Saturday, July 19, 2008

Question of the Week #27: Happy Loving Couples

Happy loving couples make it look so easy
Happy loving couples always talk so kind
Until the time that I can do my dancing with a partner
Those happy couples ain't no friends of mine

- Joe Jackson

Dear Faithful Reader,

Have you ever had someone tell you they have never had a fight with their partner? I can imagine most people’s reaction: “Yeah, right.” It seems like no relationship is immune to conflict.

The other day one of my friends told me about an angry episode he and his wife went through. They had some loud words, talked it out, and by the next morning things were back to normal. Which is what struck me – “normal” for this couple is to not fight. They are a happy loving couple who have been together for decades, they support each other in big ways and small, and the bumps in the road are few and far between.

So why is it that even the strongest marriages have the occasional rough patch? Have you seen happy loving couples turn unhappy? Where do those outbursts come from? Are these the same sort of stresses that rockier relationships seem to deal with all the time ... but it’s just that some couples deal with them less frequently? Or are the reasons different?

I’d love to hear your take on this.

All the best,

P.S. I’m running low on questions for Dismaying Stories. Okay, really low. Quite understandably people stopped writing in when I took a break from posting. But now it’s time to stoke the fires, crank up the presses, get those fingers tapping on keyboards. Do you know someone with a relationship? (...he asked with tongue in cheek...) If so, why don’t you drop them a line, suggest they visit To Love, Honor, and Dismay and submit a question. After all, that’s where all the action comes from on this site. Thanks in advance!


  1. "Normal" is an interesting word. We live in an apartment building and our unit faces an alley. On the other side of the alley is a married couple with a lot of kids. They have knock-down, drag out fights all within earshot of pretty much every unit on our side of the building. I often wonder why they don't take it inside; especially since their arguments are pretty nasty (lots of name-calling). I decided that they think it's "normal" to argue like that. :) As for those who don't argue, I suspect that there's something wrong. I mean, how can you not disagree about anything? Living together, sharing responsibilities, etc. Or is it that I just think that a fight now and again is "normal"?

  2. It seems occasional bickering is part of every relationship... You can love somone to pieces and still get ticked off if they let gas pass...

  3. My grandparents fought constantly for the nearly fifty years they were married. In fact, they fought so much that I didn't want to go see them when I was a child. They were loud, always shouting at one another, and seemed constantly angry. I was a teenager before I realized they actually enjoyed fighting. Further more, shortly before my grandfather died, I discovered that they were very much in love. And, strangely, they called each other friend.

    Go figure.

    I don't know if we're normal or not, but in the twenty-four years my husband and I have been together, we've had our occasional arguments both big and small, bickering and hashing out differences. We both dislike fighting a great deal, but an atmosphere of unspoken tensions is worse. We'd rather use our words.

    Our topics are prettty standard: Money is the one that rears its head most often, followed closely by child rearing philosophies. There are other less-often visted topics, but those are the top two.

    I've known couples who claim they never argue. What I've seen in action is more of a matter of a different problem solving style. They choose neutral language and take lots of time outs (sometimes days) to work through differences. It looks to me like it works. *Shrugs*

  4. Anonymous7:09 AM

    We all have our frustrations. Unfortunately something in us prevents us from acting upon our frustration when strangers are around. When people who don't know us are around, we are different, we try to show a positive attitude and personality. But then our frustrations are still there and they need to be taken out on someone. And unfortunately we decide to take it out on people who know us best because they are there. And who's there more than your husband/partner?

    That's my opinion on why every couple fights :)

  5. My own marriage is a very happy, very loving one. Yet we have fights occasionally. I think it stems from expectations or that old taking the other person for granted. We support each other in numerous ways, but because we find ourselves so content and so happy, we get complacent. We take for granted that the other person, who is so reasonable and so nice, will simply understand and accommodate. Or we hold resentments, even small ones, over some unresolved issue. In my opinion, resentments are the fast track to killing a relationship, so I'm much more vocal when it comes to what's bothering me. That in itself can cause some upset, but in the long run a small spat over it sure beats the long-term effects of unspoken feelings.

  6. My grandparents reached their Diamond Wedding anniversary, yet they fought often - once almost to the point of divorce. Yet when one died the other was so bereft, she followed within weeks.

    My parents weren't quite as dramatic, but they has some pretty serious disagreements, many remain in my memory still. But the two were parted only by death after 55 years.

    I've had three serious relationships, the first ended in an early divorce- hardly even time to get into the fight arena! Second lasted 33 years and saw many quite dramatic fights, but always, always, underneath them all was an abiding love and respect. Both knew that things would calm down eventually.

    Currently my marriage of 3 and a half years is mainly serene, both of us well past the era of youthful spats. Even now though we have to let out negative feelings, not often, but when it happens they are memorable disagreements.

    I think it's healthy to let things come to the surface, rather than allowing matters to fester. I doubt that any two humans could live together 24/7 and NEVER disagree. It's not reasonable to expect that. The test is whether the two people can roll with the flow and return to calmer waters when the storm is past. A lot of people can't do it. It's a hard learned skill I believe. ;-)

  7. Will spread the word, Andrew. I definitely want your column to keep going and going! So many questions and answers have spoken to me.

    Hmmmmmm....fights? Maybe because of two different family backgrounds - and trying to find a way to meld two families' traditions and beliefs into your own as a couple?

    Perhaps a season of finding one another's boundaries?

    Stress from the outside?

    I find that many couples I think are happy, really aren't...they just put up with one another and present a picture to the world outside the marriage.

    I am a pure marriage cynic. :)

  8. Thank you all for your input. That's one of the most amazing things about this site -- everyone has different experiences and points of view. I always learn something with every post!

    Gardenia, Thanks for spreading the word!

  9. At what point do arguments cross the line to "fight" status? And when is enough, enough?

    I know my daughter will always remember the "knock-down, drag-out" fights we had. How could she not? And I sometimes wonder why the hell I didn't leave???

    Now, I am reasonably happy, content, and am looking forward to my husband's graduation this fall. But there were more than 15 years of serious fights (lots of verbal abuse, some physical abuse--by both of us). Why didn't I just go?

  10. Since I never been in a good relationship I would have no idea how little fights work out.

  11. Well hello there. It's been awhile since I looked for you and am pleasantly surprised to see you back up and running. Guess you can't keep a good man down, believe me I've tried but they always seem to run out of air.

    Good to see you. I too am slowly coming back. I miss all my friends but I've been busy.

    Take good care,