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The poison of always and never [Mar. 3rd, 2014|10:34 am]
Ferrett and I are passionate people who get along wonderfully until that unfortunate moment when we aren't getting along. We will never be one of those couples who says, "Oh, we never argue about anything!" We are both stubborn and convinced that we are right.

But one of the things we have tried to do over the years is to learn to fight fairly. To use "I" language, to step back when discussion turns into yelling, to trust that if one of us says, "I need a minute to calm down" that doesn't mean "I'm going to stomp off and fume and not speak to you anymore."

And to deal with "always" and "never" language. We are both given to hyperbole. And high emotion in our worst moments. And so at one point we would readily throw around those two words: "You always assume I'm trying to control you!" "You never show me any respect!" These statements had nothing to do with reality, and everything to do with the mental state we were in at that moment, where the world narrows down to the grievance at hand.

But once the disagreement at hand was resolved, there would be a secondary tension based on the accused hurt at being told that he or she was "always" or "never" doing something that they knew was unfair. And that lower-key tension could be carried as a deep hurt for hours or even days, waiting its moment to erupt into an echoing argument, leaving the other person--who had generally forgotten entirely about the moment--suddenly blindsided with hurt that felt like it was coming out of nowhere. And, frankly, ridiculous to the one party while monumental to the other.

So we reached an agreement. We would both do our best to stay away from "always" and "never."

And you know what? We both fail at it dismally.

In the midst of a disagreement, those terrible words still erupt from our mouths on occasion. But there is a big difference now. Usually, we are aware enough to catch ourselves doing it. And if the other of us points out what we've said, we take a step back, acknowledge that we are in error, and start again with calmer, more realistic language.

But even if we don't manage that, we each know that the other didn't mean it and we don't carry it around with us for days. Our dialogue is healthier for it.

And now? I'm working at removing those dreaded words from my internal dialogue. We are our own harshest critics, and we say things to ourselves that we would never dream of saying to our friends. Example: last night at the Oscar party I ate WAY too much junk food. I woke up this morning feeling bloated and logy. In my head, I started scolding myself: you always do this. You never have any self-control around snack food.

And then I made me stop. It was a party. I had fun. I have plenty of self-control, in that these snack foods only enter my house about 4 times a year, but I'm at the grocery store every week and I don't buy them. I am, in fact, a competent person who is capable of taking good care of myself. I deserve my own love and respect.

Here's the one always I need to internalize: I am always worthy.

[User Picture]From: ba1126
2014-03-03 04:06 pm (UTC)
This is a great post!! Hope others can make these same improvements!!
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[User Picture]From: bunny42
2014-03-03 05:35 pm (UTC)
Boy, that's a tough one. It's so easy to give up the fight when you slip badly, thinking it'll always be like this, so why bother. And it IS a fight. I know, I know, they say this new behavior will become habit and you will have won. Been there. But that junk food is always gonna be around, somewhere. The trick is not to condemn yourself for slipping up from time to time. It's what they tell smokers. You quit many times before you actually quit.

You're making some really positive and introspective changes. Congrats. You're providing vicarious motivation for those of us who aren't quite as strong.

*ignores the mint patties and reaches for an apple*
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[User Picture]From: tashiro
2014-03-03 11:26 pm (UTC)
Love the post. My wife and I, when we argue, try not to use 'always' and 'never'. One thing we discovered helped was also to always end every fight with an apology to the other, to make peace. Never let the fight hang without making amends to the other. It's helped a lot.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2014-03-04 05:09 pm (UTC)
We try to do much the same. It really helps.
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[User Picture]From: tormentedartist
2014-03-03 11:55 pm (UTC)
Honestly I try and model my marriage on yours. Sure you are different people than my wife and I, but I like how you deal with stuff. If I lived in Cleveland I'm sure I'd be buying you lunch all the time just to gain some wisdom from you.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2014-03-04 05:02 pm (UTC)
Wow, thank you. That's kind of amazing.
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[User Picture]From: tormentedartist
2014-03-04 05:07 pm (UTC)
Well its the truth. I think you make a lot of sense and sadly a lot of the poly people around here...are well drama prone and not good sources of advice : (
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From: anonymousalex
2014-03-04 02:13 am (UTC)
I always say: never say never. :-)

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[User Picture]From: bunny42
2014-03-04 05:55 am (UTC)
So, thanks to you, I walked to the storage unit, then on to Walgreen's and home. A total walk of about three miles. I was pooped, but I owe it all to you for getting me off my... couch. One day at a time.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2014-03-04 05:08 pm (UTC)
Great job! And now I'm gonna get off the couch and head for the gym because you inspired me!
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[User Picture]From: flirtaciousj
2014-03-05 03:42 am (UTC)


Of course, as a lawyer, I have a hard time ever actually using absolutes. Because absolutes have a strong tendancy to come back and bite one on the ass :)
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