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Sometimes, We All Fall Down - The Watchtower of Destruction: The Ferrett's Journal
April 22nd, 2012
12:39 pm

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Sometimes, We All Fall Down

If your kid’s five years old and has never had a busted arm, or a cut head, or at least a couple of bruises, then your kid’s probably in trouble.

Now, I know that sounds horrible, as though I’m wishing broken arms upon toddlers.  I’m not.  But if a kid is exploring properly, she’s going to fall down occasionally – and fall down hard.  The cuts are the sign of a kid pushing the envelope properly, finding the edges of their knowledge and skill by occasionally sailing right over them.

Learning is failing.  A child who’s never had a bruise is a child who’s never taken a risk.

Likewise, I think relationships without bruises aren’t really good relationships.  You don’t want a relationship that’s all bruises (just as you don’t want a child falling down the stairs every day), but a relationship that’s all happiness is one that’s often static.

I’ve known happy couples who’ve told me, “We’ve never had an argument!”  And more often than not, those are the same couples who’ve split up after a decade because they quietly grew apart… or the couples who, as it turns out, didn’t have sex for three years because one partner didn’t want to and the other didn’t want to cause trouble.

A lot of the conflict-free relationships are inherently reductive – as in, “My going out on Friday nights with the girls bothers you?  Well, I’ll stop doing that.  Oh, and your playing World of Warcraft bothers me, so you should stop doing that.”  And slowly but surely, in these well-meaning, reductive relationships, you quietly give up everything that would cause the other partner stress.

It’s meant to be kind.  In a way, it is.  But eventually, you’re both bumping up against each other in the Venn intersection of each other’s comfort zones, which is often a very tiny and bland place indeed.

No, for me, relationships involve bruises.  You’re growing, taking risks, learning – and sometimes that’s going to inadvertently put an elbow in your lover’s eye.  You apologize.  You figure out what you could do better.  And then sometimes you discover this new thing you enjoy doing is going to be a little ouchy until both of you adjust, and you acknowledge that “comfort” is something that’s often overrated, and when it’s done you’re both the stronger for it.

If it’s a growing relationship, there are going to be growing pains.  It’s not always pleasant, but that’s often the way of ultimately good things.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

This entry has also been posted at http://theferrett.dreamwidth.org/207271.html. You can comment here, or comment there; makes no never-mind by me.

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(21 shouts of denial | Tell me I'm full of it)

Comments
 
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From:zoethe
Date:April 22nd, 2012 04:51 pm (UTC)
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I absolutely agree. You are awesome and I adore you.
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From:mariadkins
Date:April 22nd, 2012 05:59 pm (UTC)
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mari concurs.
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From:bart_calendar
Date:April 22nd, 2012 04:54 pm (UTC)
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I can't imagine a relationship without some bruising. The idea of feeling "comfortable" terrifies the shit out of me.
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From:andrewducker
Date:April 22nd, 2012 06:54 pm (UTC)
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Yeah, I'd argue with _me_ if I was in a relationship. I can't imagine what it would be like to be in a relationship with someone and have it not cause friction. One of us would have to be a complete doormat.
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From:sacramentalist
Date:April 22nd, 2012 07:49 pm (UTC)
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Or they are both doormats and both resentful because neither of them could raise an issue to the point of. Get two empathic conflict-avoidant people together and they will make it work. Until something is wrong and they are too busy avoiding conflict to address it and then it spirals.


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From:roadnotes
Date:April 22nd, 2012 07:12 pm (UTC)
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I agree. You can get to the point where the bruising is much less, but it's still going to happen.

Playing with this metaphor, I think there are often times where people don't even ask, but they don't do/stop doing things because they're afraid of bruising their partner, which often leads to resentment ("I've given this up for you and you haven't even noticed/aren't properly grateful!"). And that leads to a different type of injury if it turns out that the thing person A gave up for fear of bruising person B isn't a bruising thing at all.

Does that make sense? It's clear in my head, but the words look wonky.
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From:nancylebov
Date:April 27th, 2012 10:47 pm (UTC)
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Your point looks very clear to me.
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From:roaming
Date:April 22nd, 2012 07:29 pm (UTC)
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And the make-up sex -- ooh la la!
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From:sacramentalist
Date:April 22nd, 2012 07:39 pm (UTC)
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It's true. The relationship is tested and shaped by those edges where we dispute. If people act in perfect confluence, how are they gonna be able to cope when the edges are tested when desires act in conflict.

