Sounds crazy, but it’s true! Simply put, the first argument you have with your partner, if left unresolved, will manifest itself time and time again - in different forms – throughout your entire relationship.
When we fall in love and begin a partnership, we temporarily maintain our best behavior and avoid making waves. As we become more comfortable in the relationship and issues arise that are important to us, we argue our point, thus experiencing our first argument or major disappointment. But we often minimize it, figuring the matter was settled and resolved. After all, it was really no big deal anyway…right? But what if we knew in advance that it would recycle itself throughout the relationship until it gets resolved? What if we saw the first argument as a magnifying glass that allows you to see more clearly the personal issues of you and your partner…or a gift or tool with healing potential rather than destructive potential?
For example, suppose a couple has their first argument about dancing at their wedding. She wants to and he doesn’t. She’s a good dancer, loves to dance, and received praise from her parents for her talent. It also brings back happy childhood memories of dancing with her family, and is a significant part of her self-worth. If explained to her partner, he’s able to understand why it’s important to her. On the other hand, her partner has horrible memories of dancing. He was a coordinated athlete, but dancing never came easy. He has only bad memories of dancing and being made fun of by family and friends. The last thing he wants to do is dance and look foolish. Knowing his real reasons makes sense as to why he doesn’t want to dance.
Instead of fighting, a quicker and better chance of resolution will occur by talking about each other’s core issues (that almost always stem back to childhood) surrounding the likes and dislikes of dancing. Through understanding and compassion of each other’s position, the couple can come up with a solution that works for both of them, such as taking dance lessons and only doing one dance. Or not dancing at the wedding, but making a commitment to dance sometime on their honeymoon. Whatever solution the couple comes up with will be with an understanding of the situation, rather than one person giving in just to avoid fighting about the matter. It’s this giving in that leads to resentment from that day forward, spilling into all issues that follow. Accusations such as “it’s always your way,” or “we didn’t even get to dance at our wedding and you’re not even grateful” will be the norm throughout the entire relationship.
By looking at the first argument as a healing tool and respecting your partner’s differences, your first fight can easily be resolved before it turns into an ongoing battle of 50 years…or more! Your marriage would instead be built on respect and trust, rather than resentment and anger.
Sharon M. Rivkin, the author of The First Argument: Cutting to the Root of Intimate Conflict, is a conflict resolution expert and licensed marriage and family therapist. She has been in private practice for 28 years in Santa Rosa, California. She is also an experienced public speaker. Her work has been featured in several national magazines and websites including O: The Oprah Magazine, Reader’s Digest, Yahoo.com, and Dr.Laura.com as well on local television and countless radio shows. For more information, visit www.sharonrivkin.com.