Sunday, 23 March 2008

Get it off your chest...

GGGGGGGGGGGGGRRRRRRRRRRRRR.......... eat! Apparently it is good to argue. Well, not argue, but getting things off your chest. According to a recent study - suppressing anger can kill you. At the uni of Michigan researchers studied 192 couples for 17 years (they must have got so damn bored: the mundanity of life and the daily grind researched in minute detail). They discovered that of the couples studied, in 26 of them both partners repressed anger - resulting in 13 deaths. Truly. The bottom line is that is good to express your anger rather than brood and fester resentment - but the whole point is to resolve the conflict, rather than have an endless battle zone that swings from stalemate to front line attack every hour.

It made me think of the time when husband and I were forced by an over-enthusiastic vicar to attend 'marriage classes' at a beautiful church in Farringdon. Naturally husband hated this - being an atheist. He used to consume as much wine as possible before the 3 week classes and then guzzle nuts throughout. While cooing couples held hands and spoke in gooey voices about their up-coming nuptials, husband sat a metre away from me, almost refusing to acknowledge we were even together. Anyway, one night the class was about anger, conflict and resolution. We were asked to define ourselves as either a rhino (charges at an argument, attacks with horns, full of steam and bluster) or hedgehogs (recoil from conflict, curl into a ball and ignore the issue at large). A hedgehog and hedgehog relationship is apparently the most doomed - as each person shies away from discussion and broods on their anger. Rhino and Rhino wasn't too hot either, all crackling storms and rage without much listening going on. We were all asked to disclose who we were. Normally reticent husband gleefully told the assembled lovebirds that I was easily a storming Rhino, but he added that so was he. However he had to pretend to be a hedgehog to get by. They all laughed. He was deadly serious. There followed some god-awful quiz thing where we had to tick boxes to state if our partners had ever (gasp!) sworn at us! Shouted! Called us names! Etc. Husband had never ticked so many boxes in his life. The vicar was keen for us to tell the group our results. I glanced sideways to see a sweet woman lean her head on her fiance's shoulder as he ticked a solitary box. Husband held up his hand super keen. I shoved his hand back down, mortified that my barely suppressed anger would be exposed to all. Husband shuffled comfortably into his seat, casting a smug look that me as if to say 'I'm really enjoying this now.' I willed the class to end before he got the chance to grass me up as the witch I am.

So it is a relief to discover my daily verbal jousts with husband are in fact good for my health as well as my soul. I remember coming back from a holiday one summer - a group of us had all gone away to relax in the sun and husband and I hadn't hidden our little tiffs from the world. Upon return one well meaning friend nervously asked another if husband and I were really meant to be together, concerned as he was for our well being. My other friend knew husband and I better and assured him that our relationship may be a stormy one, but it is solid as a rock.

In the last year or so we definitely have felt the rumble of an earthquake or two in our foundations as we struggled to cope with the strain of a new baby, husband's 65 hour working week and my lack of work stresses. But one thing is for sure - we have no problem in expressing our anger, frustration and pissed-off-ness. Sometimes it is exhausting. Sometimes I crave an easier path. Someone who re-fills the ice cube tray when he has emptied it; someone who remembers to put cheques in the bank when he says he will; someone who understands that sheets and towels do not miraculously wash and dry themselves and then fold themselves neatly into the cupboard. But I would never trade what I have: a husband who makes me laugh daily - often during a heated discussion. Someone who holds a mirror up to my insanity, but champions every avenue I choose to take - even this script editing lark that has seen me out of work for 14 months. A husband who pays a child minder so I can volunteer at Samaritans. One who is affectionate and romantic and knows me inside out. Who works crazy hours to provide for our family. Who has seen me at my best, worst and in between and still is there.

So this Easter - when the kids are wired to the eyeballs on sugar, the traffic is at a standstill, you can't believe you had to spend your precious days off work placating HIS Mother and HE still hasn't fixed the leaky tap in the kitchen 8 weeks on, let it all out! It'll make you live longer....

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