What’s More Important, Great Sex or Fighting Fair?

***Please note that THESE HERE HILLS will be moving on Saturday January 29th to http://www.lauramunson.com/blog ***

Tom Matlack, creator of the Good Men Project, and I recently took on some interesting questions to see just what “big girls and big boys are made of.” Our answers were illuminating for me. See what you think. We’ll publish them in a series on both of our blogs and you can also find a few featured on the Huffington Post. I’ll link those here too when they run.

What’s more important, great sex or fighting fair?


MATLACK: Fighting is a part of every marriage, but not necessarily a useful part. I’ve never seen the benefit. I grew up watching couples going at each other with venom. Too often, it seemed to me as a teenager, committed couples got all tangled up and didn’t have the common sense to fight in private. It was right there for the kids, and the rest of the world, to see: a couple who loved each other so much they felt compelled to scream in each other’s faces. What does that achieve? I still don’t know.

Great sex surpasses all conversation; it is the greatest, most intimate, most complete form of communication. There’s a reason that, in Biblical times, the verb “to know” was synonymous with sex. Fights are about the basic disconnect between men and women. We use a different language to describe the same thing. More important, we display emotion in very different ways, and that leads every couple I have ever known to fight. If they aren’t fighting, it’s because one or the other has tuned out and given up.

For us guys, words often fail. The source of so many fights is our inability to be vulnerable, to admit that we were wrong, to ask forgiveness. But when husband and wife have great sex, there is a connection beyond the cerebral, beyond the differences. There is a connection, a union—a knowing—that is beautiful and healing and joyful. The world stops and two people crawl into a cave all their own to experience each other in all their nakedness.

Great sex takes practice, focus, and time. But it keeps a relationship fresh. Fighting—even well—is a waste of time and energy.

MUNSON: I like what you’re saying about connection. Even though you say that fighting is a waste of time, you also admit that if a couple isn’t fighting at all, then there’s a strong chance they’ve given up. I think you learn how to fight as you learn how to have your unique physical connection in sex. It’s always growing and changing, but there are some baseline ways to have both ways of connecting work. The key is respect. If you’ve lost respect for your partner or vice versa, it’s going to come out in those raw, real, hot moments of fighting and sex. The other key is trust. If you trust and respect each other, you’ll have success in your disagreements and in your intimacy, but if those are lost, then the relationship can’t sustain either.

*♦◊♦*

MUNSON: I consider myself an excellent “fighter.” I rarely lose my temper, and I am skilled at talking through my emotions with connective tissue made up of empathy, forgiveness, and surrender. Sometimes I think my husband would rather not have to be on the other end of that. In his mind, this is not necessarily “fair” fighting. After all, he was the quarterback on his high school football team. He’s a textbook “guy.” And to me that means he deals with his feelings by going outside and chopping firewood, or driving his dirt bike straight up a ridge as fast as possible. I’ve come to see that maybe he’d rather I blew up.

After almost 20 years in this relationship, I’ve learned that talking through hard issues is not easy for him. Here’s what is: bullet-pointing his feelings in an email. Quick statement of conflict. Direct and practical suggestion for resolution. The whole thing wrapped up in a cyber-second. And when I meet him in this manner, you’d think we were seasoned psychologists. Years ago I’d call this mode of “fighting fair” a massive cop-out. I’d think our marriage was in ruin if our arguments were reduced to bullet-pointed email exchanges. I pictured emotional health in across-a-table heart-in-the-hand eye-to-eye conversation that didn’t cease until a resolution was found. And sometimes, that’s the way we fly. But not usually. We have learned what works for us and what feels fair—and that’s what matters. We deal in reality. Leave the fantasy for the great sex.

