how to fight fair sorta and win

Dear Uma: Valentine's Day was a bust. After all my plans to participate by getting a card and some red things for Pete, I got involved in a new project and forgot all about it. When Pete showed up a day early for his two weeks out, I got up and gave him

Dear Uma:

Valentine’s Day was a bust. After all my plans to participate by getting a card and some red things for Pete, I got involved in a new project and forgot all about it.

When Pete showed up a day early for his two weeks out, I got up and gave him a kiss and then went back to work. A couple of hours later he told me he was going to Super A to buy a frozen pizza for lunch. While he was out I heard something on the radio about Valentine’s Day – oops!

It was too late to get a card or a gift, but I did get up early the next day to grab a quick shower and put some perfume behind my ears before jumping back into bed and arranging myself for the breakfast in bed that surely would be coming.

Pete may be used to me forgetting sentimental anniversaries, but I am not at all accustomed to him blowing them off and that is what he did with the biggest love fest of the year. Nothing. Not a song sung in my ear at sunrise, not a card on my pillow, no cinnamon hearts sprinkled on a breakfast tray.

When I finally got up, he was gone. He came home a short time later to tell me he’d arranged to go ice fishing the next day – did I want to come along? No mention of the Day.

I waited all day for the surprise – nada.

OK, I know in the not so recent past I have lamented Pete’s Valentine excesses, but it seems I have not only gotten used to them, I kinda looked forward to what he would come up with next.

By evening, feeling a little testy, I gently initiated a discussion, which rapidly escalated into a full-blown debate which heated up to a red-hot controversy which skyrocketed into what can only be described as a marital spat. I slept on the couch and Pete, not to be outdone, slept on the floor beside the couch. A Happy Valentine’s Day it was not.

He left this morning, before I was awake, to go ice fishing. So much for the plan of spending the day together, a day that might have been healing, knitting us back together. I was left feeling hurt and resentful, and wondering if the young woman troublemaker the tarot reader had talked about had anything to do with this radical change in Pete’s behaviour.

The revenge and retaliation took place in fantasy only, and lasted only as long as it took to drink a cup of tea and imagine Pete weeping with remorse when he came home laden with the catch of the day to find his catch of a lifetime gone.

Then, adult-like, I spent the remainder of the day in research. This is the best I found and I am sharing it with you because I know you and Andrew also have strong talks. You will notice in this mini manual such talks are referred to as “fights;” I think it is accurate to say that what Pete and I had could be described as a fight, though no physicality was involved.

Indeed, unless we make up, there will be no physicality of any sort ever again.

Rules for fair fighting

1) Fight by Mutual Consent. A ‘good’ fight demands two ready participants.

I see the sense of this, but arranging it could be iffy. Firstly there must be mutual agreement that what you are having is a fight. Who names the exchange a fight, thereby opening up the possibility of turning a warm chat into a fight?

2) Stick to the Present. Don’t dredge up past mistakes and faults about which you can do nothing.

Obviously another good rule, but again, one which leaves me with a lot of questions. How does one point out the reason you are fighting is because of the other person’s history in the matter at hand?

3) Stick to the Subject. Limit this fight to this subject.

Oh, I am in full agreement here. I can’t wait to show this to Pete and see his shame at bringing up the time I fed his parents baked rats. It always comes up with every disagreement, forcing me to remind him of the time he wore Madras pants to my friend’s wedding.

4) Don’t Attack Your Partner. In your lives together, you discover each other’s sensitive areas. Don’t throw them at each other.

Well, fer chrissakes! Are we having a fight or aren’t we? Those sensitive areas are clearly the best targets.

5) Don’t Quit; Work It Out. Bring the fight to a mutual conclusion otherwise it will recur again and again.

Duh! Every fight may start fresh, but it always comes back to the same things – like in number 3.

I don’t want to quit; I am willing to work it out, but sometimes I get sleepy. Pete can be in the middle of a good defence or offence and I just drop off. I guess he could get a bell, or a whistle or something to keep me participating.

6) Don’t Try To Win – Ever. If one wins, the other loses and begins to build resentment about the relationship.

I am wrestling with this concept, I admit. What is a fight without a winner and a loser? I think it is more important that we win the same number of fights. Pete and I are fairly even; he counts himself as the winner if I go to sleep, and I am the winner if he leaves the room. His going ice fishing today counts as two wins for me.

7) Respect Crying. It is a valid response to how we feel, but don’t let crying sidetrack you. It is a response for men as well as women.

We aren’t weepers, either of us, at least not often. Knowing as I do that crying completely does Pete in I am prepared to take this rule as a useful tip.

8) No violence. Physical violence violates all of the above rules for fighting by mutual consent.

No argument from me on this one. I do wonder at the injuries that have sometimes come about indirectly. There was the time Pete was losing the fight by leaving the scene of the battle and fell over cushions I had thrown on the floor; he only sprained his wrist and the injury and subsequent trip to the emergency ward at the hospital banished all disagreement between us. Surely that is a good thing?

Then, there are the ‘no’ words and the ‘yes’ words.

‘You never’‘I’m sorry’‘I did wrong’‘you always’‘I appreciate you’‘I don’t want to discuss it’‘I love you’‘thank you’

‘How many times do I have to tell you?’

I’m going to leave it to you to sort them out into their proper category.

Then, send me your list and I will tell you if you are a winner or a loser.

Love,

Heather

Heather Bennett is a writer

who lives in Watson Lake.