Healthy arguments can be frustrating, but shouldn't be scary.
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From:tylik
Date:April 22nd, 2012 07:41 pm (UTC)
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*cracks up*

So at the beginning of every Shaolin class (the kids class, and the first time I'm teaching the Shaolin material) we have a period where we're all in horse stance discussing martial ethics. (In a class in the order we'd be overtly talkin' dharma - the talk keeps you from noticing how much your legs hurt, the horse stance keeps you concise - but hey, it's kids, and I'm not trying to make them buddhists.) Usually I'll bring in a topic, and we'll talk about how it relates to their martial practice, and to their lives. Usually more on the latter.

Today's topic was failure. And yeah, this was pretty much the discussion we had.
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From:xiphias
Date:April 22nd, 2012 08:07 pm (UTC)
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I've always assumed that there was a sweet spot in childhood ER visits. If you're going to the ER too often as a kid, you're gonna end up messed up. However, you'll end up differently messed up if you NEVER end up in an ER. I mean, not with anything serious -- I don't think you actually need to break a bone; my sister was fine with a greenstick fracture, some dislocations, and some strained ligaments, and I just got stitches.

But, yeah. It's NOT true that life is pain, but it IS true that life contains pain, and if you experience pain as a kid, and find out that it's unpleasant but survivable, you're not AFRAID of it.
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From:merle_
Date:April 22nd, 2012 08:57 pm (UTC)
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Learning is failing. A child who’s never had a bruise is a child who’s never taken a risk.

I must have been an exceptional student. I cannot recall a month when I did not slip off the jungle gym, fall on my back while dirt biking over curbs, or get smacked in the head with a recoiling hammer I was using to hit blasting caps. I will not even mention fireworks.

In retrospect the time I lighted a napkin on fire and tossed onto the kitchen floor, while my family was watching on with uncontrollable laughter having joked that one day I would burn down our house.. yeah. Learning is failing.
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From:juglore
Date:April 22nd, 2012 09:37 pm (UTC)
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My parents have never had an argument. They just celebrated their 46th anniversary.
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From:bloodsugarmagik
Date:April 22nd, 2012 10:38 pm (UTC)
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Never had a shouting match, or never had a disagreement conducted in reasonable tones of voice and mostly out of sight of the kids? Because if the standard definition of a marital argument is shouting then my kids will get to say my husband and I never had any arguments too.
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From:funwithrage
Date:April 22nd, 2012 11:52 pm (UTC)
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Right, this.

My parents never got shouty, but they certainly have differences of opinion.
(Deleted comment)
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From:cameoflage
Date:April 23rd, 2012 04:13 am (UTC)
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...What the hell happened to your comment page, Ferrett?
From:anonymousalex
Date:April 23rd, 2012 04:18 pm (UTC)
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Yeah, this.

-Alex
From:anonymousalex
Date:April 23rd, 2012 04:20 pm (UTC)
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I once went a good couple-three months without a fight with my then-new SO. It kinda scared me, the not knowing how we would handle conflict (much better than in my previous relationship, it turned out).

-Alex
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From:mikilt
Date:April 24th, 2012 05:40 pm (UTC)
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It's good to remember that we don't always get it right the first time and sometimes we don't always live up to our own expectations. Failure doesn't mean the end of an endeavor, it's just part of the learning process.
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From:nancylebov
Date:April 28th, 2012 03:52 pm (UTC)
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I'm ok now, but yesterday afternoon was kind of rough.

I was a physically cautious kid-- the worst injury was a long cut from falling on a swing set that didn't require stitches. Other than that, just moderately frequent skinned knees.

And I haven't gotten into relationships.

Reading the post knocked me into obsessive thinking about how fucked up I am-- just not good enough to live with normal people.

Fortunately, I've been through a multi-year siege about this sort of stuff, and I've got some coping tools.

Part of it was that I fortunately had an opera ticket for last night, and really good music can be a reset button. I'm not sure whether it mattered that the opera was Manon Lescaut, a tragedy which could leave a person wondering whether relationships are as good an idea as all that.

In any case, "If your kid’s five years old and has never had a busted arm, or a cut head, or at least a couple of bruises, then your kid’s probably in trouble", so then what? If you were that parent, what could you do? I may have had some bruises... that wouldn't have risen to the level of memory. I'm pretty sure I didn't have a cut head, and I'm absolutely sure I didn't have any broken bones. My impression is that kids are actually more apt to start breaking bones when they're a little older, like 8 or 9.

Maybe you're thinking something else about kids-- or nothing in particular, since you actually wanted to say something about relationships-- but all I can imagine is being shoved to live with gusto that I didn't have, and to take risks that I didn't want. I just would have been given more evidence younger that I was The Wrong Kind of Person.

One of the coping tools is thinking about whether a claim actually makes sense and whether there's evidence for it. It sounds plausible that physical risk-taking when young would co-relate with emotional risk-taking as an adult, but has this been checked?

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