Living Together, Fighting Together

Yesterday I was talking with a 40-something about the analogies between starting a new business and starting a relationship. We got a little more into the relationship side of things when she  made the comment that it’s just living with someone that is hard…not necessarily marriage or partnership. Just trying to meld your life with someone else day in day out can be hard (both at home and at work).  I often laugh when people remind me of this because I think of the analogy that one 40-something made about our first 21 years or so of life spent living with some mix of parents and siblings. There were fights and scrabbles and sibling rivalries and misunderstandings and tensions as well as a ton of love and laughter for many of us. Of course that is a different kind of love but it reminds me that it’s not abnormal to fight with the one you live with ….and that fight is not the end of the world. Here’s some 40:20 advice to help you get over the first fight and set aside the fear that fighting means finished. It’s the ability to ride the fight out rather than thrive on the fights and draw them out that is a one of the things that many of the 40-something women cite as the key to their relationship (and what made their partner the one over the one that was the constant drama guy).

Don’t jump to the D-word:

“When we first got married and would fight, I would think the world was ending. That’s it. We’re getting divorced. I would always say that. And he would say, “Why are you so upset? It’s over. We both were cranky. We both fought. We both apologized. We are both wrong. Let it go. Why are you still sitting here harping?” I said to him “I don’t know. There must be something fundamentally wrong with the relationship.”


Then one time, five or six years into the marriage he said, “The reality of it is we are going to clash. I’m a hothead. I blow up. You get quiet. We are oil and water. We’re going to fight. We have to acknowledge that we’re going to have moments where we’re not on the same plane and then it’s over with. It doesn’t mean anything. It just means we disagree over something. We’re mad at each other. You got to let that go.”


Then I started relaxing about stuff because I know that if we have a fight… so we’re not really talking and friendly the next couple of days. We’ll both get over it and it will be fine.“ – 40-something, working mom, San Diego

Everyone has different fighting styles. Expect to have fights. Don’t expect everything to be resolved. You will have big blowouts. You will find yourself wanting to run away, but in the scheme of things, you just learn that it’s part of sharing a life with someone. Even though at the time it seems like you can’t really ever picture the other side, you won’t remember those fights 20 years later.  A year is like a minute.


Don’t expect to resolve every issue:

“You might have unresolved issues being married and that’s okay. It’s just an unresolved issue that you might never come together on. You might always be apart on certain things but it doesn’t mean that all aspects of your marriage are like that. – 40-something,  mom of 3, Cleveland, OH


It starts with knowing you aren’t walking out the door

“You get through your first fight, you prove it and then you move on. We have been together for so long but we definitely still argue.  But when I was young and we were first together, I really thought would go out and find someone who had all the characteristics that I really loved minus this one thing that I find so irritating. Then you realize, I’ll put up with the thing that I find irritating.  If we bicker about it, I know he’s not walking out the door. And he knows I’m not walking out the door. It’s the recognition that you can argue with somebody. That’s normal. Nobody is always happy.40-something, married, mom, high school teacher, PhD, Los Angeles, CA


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