Choosing when and where to fight with your spouse seems a little cold to Sam Wilson.
I remember sleeping over at a friend’s house, one 1970s Saturday night, as a small person.
My friend Ruth and I were nestled on the lounge carpet, playing MovieMaker (remember that game? Lights! Camera! Fabulous!), while her parents were discussing their days over our heads.
I wasn’t really listening to them, busy as I was with the business of blockbusting, but I did notice when the atmospheric thermostat dropped from Happy Families to Icy Stand-off.
‘Harold,’ said Friend’s Mom to Friend’s Dad with an eerie degree of coldness. ‘Not in front of the children. Later.’
Boy, I bet even Walt Disney didn’t ever wrap up a movie that quickly. After we had rushed across the board, packed up, brushed our teeth and snuggled down to sleep... I couldn’t shake the feeling that something momentous was going down.
‘Um, what’s up with your parents?’ I asked Ruth tactfully, after lights out. (Hey, I was ten years old. I didn’t realise yet that there was no tactful way to ask this question.)
‘Oh, no big deal,’ she said. ‘My parents are just going to have a fight. But they only want to have it once we are asleep.’
And with that she rolled over and fell asleep almost immediately, while I was left to ponder the extreme weirdness of the situation.
My parents always fought in front of me. In fact, as soon as my parents started arguing when I was young, we’d all rush off to tidy our rooms to avoid the fallout. Looking back, I think my mom may have picked (staged?) the odd fight with my dad strictly for this purpose.
On the whole, I believe in fighting in front of our kids, because conflict is a natural part of any relationship, and I want them to know that. Of course, that’s only when we are having mature fights of the ‘well, you may feel like that, but I feel differently’ variety. The more shrieky ones we tend to have in our bedroom, before coming out sheepishly to explain, to apologise to the boys, and to sling a little money in the Therapy Jar. The boys are fairly blasé about these (fairly rare) occurrences, and are even getting a little patronising with increasing age.
‘Don’t worry, folks,’ said Benj a few weeks ago, after one such interlude. ‘Get it off your chests! In fact, I am surprised Daddy that you didn’t remind Mommy how she also left a wet towel on the bed just last week. And...’
Hmmm. We may not have the best strategy here.
How does the fight dynamic go down in your house? And... do you think it’s healthy?
Read more by Sam Wilson
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