One question I ask when I do group meetings on Communication Skills in Healthy Relationships is, “Yes or No - It is normal for couples to argue.” I rarely hear “No”. The standard response is, “Yes, everybody argues. People never agree on everything, they’re different. We all do it.” I answer, “Let me clarify the issue by asking it in a different way, ‘Should it be considered normal for couples to argue?’ If you expect to argue, you will do it. If you expect bad communication in your relationship, you make it happen and justify it by declaring an argument to be business as usual.”
Obviously, how do we define “normal”? Without thinking it through, most people conclude that “normal” is what everybody does or is doing, when they really mean that it appears everybody is doing it. “Normal” is defined as what it looks like how the majority of couples relate.
In our group discussions I change one word of the starting question and ask: “Yes or No - Is it normal for couples to FIGHT?” “Lordy no”, everybody answers. “Fighting is bad. Couples shouldn’t be violent and fight.” I ask, “What’s the difference between an argument and a fight? An argument is one method of fighting. Hitting would be another, but both are forms of violence.”
The point of an argument/fight is to use violence against the other in order to win. What will we do to win? Whatever it takes! In an argument, people intentionally hurt the other person in order to win. Should intentional hurt be considered normal? Strangely enough, there are only three or four words used as ammunition for winning. I will put them in capitals in the following story.
Tom said, “WHY did you leave me with an empty gas tank? You ALWAYS do that EVERYTIME. You NEED to be more responsible.”
Sue answered, “Responsible? IF ONLY you would learn to clean out the ice chest after you had fish in it. I’m ALWAYS picking up after you.”
Tom said, “IF ONLY you hadn’t cracked up the Camry, you wouldn’t NEED to drive my van. You NEED to stop texting and driving. Will you NEVER learn?
“Texting! IF ONLY you would get off Facebook before two in the morning, you’d get to work on time.”
Tom said, “EVERYTIME I try talking with you, you make me angry. You NEED to control your tongue. IF ONLY you hadn’t sounded off to the school principal last year, Timmy would be playing ball this year.”
Sue said, “WHY are you ALWAYS on the kid’s case. Timmy doesn’t like football.”
“Sports will make a man out of him. They NEVER hurt me.”
“What are you going to tell me now, no pain, no gain? You got a FOREVER damaged knee, a broken collar bone, and five concussions out of it. WHY did you keep on playing? You didn’t NEED to.”
Tom said, “Me? You are more crippled up than I am. IF ONLY you hadn’t done all that skiing we could have a social life now. You didn’t NEED to.”
Sue said, “IF ONLY you hadn’t gotten fallen down drunk at the club, we could have a social life. WHY do you KEEP ON drinking?” (End of Story)
Nothing unusual here, just a normal argument.