The Agony and The Ecstasy: How To (Not) Fight In Publicby Carly Pifer on September 05, 2012
Carly, the Perpetual Girlfriend, shares relationship advice from a ‘serious girlfriend’ with ten years — and some serious oversights — under her belt.
There’s nothing quite like openly sobbing on a public street. Aside from coming to terms with a mascara streaked face, it’s a release like no other to completely abandon all notions of social dignity and give a sad face to passersby while your confused boyfriend shuffles his feet and looks uncomfortable. You appear to others as an innocent victim, the pawn in some evil scheme, and the silent sympathy you receive from strangers can be comforting, especially if the very notion of it turns the face of your S.O. green.
See, I used to be of the camp who believed it uncouth to air ‘the dirty laundry’ of a relationship. When out with my partner, if something happened to bother me, I would keep quiet and just let the itch transform slowly into a body rash that I tore apart as soon as we were alone. I saved face in front of others, but paid for it in anger, seeing as my boyfriend never remembered what had transpired earlier that could have irked me. (It kind of takes away some of your points for delivery when you have to reverse and explain.) And so the first time I got so upset that I couldn’t even help but to audibly cry on a Friday night on Main Street in Williamsburg, I finally understood the beauty of it all. It is a type of vindication unlike hearing a genuine apology, or being embraced in an ‘I’m sorry’ hug. And I liked it, being the sicko that I am. It’s been a slippery slope from there.
On Alienating Strangers…
The new family-style bench seating at restaurants is great. Unless of course, those people aren’t your family, you’re wearing a mini-skirt, or you and your partner are in a fight sitting mere centimeters away from people you don’t know who are trying to enjoy their meal amidst flying swear words. A rare revelation here; I am capable of getting along with my boyfriend, so I can relate to both couples in this situation. Once upon a time, I looked around at all the other couples in the restaurant and realized no one was as happy as us. My boyfriend and I used to be kind of independently famous for our dinners, getting lost in each others eyes and savoring bites fed across the table. Everyone surely hated us.
And then, more often than not, we were the couple who was barely looking up, scooting our food around our plates like some sordid culinary amusement park, and making everyone around us intensely uncomfortable. How I pitied our waiters and waitresses during these meals, creeping up to the table with meek smiles and asking if there was something wrong with the food, watching me balance my wine glass upside down again and again, and lowering their eyes as they thanked us for our patronage and generous tip for having tortured them. There’s something a bit amusing about not wanting to return to a restaurant because you’ve embarrassed yourself there. Kind of like you pooped your pants or something.
…vs. Alienating Your Friends
Everyone fights. Thus, when we see it happening to others, we can’t help but to simultaneously empathize and be repelled. Fighting in front of friends is a bit trickier because, well, you care if they like you. It’s fun to occasionally insert your friend in the middle of your argument, a better-looking, less religious, drunker, Dr. Phil, to get some mediation (or just logic in some cases! Don’t forget to purchase them a cocktail when you do this.) It’s another thing to constantly pit this friend against your partner, or vice versa, and turn hanging out into a job for them. Most things that are fun at first eventually become a resented burden. Like when you have a lot of sex and all of a sudden it turns into a baby.
Being that couple, the ones with crossed arms, that turn every room into a silent war zone of death stares, will cost you your social life. When your friends de-friend you, you’ll experience the ultimate punishment: being left completely alone in your miserable relationship. If you have some redeeming quality, like a pool, or huge boobs, they might stick around, but they will likely be forced to cut you off from talking about your relationship problems. Not to reference Sex and the City in a relationship column, but… Everybody has seen that episode of Sex and The City, right? Where all the girls essentially push Carrie Bradshaw into the East River because she won’t shut up about whatever relationship most recently went wrong. You never want to be that girl. Or Carrie Bradshaw in general. Pretend you never read that.
When you are constantly complaining about the crappy things your S.O. does, (and many of us are guilty of this) your friends, (assuming they’re smart lads,) will finally develop the idea that the relationship isn’t good for you. This isn’t necessarily untrue, but we often forget in relationships to talk about things like how he makes you pancakes every Saturday morning and reads you poetry in bed. How when he talks to his dog you can imagine him being the father of your children and can’t imagine what another man’s arms would feel like around you after his. It’s important to seek advice from friends, but never to throw your lover under the bus, so to speak, unless you’re really ready to let him be in a wheelchair. And we never are quite there, are we?
So: Make and Use a Safe Word
So you have your sex safe word for when the biting gets too hard or the bear costume is actually frightening, but having a safe word for fighting is an excellent tool to use in public, should you decide that you’d prefer to bow out of a certain confrontation. In contrast to your kinky safe-sex word, if you can make it something a bit sentimental, and of course not overuse it, it could even work! Try not to mix with alcohol, or tears.
If interested in the witchery involved in acting happy when you’re not, revisit TomKat pre-divorce. There is something to be learned from channeling anger into a gross facade of tenderness and joy, and sometimes, if you’re lucky, you might even successfully forget why you’re mad and leave the party to go f*ck, not fight.
Carly Pifer is a self-proclaimed relationship expert, a title which she credits her uncanny hankering for marathon dating. Though she has traded partners a few times, she’s stayed married to her problems and interest in exploration on the subject. When she’s not writing about sex and relationships, she writes about fashion, travel and whatever else holds her fancy, though curiously, very little rivals her fixation on the male species.