A few years ago, when my children were still young, we had two of everything in my house—just like Noah.
My eldest son had two white mice in his room that lived in a cage. My younger son had two adorable rats—perhaps the most caring and innocent sentient beings I have had the privilege of knowing. We had two rabbits in an enclosure in the garden, two hamsters on several occasions, two cats, and then of course there were the two boys themselves.
Every now and then, the mice would fight. It might have been over food, or whose turn it was to run on the wheel. Regardless, they would be snarling at each other like it was a fight to the death. I used to get nervous and think we should take one of the mice out of the cage before there was a fatality. But we let them be, and low and behold, when we came back five minutes later they were snuggled together inside the tiny cardboard box we had made for them—where there was strictly only room for one.
It was the same with the boys. “Get out of my room!” we would hear one of them shout. “I hate you—you’re not my brother anymore. Get out!” The door would slam. But in just the same way as the mice, a few minutes later we would discover them laughing again, playing Legos or just goofing around together.
It was during that phase of my life that my wife Chameli and I came to recognize that we were the only ones in our Noah’s ark who did not know how to enjoy a good fight. We had the idea that there was something wrong with fighting—that it is bad, that it indicates that our relationship is in trouble.
Because we did not know how to fight cleanly and enthusiastically, we would get tense instead—shut down, avoid each other, move into monosyllabic communication for a few days, or maybe even longer. But from all those great rodent teachers living with us (well, maybe my sons don’t want to be referred to in that way) we realized that maybe a good clean fight is good for you now and then.
Natural. Healthy. What the doctor ordered.
Over the years, we have learned how to enjoy fighting, so here are a few useful tips that can make consciously chosen fighting—as an art form—a fun activity every single time.
1) Separate the story from the energy. When we focus on the story, it is all about who is right and who is wrong. It becomes mental—defensive, logical, like two attorneys trying to win at trial. When you drop into the energy, fighting is just another form of playing.
2) When we can feel it is time for a good fight, one of us has to remember to call it. Someone has to simply say, “Hey, looks like there is a fight brewing. Great! Let’s enjoy it!” The tone is set then.
3) Once we get started, it is best to drop out of language altogether, and resort to growling, making ugly faces, or beating your chest.
4) *** Very important note here.**** Keep at least three feet of distance between you. If either partner has a background of abuse or trauma, it might need to be a lot more than that. When we fight consciously, it needs to be obvious to both partners that there is no physical threat involved.
5) Put a time limit on the fight. We like five to 10 minutes. If we really growl and thrash around enthusiastically enough, we feel energized, cleansed, or even strangely aroused.
6) Wait an hour or so, and then come back to the issue at hand. Does the exact location of the cat litter box seem quite so important now? Are you really as mad as you were now about the butter that was forgotten at the grocery store? If there is still a charged issue, the simple practice of one person speaks, says what is on their mind and the other only listens will work. Remember to switch roles, however.
We have found over the years that celebrating the fighting energy when it comes allows it to pass the same way it came—quickly. Sometimes, a good fight for a few minutes leads into laughter or even to the delights of the bedroom.
I love my wife deeply and she loves me. We are lucky in that way.
I love to laugh with her. I love to make good food with her.
I love going to the movies with her.
I love to walk through our small town in the evening with her, hand in hand, looking in shop windows.
I love to make love with her. I love to fall asleep with her.
And I love it when we can share a good fight.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Assistant Editor: Melissa Horton/Editor: Bryonie Wise
Photo: Flickr Creative Commons