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, who lived in a cage. My younger son has 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 have a fight. It might have been over food, or whose turn it was to run on the wheel, then 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, 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 is 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.
The key is to 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 a trial. When you drop into the energy, fighting is just another way of playing.
Here’s what we do, when we can feel it is time for a good fight. One of us has to remember to call it, simply by saying “Hey, looks like there is a fight brewing. Great! Lets enjoy it!” It is best to drop out of language altogether at this point, and resort to growling, making ugly faces, or beating your chest.
*** Very, very, 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 you fight consciously, it needs to be really obvious to both partners that there is no physical threat involved.
We have found, over the years, that celebrating the fighting energy, when it comes, allows it to pass again very quickly as well. 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.