and asked whether loving someone was hopeless. I have a decent enough update. According to a close friend, our relationship had a major red flag I never saw: We never fought. We worked stuff out by saying what each of us wanted and discussing it from there.
My friend says no fighting is a huge red flag because nothing worth having ever comes easy. Had Friend known this about my relationship at the time, she would have had an intervention with me.
Others also noted that I probably talk too much and planning a life with someone shouldn’t take so many hours.
Rather than discussing things, I’ve been more focused on what a guy says and seeing if that matches up before I start talking. If it doesn’t, then I break things off.
Everything I thought I knew about relationships was wrong. It’s weird to start over not only relationship-wise but knowledge-wise.
I’m glad you’re feeling “decent enough” – that’s a start.
It’s also good you’ve reoriented yourself toward listening versus talking. Of course you’ll want to get to a point where you’re comfortable with a balance, with sharing yourself both by speaking your mind and by being open to what you hear.
I also think that walking away from someone you know won’t suit you is smart, especially when you’re still recovering from a significant heartbreak. Just make sure you occasionally review your idea of what you’re looking for, especially if it has been with you since childhood. The criteria you’re using have to grow with you for them to be of any use.
Most important, though: Please don’t make this friend your new beacon. Non-fighting isn’t always a red flag! People can discuss extremely difficult things without getting upset. Maybe it’s not common, but it’s a really good thing, so I hate the thought of anyone having a fixed notion that fight makes right. Flags go red when partners suppress how upset they are to avoid what would otherwise be a fight. Very different thing.
Compatibility is a great thing, and it “comes easy” by definition.
Re: Burned: Black-and-white thinking is so dangerous! Many things worth having come easy. And I’m sure there is plenty that you knew about relationships that you can still trust. You can learn some lessons from this, yes, but why conclude all your premises are wrong if perhaps it was just the wrong person?
Great point, thank you.
Re: Burned: After 37 years of an extremely happy marriage (which ended only with his passing), I can honestly say we never had a fight. The secret? Knowing the difference between an argument and a fight. Arguing involves strong disagreement. After all, Mark Twain said that if two people agree about everything, one of them isn’t necessary. The intent is resolution. Fighting involves nastiness, name-calling, button-pushing. The intent is victory.
Excellent, thanks. Even “arguing” (strong disagreement) doesn’t have to involve “arguing” (raised voices).
Not that there’s anything wrong with the occasional raised voices. There’s just no required level of conflict to qualify a relationship as good or healthy. It’s the transparency, not the volume, that counts.
Email Carolyn at email@example.com, follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/carolyn.hax or chat with her online at 10 a.m. each Friday at www.washingtonpost.com.