For long-term couples, columnist Cary Carr suggests some breathing room.
Sometimes there is one person in your life you can’t stand, and sometimes it happens to be your significant other.
First comes the honeymoon stage, where you can’t keep your hands off each other, consequently making your friends want to vomit. This typically lasts two to three months.
Then there is the getting-a-grasp-on-reality stage when you become conscious of each other’s one – or many – flaws.
About six months into the relationship, the hardest part of the romance sets in: the constant annoying-and-pointless bickering stage.
This is the point in the relationship when you start to get angry over things you used to chuckle at and write off as adorable, like when your sweetheart steals all the blankets and leaves you shivering, clutching onto a pillowcase.
These unpredictable, nonsensical brawls spread like bacteria to the point that disputes break out in public. Next thing you know, all your friends are begging you to shut the hell up and quit arguing about which “Jersey Shore” character has the worst tan.
Passing the half-year mark, my relationship has already started to suffer from this ridiculous-fight syndrome. But I can admit that I’m usually the instigator in these petty arguments.
A couple weekends ago, my boyfriend took me to the Olive Garden, which he doesn’t particularly enjoy. When I saw the 30-minute wait, I immediately wanted to leave.
My boyfriend tried to convince me to just wait and even offered to get the food to go instead, but I was already annoyed we didn’t get a table right away and denied any sort of compromise.
This led to us arguing in the car for 30 minutes, which made me angrier because in that period of time we already could have been seated with mouthfuls of breadsticks and salad.
I know I was being a bit dramatic and frustratingly stubborn, but I couldn’t stop myself. I knew I was wrong but couldn’t bring myself to admit it.
So why do these little fights pop up left and right when they are obviously trivial and usually avoidable?
Couples tend to spend the majority of their time together, leaving little space to breathe. It’s easy to get attached to your other half and start to give up alone time. Someone you care about snuggled up next to you can make studying much less dreadful.
But this constant togetherness prompts fights. When you get annoyed, upset or angry, your other half is the easiest target to take it out on. Rationally explaining your feelings is much harder than starting an argument with your loved one, who will put up with your outbursts.
When my boyfriend tried to calm me down and get to the bottom of my bickering, I finally opened up. I had been stressed out about a paper and work all day, and that stress manifested itself in a fight over breadsticks and waiting for a table.
It seems to me the more aware you are of your emotions, the easier it is to avoid little arguments and move past this unpleasant stage.
Not everyone makes it that far, though. Couples can get sucked into a spiral of arguments, which can kick a strong relationship into a bad breakup.
Two of my best friends had this problem. They let jealously and stubbornness get the best of them. Neither would back down from even the most illogical argument.
But the deeper problem was that neither was willing to talk it out – explain their reasoning, apologize and let it go. Each one needed the last word, which was usually a low blow.
Instead of surviving this phase, their fights ended up defining their relationship and eventually the fights led to the relationship’s destruction.
They both still love each other, but because they couldn’t admit their faults and feelings, there was no hope – not even in saving a friendship.
Relationships are far from easy, and fights are bound to happen regardless of how in-love a couple is. But if you don’t realize the silliness of a fight or the real motive behind it, then you could end up losing someone you care about.
When you can’t stand your significant other, just think about how much more you wouldn’t be able to stand your life without them. It can turn waiting in line at a restaurant into a treat rather than a trigger for an all-out war.
Cary Carr can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.