I’m Conflict-Avoidant And So Is My Boyfriend (And It’s Cool, So Please Don’t, Like, Yell At Us About It, OK?)
It was five in the morning in New York, and I had to get up for work in three hours. For the second night in a row, I was watching dawn break over the Manhattan skyline, or at least something that sort of looked like dawn over another thing that roughly resembled a city skyline, through the staggeringly grimy window of my I-paid-good-money-for-this-you-know apartment.
Before you take note of the hour and city and inaugurate me into xoJane’s unofficial hall of Super Cool Party People, I must bid that notion super-cool adieu and inform you that my newfound giraffe schedule (did you know giraffes only sleep for two hours a day? Nuts!) was not, in fact, a consequence of my glittery metropolitan social life. I mean, all right, indirectly, it sort of was, but not actually.
No, instead of tripping over cobblestones in the Meatpacking District or feeling infinite at gloriously scene-y bars on the Lower East Side, I was in my bleaker-than-thou facsimile of a kitchen, eating a makeshift pita-pocket pizza and feeling morose. Oh, and I had been on video chat since 11:30 p.m., playing THE ACTUAL LONGEST EVER game of emotional chicken with my boyfriend.
Little tensions had been cropping up between us at the time, mainly, I think, because I was running around the city like a newly 21, high-heeled Animaniac, and not making as much time for him as I usually did. (I mean, he also did some stuff I wasn’t too thrilled with, but I’m not trying to revive this fight, ya know?)
We’d been making passive-aggressive micro-snipes at each other all day -- unpunctuated text messages, overly-punctuated text messages, brusque responses to brusquer questions -- and when I finally did get home from The Work Thing or The Happy Hour Networking Event That I Really Shouldn’t Miss or wherever I was, I had hoped, you know, that he had gotten over whatever he was... under, so I could do the same.
We asked about each other’s days (which were “fine” and “nothing too exciting,”) and proceeded to sit quietly, sighing intermittently, scrolling through our own Twitter feeds, for over an hour. Around one a.m., he mentioned that he was kind of annoyed. I said I was sorry. He said he knew.
We kind of stared at each other for a while.
“Are you... like, still mad at me?” I managed to ask around two.
“No,” he had replied. “I’m not mad.”
“OK. Good. ’Cause I love you.”
“Love you, too.”
Around quarter of three, we’d managed to confirm that, all right, he was a little rattled, “but not questioning our relationship or anything.” Half an hour after that, we’d almost started to talk about WHY he was a little rattled. We shared our feelings around four, in probably less than 15 sentences apiece, and by 4:30, I was so overtired (and maybe still a little tipsy? Crucial Networking Events tended to be heavy on the champagne) that I just started bawling. Not about anything we’d said, just the hour.
We were back to staring when five rolled around. I fell asleep with light streaming through the windows and tomato sauce on my T-shirt.
And. Um. That was it! If my GChat log proves correct -- and GChat logs always do -- we were back to sexting the next day. No screaming, no finger-pointing, no catharsis, nothing. In short, it was THE most boring standoff/fight in the history of standoffs/fights, and the reason why I just made you sit through all of that was to drive home the point that it is probably the WORST, most EXPLOSIVE confrontation we’ve ever had.
I can’t tell you how much side-eye I’ve gotten in my weirdly many years of dating every time I’ve said, “Huh, you know, my boyfriend and I really never fight.” Because, uh, as it just so happens, none of my boyfriends and I have ever really fought, and so many people seem to take that as an indication that I am a terrible and immature person who communicates terribly and immaturely within the confines of my terrible and immature relationships.
As my wont is to kick my own ass as violently and constantly and sometimes literally as possible, I spent a few years intermittently mulling over this shortcoming of mine (when I wasn’t already busy eating disordered-ly meandering through supermarkets or whatever).
Anyway, this past year or so, I’ve been getting kind of sick of beating myself up all the time. It’s exhausting, and it’s getting in the way of my eating Starbucks cake pops while watching “Arrested Development” on Netflix.
So, naturally, I went to therapy and paid hundreds of dollars to learn, for the 3000th time, that I can probably chalk up everything that has ever gone off-track in my life to my omnipresent daddy issues. (I am decidedly my shrink’s easiest shrinkee. Shrinkette?) And, for a while, I walked around with that knowledge, feeling, like, 70 percent better. Something was wrong with me, but it wasn’t MY fault. I celebrated with some cake pops.
The other 30 percent, though, lifted in December, when brilliant genius Lesley who I keep hoping to run into on the T wrote this story about whether or not it was normal to fight with your partner over freaking everything. Her conclusion, if you’ll recall, was basically, “Who cares? It’s fine. You do you.”
Ever-impressionable xoJane fangirl that I was/am, I was all, “YOU’RE SO RIGHT. NO ONE cares and it IS totally fine and I should DEFINITELY just DO ME. Even though ME is -- um, I am -- the opposite of YOU!”
What a novel concept! Doing our relationship a little differently from how other people did relationships did not NECESSARILY mean we were doing everything all wrong and breeding amongst ourselves toxic emotions that would inevitably rend our union at its very seams! Adios, final 30 percent of emotional baggage on this particular issue; hel-lo, more celebratory cake pops.
Yes, it is a little atypical that my boyfriend and I don’t fight, but things have been working out so far, right? It’s not like we’re both sitting around with all of this repressed rage. He’s just a mild-mannered dude with no innate proclivity for drama, and I tend to get stuck in my own brain a lot. It’s who we are.
We both pick our words carefully (he was once my editor at the school paper, you know), and even if that’s not a terribly efficient process, so what? I like that he’s careful with his words, and besides, who, except GOOGLE, is recording us?
So, at long last, I’ve decided that it’s fine if I’d rather wait to talk about my feelings until after I’ve cooled off. It’s fine that I like to have my feelings validated by my therapist or my friends before confronting my boyfriend. It’s fine if I wait a day to bring up a concern with him; it’s fine if I wait a week, as long as I’m not privately stewing over it.
It’s fine. I’m fine. We’re fine. And if anyone isn’t fine with that, then, um, I mean, I don’t really want to fight you about it or anything, like, you are entitled to your own opinion of course, no, no, I didn’t mean to call you out or like upset you or OK BYE.
Rebecca is not confronting her online trolls or fighting with her boyfriend on Twitter @rebsanti.