When I first got married, I would joke with my husband that I had observed that arguments between two people are usually limited to five or six actual issues, and those get established early in the relationship. If we could type them out and post them on the fridge, then subsequently we could just refer to that argument number, like ordering a McDonalds meal, and avoid the waste of time and energy that accompanies such fights.
I was pretty smart at 22. Because that is exactly what happened, and the little extra thing I didn’t have the wisdom to understand was that those five arguments were the basic ways in which we were different. And if we didn’t decide to resolve the differences, either by compromise or by accepting them, they would grow and grow till they overwhelmed all the good in the relationship. And both partners need to be convinced of the need to resolve the issues or the solution would be useless and superficial.
Glossing over these fundamental differences is dangerous much like continuing to build a structure over a cracked foundation. There is a real cost to deciding to return to the basics, and it is very tempting to keep going, adding in other support buttresses to shore up the stability. However the edifice remains fragile, creating an ongoing sense of frustration and underlying failure. The surface may remain beautifully decorated, and indeed sheer determination and resignation might keep the roof intact long beyond the reality of a house that could never be a home.
The problem in trying to make do is that it presumes faults. Each partner decides that there is a fundamental flaw in the other that cannot be changed, and it is so egregious that there is no point in discussion, in resolution. And if that flaw in the other just happens to be the characteristic you are particularly proud of in yourself, then it has the added comfort of self justification. For example, if you decided the other person is uncaring of other people, and self centered. Every little action the other does is explained away by this observation. And if by chance you define yourself by being a warm and loving individual, disliking the actions of your partner, becomes a fundamental justification of your own way of life. Then the world gets painted in those colors, by definition every action of your partner is fueled by their self centered nature while you are the good one because of course you are unselfish.
Similarly, if your partner happens to be loud with a quick temper, and you happen to be quiet and calm, then forever every future difference of opinion between the two of you will be justified by saying your partner is quick to temper. And it must be a fault, and to be calm and patient must always be the right thing because YOU are calm and patient. If the situation warrants getting angry, for example when some actual harm is being done, you justify your own inaction by staying smug about being calm while denigrating even the appropriate response of your partner because of your presupposition.
And it is interesting in these cases how roles are established- good and bad. How real objective proof is ignored. How strong the resistance is to alter your world view because to change your opinion of your partner might actually be personally devastating. You can’t admit your partner is right because if he is right, then you must be wrong. Then you are not the good person you have always thought you were. Instead your way of life has actually perpetuated an ongoing lie.
Not everyone has the fortitude to question the basic assumptions that form the foundations of their own character. But think about this- by making these generalizations about someone else, by just attributing core flaws to someone without ever giving them a chance for redemption, you might be comforting yourself but you are inflicting ongoing pain on the other person. What does that say about you that you are willing to let someone else pay, and keep paying, just so you don’t get touched by pain of insecurity? And yes, it will hurt to know that you were unfair, but maybe you owe the other person that realization.
There is nothing that hurts as much as knowing that you were judged years ago and found so wanting that the other person never again paused in their life to see that you have made an effort to change, to improve, or even that you never were that bad to begin with. And you find yourself justifying yourself over and over again to someone who can’t accept the explanation because it would shake their world view completely.
That’s when you give up. That’s when you need to stop talking.

I find myself making the same explanations over and over again.
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