Friday, February 8, 2008

If You Love Me, You Will Punch Me In The Face

So, I've been busy with Project 27 Days - making more good progress with editing and polishing - and am feeling kind of uninspired in regards to writing in here at the moment. But hey, you guys like it when I write about the subject of love, right? Right? (Play along, there might be a cure for syphilis in it for you later! But I make no promises.) Valentine's Day, everybody's favorite holiday scheduled right in the middle of suicide season is coming up in just under a week, so let's talk relationships! (Specifically, I'll be looking at this theme here over these next several entries. Enjoy!)

This time, we're looking at a common hurdle shared by all relationships - and yes, I do mean all relationships. (Including the ones between you and your cats, Mittens and Bootsy. What the hell were you thinking with those names? Damn, you're lonely.) This hurdle? Conflict.

Relationships can be tough on everybody involved. People, by nature, annoy the hell out of each other. Sometimes there's no real point to it - it's just a little thing we do. (For the sake of awesome, that is.) Other times, we do it because love and hate are inextricably connected as emotions go, being that they're effectively the strongest emotions the human species possesses. As creatures, we're too complex for our own good, often too much so to completely comprehend ourselves. (Brain chemistry? Neuroscience? You mean hexes concocted by witches!) So we can mix up these emotions, even if only for a moment. Bottom line, we inevitably start to bug each other if we spend too much time together. And when in love, we're prone to clinging together so closely that inevitably, the friction that comes with it leads to static buildup and discharge. (We're all really irritating sweaters. Try wrapping your brain around that one.) When this happens, we get angry with one another.

So in this situation, what do you do? Fight and get it out of your system? Try to ignore the issue, bottle up your anger, and let it corrode you inside like rust on a sewer pipe? Stratego? Given my own unhealthy penchant for bottling up my emotions, I'd probably pick the second one. But truth be told? I'm wrong. The correct answer is, as you no doubt ascertained half a minute ago already, the first one. (Sorry, Stratego fans, looks like there is a bad time for it after all. You lose this round.) When conflict arises, to put it in semi-obscure video game reference terms, you've got to Fight It Out! By which one means, as a recent study concluded, you need to be willing to let your anger out, to blow off some steam at each other - if you can't reconcile as a couple following a conflict, after all, you fail at the relationship.

Conflict resolution is serious business - it's something that you either learn in life, or you don't. As the study found, one can potentially learn from the example of one's parents, but more often than not, couples don't know how to go about handling their conflicts. Some amount of experience with serious relationships would somewhat remedy this, you'd think, but then, everybody experiences many aspects of daily life in different ways - conflict included. You can't bottle up your anger, spending your time brooding and essentially resenting the other person until that ultimately brings the relationship to an end - you aren't a teenager, are you? As such, when conflict arises, as painful as the experience may be - crucial as painful experiences are to human development - you need to address it and resolve it. Relationship problems don't just disappear, no matter how much you may wish they would.

If you simply contain your anger, it'll stress you out even more, and as I'm going to write on at some point as well - stress kills. You don't want to die from stress, do you?

Letting your anger out, on the other hand, is actually healthy, unpleasant as the emotion itself is. The study found that people tend to make better decisions when letting their anger out, with the emotion causing the brain to ignore other cues and focus on the matter of what's made you angry. (Take note that this is not always the case. Domestic abuse, for example, is often the result of a fit of unbridled rage. Despite what the study says - and this entry's title - beating your significant other is never a good decision. Don't be one of those people.) Likewise, a past study showed that release of anger can lead to feelings of optimism and control over one's situation. (Which isn't necessarily good if it isn't a situation you have any actual control over, or any real reason to be optimistic in regards to - that's pole-vaulting over into delusion territory.)

In short, though this goes without saying, as it's on every daytime TV talk show, in every self-help book, and pretty much anyone giving advice on relationships will reiterate this point - communicate with each other. Respect each other enough to be open and honest with each other, even about unpleasant things, and unpleasant emotions. Don't lock them up inside where they'll eat away at you. Trust each other to listen and try to understand one another. You might then have a legitimate shot at overcoming whatever obstacles and conflicts you yet face as a couple. Hey, who knows? You might even not be completely miserable with each other someday. Let's just try to keep the fisticuffs to a minimum, eh?

Man, what a sappy entry. Damn you, Valentine's Day!


Tamera said...

Right on! I just finished writing something similar about the topic. Love ain't easy, is it?

Benjamin Fennell said...

Glad you agree. People struggle enough with relationships as is - and it's hard to really blame them, love definitely isn't easy - and this is something people don't pick up on often enough. People will fight and hurt each other, it's just a natural part of love and relationships. But this isn't necessarily a bad thing, so long as we know how to handle it, listening to one another and communicating our feelings. Easy street may be the appealing path in life, but there is no easy route to a good, lasting relationship. I'll have to check out your post on the topic, at any rate.