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.