Learning what will make a relationship work… and it’s not a trick.
My favourite thing to do is create stories. Working in content creation, I feel lucky to be around like-minded individuals who are able to laugh, craft, and conclude about the wacky world we are all a part of because, after all, that’s where stories are derived from. On this particular afternoon, the world around me told me that I haven’t been fighting fair in my relationships, and this is what will turn them from good to great.
I’m currently in a TV writing room where we spend a lot of time talking about the relationships our characters are in. Our stories are speckled with anecdotes from our real lives and, on this particular day, we got on to discussing the myth of being young (or any age, actually) and wholeheartedly believing that there is one person out there for us who will change our lives for the better. More specifically, we discussed the myth that a person’s life wouldn’t be great or fulfilled until they meet their “other half.”
Myself and my friend in the room are the youngest here at 26 years old. We often catch each other’s eyes and nod in agreement when we’re discussing conventions of any topic at hand.
Yes, we nodded. The myth that your “one true love” being “out there” is still very present… And it’s as heavyhearted as ever. We are fed this idea almost constantly – from the newest superhero movie to the classic conventional representation of a happily married couple. “I suffer from that,” my friend said. “I’m definitely waiting to meet the one.”
I am going to preface this next paragraph with this: at one point in my life, I had absolutely no idea how to be in a strong and healthy relationship. I was never taught, nor did anyone ever play it out in front of me. Relationships are difficult and require work, awareness, and the ability and want to understand someone else’s perspective. That being said, it’s not easy. But why can’t they be easy? I thought.
I’m in a relationship that I see as perfect and easy, but in the weirdest of ways. My partner and I argue a lot. So on this day at work while we’re discussing the idea of “one true love,” I thought about how easy and perfect I always thought it would be. How little this idealist couple argues and how they must agree and see eye to eye on everything. I realized that I’m comparing my own real relationship to an idea. Chime that big red buzzer here, because that’s the idea we’ve all been sold.
“So… fighting is… normal,” I joked. But everyone at the table nodded in agreement. Grown up adult men by anyone’s definition sat there saying, “If someone tells me they’re in relationship and they don’t fight, something is definitely wrong.”
A part of me wanted to yell, “Say it ain’t so!” and storm out with flailing arms, but instead I thought about how little I knew about being one half of a partnership; a realization I’ve been coming to terms with over the past few years. Is this what it’s like to grow up… and notice doing so?
I felt ripped off because I was never taught that a relationship is work – a lot of work – but I felt oddly content that mine was actually quite… conventional.
“It’s about three things,” my colleague advised. “Do you fight fair? Do you laugh? And do you want to live a similar lifestyle?” I nodded to all three and, as if to read my mind, he added, “But you have to fight fair.”
Damn. So I can’t always be right. I’ll be the first to admit (especially as an only child to divorced parents), that this is difficult. It’s difficult, but not impossible.
We occupy a world that encourages us to define ourselves in 140 characters, square filtered photos, and selfies from space which continually reinforces the idea that there is one true self; that there is only I and I only exist to compare myself to other me’s. There are articles and studies about how intrinsically disconnected we are in this technologically connected realm.
It’s not fair to yourself or the person you’re entangled with to fight unfairly. In no way does this mean that you shouldn’t stand up for what you believe in, how you perceive the world, or where you stand in in any situation you find yourself in. Fighting fair quite simply means listening and responding actively and as if we are actually interested and a part of the solution.
It’s easy to turn ourselves off to others when we’re programmed to check our devices each time it buzzes. It’s easy to turn ourselves off to the people behind the links that we click, the articles that we read, and the realities that they possess. It’s easy for these habits to spill into our physical realities and, in this comparative realm of getting likes and shares, it’s easy to forget to fight fair.
I spent a lot of time painting an online presence of myself – molding and shaping it as an extension and definition of myself for others. But what has that done for me? In a relationship where I want to look out for myself, fight for what I believe in, and be wholly loved as I do so, I constantly have to remind myself that there are two sides to this partnership and that I need to let the other side in.
The point of all this is to say that it’s easy to forget that there are two sets of emotions in any relationship you’re a part of and it’s important that you don’t discount that. I don’t want to subscribe to the “one true love” theory because I know that we, as individuals, are capable of experiencing an incredible life as ourselves. It is the connections that we make that enrich our experiences and those are the partnerships this fair fight should be applied to.
At 26, I’m learning that I need to be an active participant in my relationship. I’m not dating a website. I’m not dating a thing. I’m dating a person. A partner. It’s taken me more than a few failed romantic relationships to learn that there are two sets of emotions on the table at every given second and, despite the difficulty in seeing past mine, there will always be two sets of emotions in a relationship comprised of two people. It’s not enough to know that someone else is there. It must be known and acknowledged, and if I don’t want to acknowledge that, I’m not fighting fair.