Kelly and I fight about precisely two topics: parking spots and the kids. That doesn’t diminish the fact that we still argue — rather heatedly too. We curse, we yell, we make ridiculous statements. Just the other night, he demanded to know what it’s like to be perfect, more than Jesus. But it’s taken us nearly 30 years to get to this point — he would just remain silent and roll his eyes, while I shouted and waved my hands wildly. What can I say? I’m Greek; we’re a passionate people.
The fact of the matter is that fighting can be healthy for a relationship. According to an article in the Good Men Project, fighting can strengthen relationships by increasing trust, allow for feelings and ideas to be expressed, and reinforce that you are separate individuals. That’s all quite healthy.
I also think it’s important to define what your trigger points are. Not so you can avoid the topic, but so you can understand the underlying reasons it sets you off. Once you know the reasoning, you can discuss the matter calmly, and work through it. And that brings us to kids.
I think the topic of children needs to be discussed thoroughly and often by gay couples because unlike our straight peers, we seldom become parents accidentally. We also have the burden of a path to parenthood stacked against us. My friend, Dr. Jen O’Ryan of Double Tall Consulting reminded me that the LGBTQ community faces unique challenges when it comes to becoming parents. “Much of our law is based on a heteronormative perspective, which can leave LGBTQ couples stuck in unexpected loopholes. These costly, painful loopholes tend to hit during difficult times,” she advises.
That stress can lead to a lot of arguments, which is why it’s so important to understand where both of you stand on parenting — from the broad view to the minutia. It’s not enough to agree on a theoretical parenting style long before you become dads and leave it at that. Because in reality, your parenting style has to conform to your child and evolve as s/he grows.
It’s that evolution where Kelly and I struggle — our parenting styles can be very different, which I think is entirely healthy so long as there is some level of synchronicity between the methods. We find ourselves at a point in our experiences as parents where those styles haven’t kept pace with the evolution of our kids. For example, behavior correction is a lot more challenging now that Gus is a handful of years away from manhood.
So the other day Kelly and I took the dog on a hike and had a long talk about the kids, the stress they can cause us, our reactions to different trigger points, and most importantly the influence our family dynamic has on us as a couple. Together we worked through some of the challenges we face and came up with some good solutions.
It’s worth it too. I just learned on Jeopardy that parents tend to live longer than childless people. I can only assume that longevity is a vain attempt to stick around long enough to be a burden to the little buggers.
What I see as progress doesn’t mean everything is solved or that we don’t have a lot of work still to do. But it’s the right start. Nor does it mean Kelly and I will stop arguing. It’s an expected aspect of being in a relationship. Plus, the man cannot identify a great parking spot if neon signs were lighting it!
You can contact Jen O’Ryan on her website, mykidcameout.com