Being in a fight with my wife is sort of like being the pinata at a three-year old’s birthday party.
We get in the occasional verbal knock-down, drag-out like many couples but last night was a little more of a nasty confrontation than usual. It was a scene that would have made reality tv viewers blush but may have fit in nicely in a UFC match. I usually opt out to be a non-participant in these no-win debacles of unmitigated fury but its difficult to claim non-combatant status when the punches start flying. The roll-over-and-play-dead ploy lately serves little more than an invitation to incite more ugly reaction. “Come out from under that bed and fight like a man,” she yelled! So I reacted to my verbal bludgeoning with a little tit-for-tat; maybe a little too harshly.
Tempers flared. incendiary things were said. We both demonstrated our ability to sling small, inanimate objects across the living room, like Godzilla running amok. I suppose it’s better to vent our anger out against indiscriminate objects than each other but that is none-the-less a small consolation in the heat of battle. A few moments into the fight she slung something across the room. Not to be out done I picked it up and slung it down again. And then we both, having momentarily run out of infantile displays of immaturity, went into our respective corners. Things went silent. I went to sulk out in the bathroom and slammed the door behind me to announce my self-appointed exile. I’m unsure of how many days I intended to occupy this strong-hold but felt I could hold out at least for two days subsisting entirely on rolls of toilet paper. I sat in silence on the porcelain seat of meditation and reflected. I thought about what had just happened while I cross-examined myself as to my role in the conflict. The instant replay was no less painful than the event.
It seems as soon as a situation reaches that point of critical mass on the emotional level, things get ugly. At some non-discernable tipping point, that old sympathetic nervous system kicks in dumping adrenalin like gasoline-on-a-fire and a tense situation goes ballistic. I don’t know what triggers that old survival instinct switch we call the ‘fight-or-flight’ syndrome but once it hits that emotional crescendo, the restraints are off. It’s like both feet on the accelerator while the brakes are out. I’ve come to the conclusion that the emotional level is not a platform for resolving conflicts or to mitigate hostilities. Looking back, it seems like the whole thing was nothing more that a string of unrelated events each inconsequential on their own, that had transpired. From that, matters simply cascaded downward into a Grand Mal meltdown.
During these debacles, Cletus’ approach is pretty much the same. Cletus is our Great Dane and silent observer in family disputes. He slinks away in my bedroom, tail tucked in. And then he sits up on the bed on his haunches and cowers and looks confused. I caught a glimpse of him during the melee, sitting on the bed with this pitiful look. Sometimes he acts more like a child than a dog. Call me silly but I felt bad for him. I felt bad for her that somehow I had provoked this reaction but I was in no way about to poke my head back into the lion’s den to tell her. I even indulged in a little self-pity for me. And mostly I waited and hoped things would settle down. Eventually they did.
In retrospect, I’m not sure if we resolved anything; we more or less silently agreed to a mutual cessation of hostilities toward each other – or any small objects that might happen to be in the immediate proximity. I am relieved our kids are already grown up an moved out so they didn’t have to see their parents behaving like ….children. All in all it was a pretty successful fight; we both succeeded in acting like overgrown juveniles.