When the plastic margarita cup hit the floor on purpose, we knew we had probably gone too far. My husband and I were in Cabo for a wedding when travel stress led to not enough fajitas which led to margarita brain which then led to my husband jumping in the pool with my camera. All of this led to the biggest and most beautiful fight we’ve ever had.
The specifics of the fight aren’t important because there really was no need for this fight. Neither of us were that angry about the camera faux pas, and it could have been resolved with one sentence from both of us. But neither of us said that sentence, we let it escalate and that is important. What happened the next morning is what is really important.
I got up at sunrise, my spinning head making sleep impossible, and went for a walk on the beach. I was spinning because I couldn’t understand why the fight happened at all. As a chronic self-explorer, I wondered what I did to make it escalate and I wondered what we could do to not fight like that again (for more on my self-exploratory ways in marriage, see Mirror, Mirror On the Wall).
I sat on the shore as the sun rose and took this picture. It reminded me of our fight: a crash against an unexpected obstacle.
I went back to our hotel room to talk to my husband, to hear what he thought about the whole ordeal. He was waiting for me with the same confused eyes I had. What happened last night? How did we go there? Why is the floor so sticky?
I almost started laughing, the fight was that unnecessary, but I didn’t. Every fight deserves respect and is something to learn from, not only about your partner but more importantly about yourself. Fights are like sudden eruptions of really honest communication; all the deep, dormant, masked emotions slowly build under pressure and spew out for attention. When the volcano explodes, it’s important to sift through the rubble.
For those in relationships — particularly the ultra-committed, in it for the long haul ones like marriages — you know fights come with the territory. They happen and they always will, no matter how compatible and in love you are. I think it would be weirder if you didn’t fight. I would wonder who’s holding what in and when is it going to end with a margarita crashing on the floor.
My mom, a very wise woman, taught me long ago that it is important to be good at fighting. What she meant was that it isn’t important to win fights, but it is important to fight well, to fight with respect, with an open mind. That is what my husband and I are learning to do. It’s immensely challenging because fighting well requires you to put your ego aside at the very moment your ego gets called out. Nothing gets resolved when your ego is in charge because the ego just wants to win. You have to demand that your ego backs down and the ego doesn’t like to do that. But that’s when you tell your ego who’s boss…
That morning, we walked on the beach for an hour and scrutinized last night’s Eyjafjallajökull — Iceland’s famous volcano that messed up plans for days, causing the need to reroute millions of passengers. This is exactly what happened to us — we erupted and had to reroute ourselves.
We identified what made it progress from an argument to a fight. There is a big difference in vocabulary and it matters. A “fight” typically means physical aggression and use of weaponry while “argument” means differing points and verbal disagreements. While the only thing that was physically hurt was a plastic cup, it was still a fight. It was a fight because we threw words at each other and the sole purpose of those words was to hurt the other. Those were our weapons. So we declared that morning that we want to argue, we don’t want to fight.
We established ground rules to help prevent our arguments from escalating to fights. Things like: no yelling, no cussing, no slamming of margarita cups. These are our triggers. We agreed to moments of silence and found we should do more moments of silence when arguing. You can hear a lot in a little silence. Silences are like pressing the pause button; you can rewind and see things from a different angle. Silence helps you cool your magma chamber, think about what s/he said, and determine what you really have to say.
That’s as far as we got that day in Cabo, but it was revolutionary. We still argue from time to time (’cause he’s a boy and I’m a girl) and I’m still learning how to not drop the F-bomb (’cause he’s an Aries and I’m an Aries). But since the margarita fight, each argument is calmer. They end easier, without escalation, and always give rise to eye-opening discussions. We want to prevent hotspots from forming and use what we’ve learned to not throw molten rock at each other. Because in the end, it’s our choice whether we fight or whether we argue.
Things They Forgot to Mention:
Nobody likes when Eyjafjallajökull spews liquid hot mmmagma. But it happens and the key is to reroute, find calmer air, and keep the margarita in the cup.