I was flipping through the TV channels yesterday and landed on a talk show. The hosts were discussing a topic that you would think is as important to us as climate change is to President Biden and Al Gore. They were vehemently discussing the topic, looking at it from different points of view. Since the hosts are a mix of women of different ages and ethnicities, they all had their own “take” on the issue. I sat there watching until I couldn’t stand it and turned to something to restore my hope in humanity that people can’t really be that dumb.
Host #1 read an excerpt from a nationally published magazine and then baked that article up by reading an excerpt from something she found on a dating website. She fact-checked, so it had to be true. The topic: It’s okay to be annoyed or even angry with the person you are dating (or married to). You don’t have to always be in the honeymoon stage with him or her every second of every day. Final thoughts on the matter: It’s okay and even healthy to be annoyed or even angry with the person you are dating (or married to) and, yes, the relationship can still survive. The relationship has a “great chance of lasting” if a bit of hostility or animosity is poured into the mix at times. Cue audience members clapping in agreement. Insert my eye roll here.
This isn’t breaking news or a hot topic. I guess it was a slow narishkeit day in the “news room” of this particular magazine and website, so they wrote about something that I and many others have been saying since the beginning of time. But then I looked through my emails and found several from both males and females within the last few months that wrote in asking if it was “normal” to disagree or even argue with the person he/she is dating. I decided to write about the topic again; I mean, if it’s important enough for a nationally syndicated talk show to discuss, and for a nationally published magazine to write about, who am I to not write about what the people want to know about? Each email spoke about different types of arguing, so I can’t make a general statement about what is healthy and productive and what is not. But I will say that not agreeing on everything may be a good thing; otherwise, discussions would be boring, because you’d have nothing to talk about, unless you list the reasons why you agree about a topic.
It would be extremely odd if two people didn’t have a difference of opinion once in a while. Everyone’s personality is shaped by his upbringing, environment, education, and family. Even identical twins have a different opinion on certain things. But before I get too far into this topic, I want to make it clear that I believe there is class in everything and “there is even class in fighting.” Don’t be mean and hit below the belt when arguing with someone you want to keep in your life (spouses included). You may feel that the point you just made will prove to the other person how correct you are, but it will also show the other person what you are willing to say to or even do to win the argument. Also ask yourself if this argument is worth it in the long run/big picture of things.
I was told many times before I was married, “You can either be happy or correct. You can’t be both.” That doesn’t mean you should always agree, but don’t take an argument down dirty low. Things may be said that can’t be taken back or forgiven so easily. You may feel like it was your mic drop moment, but what did that moment, that phrase, sentence, point...really cost you? It’s not just the words you choose to use, it’s your tone, your behavior; everything you do while arguing will play a role in your relationship. Do you scream and not let the other person talk, even if you keep asking, “Why did you say/do that?” and you just shout over them when they try to speak so that the only opinion heard is yours? Or do you argue civilly, not in raised voices or flailing arms/hands, but still get your point across in a somewhat calm manner? And for those of you with children, please know that children know when parents are fighting, even when they try to keep it quiet. Kids pick up on the tension. I’m not saying never to argue with kids around, but to be careful in what is said and done in those hot emotional moments.
I’m not here to discuss relationship-ending type of fighting/arguing. I’m writing to say that it is okay to tell the person you are dating or married to that you don’t feel the same way as they do about something, or you disagree with something they did. You need to show them who you really are. Are you a “yes girl/boy” as I was once asked? The man asked the shadchan to ask me if I’d just go along with what he thinks or if I will have an opinion and argue with him. True story: He asked the shadchan if I had my own opinions. Apparently, he was looking for a “Yes” girl, or should I say a “Yes, darling, whatever you say, honey” type of girl.
I read through the emails I received from singles in the dating parshah. One person wrote: “I’m afraid that if we have too many opinions that don’t match, he’ll think that we don’t match.” Truly it depends what the differences of opinion are about, and how strongly they both feel about their points. It could be something as serious as how America may be going down the tubes or as superficial as the best recipe for a roast. But again, don’t be afraid not to say what your true thoughts are, because if you can’t be yourself and be with someone who will respect your thoughts/opinions even if they don’t agree with them, then why would you want to be with that person? At that point, you become arm candy; you look great, but they aren’t interested in you for your brains, just your looks.
It takes two people to be in a relationship. It’s also the responsibility of these two people to ensure that the relationship has a good foundation and can withstand a disagreement, a fight if you will. In the same regard, those same two people have to figure out if they even want to continue on. “Oh, my G-d, how can I live with this person!? He/she is so stupid and it’s getting on my nerves!” We all have those moments, but sometimes it goes to the extreme and the relationship can’t handle it, because the foundation wasn’t as strong as they thought.
It’s a simple fact of life: People won’t always agree about everything all the time and that’s fine. We all have different life experiences and were raised in different homes. It’s only natural, then, that two people would not think the exact same way. I remember a conversation I had with a single male about a couple of years ago, and he said he judged each date he had with a particular woman on whether or not they agreed on the majority of topics discussed or not. He said, “Most of the dates were good, but then we had two bad dates and it really confused me about her!” When I asked him what his definition of “bad” was, he said, “We argued about stuff.” I tried to have him think if the arguments were normal differences of opinion or differences in hashkafah that they couldn’t agree or compromise on. In a nutshell, he was saying that if disagreements were happening in this early stage of the relationship, maybe he should call it quits now. I asked him if he ever fought/disagreed with his friends. He said that he had. I asked if he was able to accept and even love that friend even if they didn’t see eye to eye on every subject. It was then that I saw the light bulb go off in his eyes.
Yes, in a perfect world couples would always agree, laugh together, hold hands, and never go to bed angry at each other. But the world isn’t perfect. We are allowed to disagree with our significant other, but it’s the way that we handle ourselves and how they handle themselves during the disagreements. Open communication is key in order for a relationship to survive. If you keep feelings bottled up inside and keep adding fuel to that fire without venting to your significant other, then the fire will eventually turn into fireworks. It’s better to get things out in the open than to keep them to yourself – but that is a whole different column for a different day.
How many times have I heard, “But we’re different”? We have nothing in common.” Yeah? So what. Do you like each other? Do you think you can have a future with this person even with your differences? Differences may not even mean differences of opinion. It may mean difference in cultures. Refer back to my article where I explained that there is no such thing as love at first sight. Love is something that has to be nurtured and worked at. Yes, there will be times when you won’t want to speak with the person you are dating/married to because of a fight or disagreement. No one said that you have to speak with each other 24/7. Let some time pass, and only when you feel ready, start talking again.
(Now, cue applause, Lol!)
Hatzlachah to you all!