February 20, 2011 in Features

Carolyn Hax: Right relationship deserves scrutiny

Washington Post
 

Hi, Carolyn: Are high-drama relationships ever good ones? My boyfriend and I usually have a huge argument every couple of weeks (not disagreements, but fights where we yell at each other). Is this normal? Most of my friends are in a similar type of relationship, too. I know a couple who have the opposite type of relationship, where it’s calm and fun and full of adoration. Am I doing something wrong? – High-drama relationships

Not if you like yelling and getting yelled at every couple of weeks.

It’s actually not as obvious as it sounds; some people feel better in “calm” relationships, and some are happier with the volume cranked a bit.

There is, granted, a risk to the does-it-feel-good method of life-assessment. Whatever path you’ve chosen, honoring your commitments to others (and yourself) is likely to involve holding down a job, doing chores, wrangling toddlers/teenagers, refusing seconds, remaining faithful through various temptations, or just showing up where you said you would even when you’d rather be somewhere else. These often involve choosing the right thing over feelin’ it.

But there’s an even greater risk, I believe, in tuning out your feelings based on a misguided sense of duty, normalcy, or the way things are “supposed” to be. Your experience and your peer group tell you that being in a relationship means 26 shouting sessions a year. But something in your gut – backed up by that oasis-couple you know – is telling you it’s possible to do better.

When you fuse your sense of long-term responsibility with your sense of well-being, that’s when you have your compass. The former is what tells you to be good to someone you love; the latter weighs in on whether you’ve chosen the right person and the right means. The combination tells you whether you’ve got a good relationship.

Your question alone says you don’t – but it also reveals a huge thing you’re doing right: You’re looking inward, willing to find fault with your choices.

So turn that honest scrutiny to the way you’re behaving with your boyfriend, starting in the most obvious place: Don’t yell. Adopt a response you can sustain through a temper surge, like, “I’m walking away till I’m calm.”

What you do after that (and after that, and so on) will depend on the results of each incremental change, with too many possible outcomes and choices for me to list here.

However, if you continue to put your actions to these two tests – am I being good, am I feeling good? – I believe the answers will lead you in a healthy direction. That is, as long as you have the courage to heed what they say.

E-mail Carolyn at tellme@washpost.com, follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/ carolyn.hax or chat with her online at 9 a.m. Pacirfictime each Friday at www. washingtonpost.com.


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