The straw that broke the camel’s back
You know how it goes: you get upset with your lover about something you know is small so you try not to bring it up. You don’t want to seem petty or nitpicky. But then other small things pile on top of it, and one day you just explode over something that seems really trivial on the surface.
Your partner is completely thrown because this is the first they’ve heard of it, and they fail to see the correlation between your level of anger and the small incident that just happened. You are a little surprised yourself because you didn’t realize that outburst was coming.
This is why they call it making a mountain out of a molehill.
It is the same with all these little irritations in a relationship. If you allow them to build, one day you are going to blow your top and catch your partner completely off guard. I’ve done it, Warren has done it, and you’ve probably done it, too.
You know what happens after the blow-up, don’t you? There is a long, awkward fight as you work your way toward the real issue, and there may be some storming off or name calling before it is all over. Worse, your partner may not realize the significance of your complaints because the fight seems to be about something so small. They may chalk this up to you being too emotional/tired/stressed.
You blow your top and get rid of the built-up energy, but the problem doesn’t get resolved, it just resets the timer for the next explosion.
Last week we had a big fight about a molehill that turned out to be a mountain. It had been simmering for a while, but neither one of us picked up on it. We had a few small fights in the weeks leading up to it, and I thought Warren was just being nitpicky because he was preoccupied with our budget constraints in Europe. He was continually dissatisfied because the real issue was never brought to the table and resolved, and I was keeping my distance emotionally to give him space to deal with what I thought was his issue. We each continued to make the problem worse by following this pattern.
Then, after taking a bus out of the city to the trailhead of a 12-mile walk along a canal path, the molehill turned into a mountain. In fact, I can pinpoint the moment it happened – just one minute after we finished recording the video below (click here if you don’t see the video).
My first thought: “Oh, shit. We still have 12 miles to go.”
Nowhere to run, nowhere to hide
No matter what your inclination during a fight with your partner – walk away, scream/talk it out, involve other people, or resolve it through sex – being on a remote trail 12 miles from home in an unfamiliar area means you have four hours to go through the healthy and unhealthy options of resolving your disagreement.
Can you say “uncomfortable?” And I don’t mean just because the “resolve it through sex” option meant doing it on a trail of rocks.
I joked with Warren that I didn’t think we had 12 miles worth of issues to discuss. Turns out we did.
As we walked along this gorgeous trail with a stream flowing beside us, birds chirping in the air, and the occasional dog walker or jogger saying a friendly hello, I thought it was really crappy of Warren to start a fight. He was ruining this beautiful experience for both of us, one that I was not going to be keen to do again.
But then I realized the genius in it, even if it wasn’t planned. We were away from the place we live, in a tranquil setting, and getting some exercise. What better environment is there for resolving a fight than this?
- No bad mojo from fighting in our living and loving space
- No distractions to keep us from resolving the issue
- No way to leave each other (one of us had the money and the other had the sack lunch and house key!)
So we talked through the issue, found out some things about each other along the way, and ended up having some really productive conversations that flowed from the initial argument.
By the time we reached Edinburgh, we felt closer than we had been in over a month. In the days since, we’ve found the reopened communications channels continue to function and we are more aware of each other’s state of mind than we had been in the weeks before.
Figuring your marriage therapy mileage
I’m not sure it is a good idea to spring this on your mate without warning. It happened for us by chance, but I can see where it could have easily turned into a 12-mile silent hike or a trek back to the trailhead to catch the bus home.
But the idea of taking your fight out of your living and loving space and into a tranquil, neutral environment where you could walk side by side to resolve your problem instead of facing each other off as adversaries has definite merit. I’m surprised we haven’t thought of this before, especially considering the great conversations and ideas we’ve generated in the past by hiking and trekking together.
I certainly don’t want to make all of our walks into marriage therapy sessions, but I do like knowing we can find our way back – both literally and figuratively – no matter how far away from each other we’ve traveled.
Though I have reserved the right to approve all topics of conversation on future walks longer than 2 blocks.
Have you ever tried to talk something out this way, either on purpose or by accident? What is the most productive way you’ve found to work through a problem with your mate?