A while back, a friend of mine said she doesn't want to be seen as someone who likes to argue. She's black, hilarious, a professional, opinionated, owns a home and two dogs. Because of some or all of those character bullet points, there could be a misperception among men that she (or women like her) likes getting into the ring. The solution, of course, seems simple: Stop arguing. But here's an even better one: Find someone you don't have to argue with.
Too often we (or maybe it's just me) look for someone we like to call a challenge. Having conquered more than a few of them in our daily routines, challenging ourselves in love seems like less of an oxymoron and more like the obvious choice for the self-respecting "successful type." Because if everything in your life is (allegedly) desirable and hard-won, then the way to someone else's heart should be too, right?
Following that logic, making the announcement, as another friend of mine did recently, "I just like assholes," is seen as a declaration of your commitment to hard work. But it's just plain ol' dumb. We've conditioned ourselves into thinking that anything worth having is worth fighting for. Unfortunately, anything written on one of those self-esteem posters found in school nurse offices isn't any way to live your life.
It's when "keeping you on your toes" goes wrong. I dated a guy once whom I "danced" with constantly. We fought over how long to leave chicken in the oven. "It's done." "Umm no, salmonella, it's not." We'd argue about which way to walk home: "I don't like how that street smells," I'd say. "Well, I don't think that really matters," he'd reply. Best- (or perhaps worst-) case scenario? We'd walk down our respective streets and meet up at home.
Once, his chronic snoring woke me up in the middle of the night. I gave him the slightest of nudges. "You're snoring like someone's got their knee on your throat! I can't sleep," I said, in the sweetest voice that's possible to have when you're sleepless at 3 a.m. "Well, now we're both awake," he said — and didn't roll over or otherwise address his aural assault. I recounted all these vignettes and more over mimosas the following Sunday. I thought our daily quibbles passed for passion and maybe, just maybe, permanence. My girls were less than impressed.
"He sounds like an ass," one said. Everyone nodded. I'd never thought of him that way. And I'm sure he didn't see me that way, either (because it really does take two to tango). In the end, we didn't last more than a season. Still, point-counterpoint quickly became our favorite pastime, until we found ourselves exhausted. Finally we decided that things weren't working; I told him that we just saw thing differently. And he agreed — finally.
The answer to too much conflict isn't kumbaya. People should push you to be better, not over the edge. Because in the end, eliminating the small wins — Yes, we can hold hands; walking down a street that smells like Tyrone Biggums' bathroom is a bad idea; undercooked chickens aren't the end of the world — clears the path to the big ones.