Conflict is bad. If you're fighting, something is wrong. Happy people never fight. Fights are OK but only rarely. Right? You've heard all this in the popular cultcha. And so it was with great excitement that I read about the couple who broadcasts all their fights on Twitter, because yes and finally! People who aren't afraid to be honest (and funny) about their fights. We should all be so transparent about it.
Claire Meyer and Alan Linic have being going out less than a year and have a Twitter account called We Fought About. And as you may have read in numerous outlets chronicling the hilarity, they tweet one-liners about their fight triggers. Some of them are more absurd:
Claire called our pet fish "baby" in front of me.
— We Fought About: (@WeFoughtAbout) November 6, 2013
While others are the stuff of everyday fights all the time everywhere between everyone to infinity forever dot com.
Claire realized it was one of her ex's birthdays today, but she forgot when mine is.
— We Fought About: (@WeFoughtAbout) November 3, 2013
Over at The Cut, Maggie Lange reports that the couple, who are in their twenties, live in Chicago, and are in the comedy scene there, wait until the fight is over to write it up for maximum objectivity/hilarity, and also are relieved to hear that their fights are relatable.
"We thought our fights were just ridiculous and way too bizarre and that's why we started it," Meyer said. Instead, "We kept hearing the same feedback of, 'This is exactly what we go through.' ... It actually has made me feel like more of a sane girlfriend."
This illustrates precisely why I think the fight chronicling is not gross or annoying or precious or hipster or dumb, it's totally brilliant. If we all talked openly about our fights, if we were more comfortable with conflict and its resolution, if we didn't run every relationship through the fairy-tale-o-meter of zero conflict = happiness, then we might all be totally fine with fighting. We might accept it as normal. We might see that it's actually even — gasp — useful. And funny. Especially funny. Because anyone who has ever had a fight knows it is often both the single most important thing in the universe while simultaneously the dumbest thing in the universe.
Alan told me about a girl he kissed 4 years ago.
— We Fought About: (@WeFoughtAbout) September 13, 2013
What is a fight anyway? A disagreement, sure, but predicated on what? Miscommunication typically. Unrealistic expectations. Actions by the other person that are perceived as selfish or thoughtless or simply not in line with whatever one person in a relationship thinks are the perceived agreed-upon values, stated or otherwise, of the relationship.
And a big part of all this confusion is usually this weird concept of unspoken agreements. Can I just say right here and now that the concept of unspoken agreements is super baffling? The thing where someone does something and you're supposed to know it means X or Y whether they say so or not and return the thing to them you didn't know they did in the first place because it's all supposed to be understood?
I bet more relationships have ended by failure to mind-read than almost any other crime of the heart.
So it goes without saying that lots of fights could be avoided by talking more, by improving communication, stating/negotiations and expectations, and by lowering expectations. But we are mere mortals over here, not Deepak Chopra. Fights are happening. Deal with it.
But there can be real affection in hashing out a problem in a healthy way. This is not in defense of volatile relationships — I think volatile relationships are proof that some people (looking at you ex-boyfriend) will never find a language of talking and fighting that is productive. I'm talking about that more harmonious blend of disagreement and spunk, the willingness to have a little fun with differences, to embrace that differentness. To explore that differentness and learn its wily ways. Being willing to fight it out is often proof you care at all.
And to be clear, what Claire Meyer and Alan Linic are chronicling is sometimes fighting and sometimes "fighting."
Meaning, when they tweet:
Alan sent me an article that put Prince in a bad light.
— We Fought About: (@WeFoughtAbout) October 3, 2013
that is probably a "fight."
But this is more likely a Fight.
Claire tried to comfort me and I wouldn't let her.
— We Fought About: (@WeFoughtAbout) September 30, 2013
As The Cut notes:
In some ways, the project sounds like a couple's therapy exercise for the social-media generation. It's a project that involves accountability, keeping a record, identifying triggers, and working together as a team.
"It sort of put this mindset in us like that we're allowed to disagree," said Linic. "We know that we'll be able to resolve it and put it up in a wording that will make us both kind of laugh about it."
Armchair relationship quarterbacks should note that these are all actually signs of a perfectly healthy relationship, yes? They acknowledge their own limitations as self-described passionate and sensitive people, and are able to have a sense of humor about them. But they put in the time and work it out.
Doing such work — of owning who you are, what you want, and why you want it, and most importantly, whether or not you have the right to ask someone else in a relationship with you help you get it — is a very boringly Sisyphean lifelong process. Complete utter emotional stability at all times is not exactly a great big exciting kaleidoscope of excitement. Best to be able to laugh at yourself and your partner while also trying to lay it bare.
Of course, not everyone is a fighter, and that's OK, too. (Please detail your method for conflict resolution and the correlating success rate in the comments.)
But in conclusion, who among us can stand up and claim he or she hasn't had this fight?
I thought Claire was using a "tone." She wasn't.
— We Fought About: (@WeFoughtAbout) August 30, 2013
So let us raise our imaginary glasses of champagne (come on, it's 10:30 a.m. here) to Claire and Alan, Brave Torchbearers of Conflict, whose Twitter feed is like a warm blanket of reassurance that I am not the only person who has ever gotten jealous of a pear.
I hereby dedicate this extremely fitting and awesome Metric song to you and everyone who understands the value in a little pushback.
Image by Jim Cooke.