This series is supported by James Squire, who want to help level-up your pub banter.
I've always found fighting with partners a bit like accessing airport WiFi. I'm just agreeing to stuff and handing over personal information and scrolling, and scrolling, but the terms and conditions just keep coming. I don't know what any of it means, or why it's happening. I just want it to end. And then there's the last bit where I have to agree to something big, like one really big agreement, and I'm like, "I ONE MILLION PERCENT AGREE" and then finally it's over.
Needless to say, I'm bad at fights, which I guess is why I'm single, which—going full circle here—is why I'm an authority on relationship fights. Because either you're single due to being young, or you're single due to fights. And I'm single due to fights and my propensity to act like I'm negotiating an annoying WiFi agreement instead of just listening, empathising, or reflecting.
So, anyway, I have some thoughts about where I fucked up. And a lot of these will sound like I'm blaming past partners (I am) but I'm also blaming myself, and via proxy, you. Because I think a lot of dudes are just fun-loving conflict-averse morons, like me. So here we go. Here are all the fights you're having with your partner, and how you're making them worse.
The "Where Have You Been?" Fight
This one is a classic. Enjoyed by people everywhere. All it takes is for someone to be late or flakey, constantly. And it's not like the late/flakey person doesn't care. It's just that they truly believe that time is elastic and on this occasion, just this one time, traffic won't exist.
Like when it's your partner's birthday. They're excited. You're excited. And they've organised a dinner party at a restaurant that won't seat anyone until every single member of the party has arrived. Except that you're at work, and you're having trouble leaving because you're supremely important and brilliant, and if you leave early even just once the company will go bankrupt. So you must stay.
By the time you leave it's the same time as dinner. But no worries, you'll text ahead:
"Hey! Really, really, really sorry but I'm running 10 minutes late. I can't wait to see you. AND HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!!!!!!!! XXXX"
This is a smart move because you're definitely not running 10 minutes late. You're running an hour late, but you can't say that. You'd be fucked. So you say "running 10 minutes late" because it's an amount of time you'll get away with. And now you're not in trouble for at least another 10 minutes. That's 10 minutes of not in trouble time.
You lean back in your car, stuck in traffic, but peaceful as a Japanese garden. You've got 10 minutes—no, wait, nine—nine whole minutes of not being in trouble. You stretch your neck to the left, and then to the right. You put on the radio. It's something by Dave Matthews Band. Hey remember those guys? Nice! But boy, you're in for it later. Not yet though. These minutes are yours.
The "Where Have You Been and Have You Been Drinking?" Fight
Now, while the previous example was your fault and yours alone, this one takes two. And that's because in every relationship there's a person who wants to go out, and a person who wants to stay home. And the person who wants to go out gets gross and irresponsible, while the person at home gets neurotic and sends texts that say things like, "far off?" And each person brings out the worst in the other.
The problem, again, starts with punctuality. "What time will you be home?" asks your significant other, curled up on the couch with a peppermint tea. "Oh shouldn't be late," you say knowing full well that's bullshit (see previous argument). "Shouldn't be later than midnight."
Your partner nods, but you can see they're 33 percent angry, 33 percent offended that you won't stay, and 33 percent something else that you will never understand for as long as you live. "Well maybe we could get breakfast?" they offer. "We could try that new place, maybe around 8:30 AM?"
This is the worst fucking idea you've ever heard. You know that you will sit there, sobering up and coming down, staring at a plate of semi-poached chicken ova as your peripheral vision goes dark and you'll have to smile and make conversation. In an ideal world you'd be getting into bed at 8:30 AM, but you've been snookered with this very sweet and passive aggressive idea. "I'd love to!" You say. "Why, 8:30 AM sounds a bit late. Why don't we make it 7:30 AM?"
And that's how you end up with the worst agreement in the universe. So you go out, all angry about it, and start power-drinking as a kind of fuck you. You love your partner. They're funny and beautiful, but why can't they just sleep? Why do they get offended when you socialise alone? And you're wondering these things as the first texts start around 11 PM. "Hope you've had fun!" And you know where these texts go. They go straight to hell, so you throw in some money for the bag that Big Jez is organising. And then it's midnight. And then it's 1 AM, and you've just stopped checking your phone. By 3 AM you've put it on airplane mode. Deal with that one tomorrow. At least you won't have to get breakfast.
The "I Do More Things Than You Do" Fight
You're busy. We're busy. I'm busy, therefore I am. Busy thinking, busy speaking, busy typing: "Sorry, just been so busy…" or telling friends, "Anyway, I know you're busy…" or yelling at our sweet, busy partners who have only got home from work, "You have no idea how busy I am!"
Everyone on planet Earth in 2017 thinks they're reconfiguring the paradigms of busy. To say you're busy is to say, "I am a crucial person to lots of people and I'm smart because I can service all of their needs and I'm stoic because I do this all the time." The word busy is used almost exclusively for humble bragging. The only exception is when you describe an ugly pattern on a couch.
Anyway, if you never do anything homely like clean things or buy things because a) you're busy and b) you're a man, that means you're also c) a dick. Everyone's busy and you're in trouble because right now you're being both useless and indignant. And that's an unattractive combo.
The "Who Were You Talking to Just Then?" Fight
So you're at a thing. Your squeeze is there too, only they're talking to someone who isn't you, and that person is good looking in that kind all-blonde toothy way you hate. They look like the kind of person who knows names of actual chefs, and does half marathons on Sundays. The kind of person who responds quickly to text messages and says boring crap like: "How gross is the word moist." And the more you watch them and notice how your partner doesn't hate them—but possibly wants them—the more you feel alone. Alone, but also violent.
Finally you bluster over to introduce yourself. "Hi," you bark, giving Blondie the eyeballs. "I'm (insert name here)'s life partner. Are you in real estate? You look like you're in real estate." And your partner is looking at you like you're chroming at the Christmas table, but you can't stop. "Anyway I don't really give a shit what you do," and you lean into Blondie's face and say the next bit in a your special quiet and silky voice reserved for dominance: "I just wanted to say hi." And then you slap them on the back really hard and go outside to cry.
You won't see your partner again for 48 hours. Not because they're having sex with Blondie—like you suspect is definitely happening—but because you've made it clear that you're a dangerous creep and they need time to reassess. And you'll go to bed feeling lonely and embarrassed because everyone saw how miserably insecure you are.
The "Nothing Is Wrong, I'm Fine" Fight
Basically, the above fights are caused by people like you and me dancing around the truth. We're babies. Just say, "I'll be really late" or "I'm feeling insecure" like a actual fucking adult and your partner will deal with it and life will go on.
But we all hide. We avoid hard conversations because they're that appalling mixture of difficult and time consuming and tedious. But if you feed a relationship enough empty calories it will get sick and die, so just say what you feel. Don't be a jealous weirdo. And if you do those things your partner will still get pissed at you fairly regularly, but that's life. At least you're doing your best.
This series is supported by James Squire