“If you have someone that you think is the one…don’t just sort of think in your ordinary mind and think, OK let’s make a date, let’s plan this and make a party, we’ll get married. Take that person and travel around the world. Buy a plane ticket for the two of you to travel all around the world and go to places that are hard to go to and hard to get out of. And if when you come back to JFK, when you land in JFK, and you’re still in love with that person, get married at the airport.” ~ Bill Murray
I have probably experienced more fights with friends, family and lovers in a foreign country than back home.
When travelling with them, I have found myself expressing things I disagreed with harder if not louder, and more than once getting or giving the silent treatment because of it.
The thought of fighting with anyone we love is never a comfortable one.
It leaves us feeling hurt, saying and hearing things we sometimes aren’t ready for. But most of all, it lends an ugliness to an otherwise happy bond.
I remember once seeing a couple roaming the streets of Ubud in search of a hostel. I could hear them from meters away as one of them was holding on to the map trying to decipher the right route to take, while the other was dragging along the suitcase determinedly, professing, “I’ve been telling you for hours now it’s here. You never listen to me!”
If these things sound familiar, then perhaps you’d be curious to know why we end up fighting more when we travel—and what to bear in mind when it happens…
Travelling together is an analogy that can enable us to understand ourselves and each other.
As any distance we take from things give us an outside perspective, so does taking a geographical distance—offering us a new vantage point over our lives.
On a trip we are constantly in each other’s space, while not even in our own space or comfort zone. It is like trying to guide someone on slippery ice when you haven’t even learned the basics of ice skating. If you lose it, there are obvious repercussions to your dynamics.
But when we are travelling with someone we love, we are not just a couple. We are a team. And that is something we sometimes forget back home too. If we’re being a bad sport in our relationship, things will end up getting bitter.
Deep down, the couple in Ubud weren’t really fighting about maps. It usually takes a generalisation like “you never listen to me” to show us what the problem really is.
In all our relationships, we have a need to be heard and acknowledged. As in this case, when that need isn’t met, we can get angry. When we fight, we try and raise our voices physically over the little things that aren’t heard or communicated properly.
We feel we are entitled to be heard, and to get angry about not being heard.
When we are holding on to the frustration and anger of something that hurt us, we feel entitled to relieve those feelings by taking them out on the person we believe made us feel them.
On one vacation I found myself fighting continuously with someone I loved. I got angry over little things and it quickly poisoned the mood. Underneath the surface bickering, I was holding onto a grudge—something that a loved one had done that had hurt me in the past, and that I hadn’t explained or dealt with fully.
Out of love, I decided not to make a big deal out of it. And out of love, I forced myself to get over it. And so unconsciously, I found ways to deal with the grudge. I held back on things—on expressing the feelings I used to express, on the support I used to give and most of all on the patience I used to have.
So, I was unconsciously waiting to see when I could pick a fight again, because it released some of the frustrations I held in me, and because it was a way to retaliate against a loved one for what (I felt) had hurt me.
Travelling together is like a magnifying glass put to the tiniest loose threads of our relationships.
There is suddenly no escaping things we may have been avoiding—even the smallest of things can blow up in our faces.
We might do well to bear in mind, when we are feeling angry or sad, that we are the one’s choosing to feel that way. We are masters of our own emotions and no one else is responsible for making us feel good or bad. Suffering is optional.
Sometimes negative feelings come out impulsively—our companion taps into something unexpected that makes us boil inside. This is when we have to be mindful about where and why these feelings are there. The causes of our feelings are always our own thoughts. In the case of a fight, anger is but a feeling that arises from thoughts we are holding on to.
While it is sometimes easier to hold on to a silent grudge than to tell someone what really hurt us in the moment, we should really be expressing ourselves there and then. Communicating about feelings (that we don’t always understand) is difficult, so maybe rather than suppressing our feelings, we should think about expressing our thoughts instead, before they turn into misjudged feelings.
I’ve started to try this. Nowadays, if a discussions starts to shift into a fight, I try to understand what I’m feeling, and most of all why. In doing this, it becomes easier to explain to someone what I’m feeling in the moment—stopping me from holding a future grudge or more so, starting a fight.
If we love someone deeply, be they friends, family or lovers, don’t treat the relationship like a playground game of back and forth or tit for tat. See it as a loving connection and let that be the basis of it all.
If we are with someone out of choice, we should act accordingly, and choose to communicate rather than deteriorate.
Only when we can identify more quickly and easily what and why we feel the things we feel, are we going to stop feeling so entitled to make someone else suffer as a result of these feelings.
After all, if we are the masters of our own emotions, why should we feel entitled to project our anger and frustrations on someone else?
A fight is like the perfect storm. It is risky and dangerous. But, as the African proverb goes, Smooth seas do not make skillful sailors. Fights are often learning opportunities—if we’re willing to dig deep enough past our own egos.
” The more you understand, the more you love; the more you love, the more you understand.” ~ Thich Nhat Hahn
In gratitude to that particular person, and also those people, who have helped me grow in understanding, and love.
Author: Lauren Klarfeld
Editor: Khara-Jade Warren
Image: Author’s own