♦◊♦

MATLACK: My wife is Italian. She is used to dishes flying all over the place. It’s not that I wish she would blow up—she does blow up. But that doesn’t advance the ball of intimacy in my view. I’m with your husband on chopping fire wood and driving a dirt bike up a ridge, breaking a phone or punching out a wall (once I called my contractor sheepishly after putting a hole in a wall with my fist—to which he responded, “Oh, yeah we do those for free!”). Like I said, words often fail us, especially in the heat of an argument. And taking some time to get some distance—from each other and the issue at hand—to vent our anger, so we can think rationally, is a great idea. But I’m not sure I like the idea of bullet points—that seems a
little too distant.

♦◊♦

About Tom Matlack

Tom Matlack is just foolish enough to believe he is a decent man. He has a 16-year-old daughter and 14- and 5-year-old sons. His wife, Elena, is the love of his life.

15 Comments

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15 Responses to What’s More Important, Great Sex or Fighting Fair?

  1. Kathy O'Neill

    WOW!!!! Thank you so very much for posting this. See, it confirmed my thought that men believe that sex fixes everything! My husband and I can be disagreeing on things and if we are intimate his attitude changes, he is gentler and feels that all is well with the world. For me the issues and underlying issues or conflict is still there. Women need the words, women need to feel connected. If I do not have that emotional connection, then the sex may be great in his mind, but not mine. Fighting fair and communicating honestly breeds a common ground of respect and trust, and from that grows the desire for intimacy. Now, if this was my husband answering this post, he would totally agree with Tom……. Whew…..I can’t believe I shared this!
    All the best,
    Kathy

    • thomas matlack

      Hey Kathy glad great minds think alike. Would like to meet your husband. Sounds like my kind of guy. You sound like you have your head on straight too.

      Two more pieces of the dialogue with Laura today:

      What impact does physical appearance have on long term #fidelity? Weigh in here: http://bit.ly/fidelitylooks

      HuffPost: Stay-At-Home Dads: Proud to Be the Primary Caregiver: The dad at the playground or at the “Mommy … http://twurl.nl/oztqad

      @tmatlack

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  3. Thanks SO much for taking time out of your busy schedule to do this Laura. Obviously THE GOOD MEN PROJECT is about men, but we believe that starting a national discussion about what it means to be a good father, good husband and good man is something women have a stake in too and your views will help us advance the ball as we each try to sort out the competing demand on us as guys. You are an inspiration as a writer and a woman. @tmatlack

    • lauramunson

      So glad to have done this exercise together. The Good Men Project and all you are doing, Tom to change paradigms and inspire people is the stuff that changes the world. Thank you for your good work and for recognizing that I know a good man when I see one. yrs. Laura

  4. Cowgrrrl

    Laura, I’ve tried twice now to click on your new blog, and I get this: “Firefox can’t find the server at http://www.lauramunson.com.”

  5. Super well done! For me, sometimes the intimacy is in the trust represented by being willing to fight. Tom’s description of “fighting” is, I agree, very negative and a waste of time. Worse than a waste, actually — a destructive force that hurts the couple as well as those around them. Now, expressing disagreement and being willing to try to understand one another better…..that is valuable to me. That and, you know, gettin’ naked. ;-) Great dialogue, I hope you both will continue this series.

    • lauramunson

      Elizabeth, thanks for showing up here at THESE HERE HILLS! I’ve enjoyed reading your comments while I was in Arizona last week and now that my blog has successfully moved to this address, I am settling in with replies. Tom and I will post four or five more questions and our reponses over the course of the next month or so. It’s been a really interesting exercise. If you haven’t signed up for my HAVEN newsletter yet, go to my website http://www.lauramunson.com and scroll down the left margin on any page but Home. You’ll see the sign up there. Each month I feature a theme and another writer/thinker/seeker and we muse upon it. Then I invite people to come here to comment and discuss. It’s a place for people to be vulnerable and share and some very interesting souls show up. Hope to see you there. yrs. Laura

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  9. i discovered your blog site on google and check a few of your early posts. continue to keep up the very good operate. i just additional up your rss feed to my msn news reader. seeking forward to reading more from you later on!é

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