How-to Communicate – Part 3 : Knuckle Sandwiches and Just Desserts

One of the weirdest fights my wife and I ever got in was about salsa dancing.

The two went out to a local salsa bar as part of my birthday gift a few years back – she had planned some special surprises, ranging from snacks, restaurants, drinks, and activities.  We had some Sangria, jalapeño poppers, and some Spanish barbecue at a restaurant downtown.  After that, she took me to a salsa club.

Despite my latin heritage, my hips do lie, at least occasionally.

After the intro lesson, from some sort of “Enrique” who fit the stereotypical look of a salsa dancer, we danced with each other.  The sea of people around us were cutting up the dance floor – but not me.  Not young Joshua.  I couldn’t really keep count with the music, moved like a robot, and stepped on my wife’s feet enough times for her to think through investing in steel toe boots.

“This is dumb, I want to go.”

Not really my best line.  And she didn’t take it too well.

But it didn’t end there – I’m also pretty sure, as our fight went on, I accused her of being selfish.  The one who made me drinks and snacks and took me to barbecue  and out to free salsa lessons.  Nailed it.

So we really fought.  I was the ultimate downer to what should have been a great night.

Putting Your Dukes Up

The above isn’t really a good example of fighting.  It just is an example of fighting.  I have friends who have fought over forks in the spoon spot, socks in the bathroom, blueberry pancakes, and temperature in the car.  We all fight.  Fights, in every relationship are inevitable.

This blog isn’t about how to avoid fights, or 10 phrases to use when you get in them.  I’m not an expert, as outlined by that little scenario above.  In fact, this post is about getting into fights, and making sure it happens.  I think it’s probably one of the most healthy things for you relationship to go through.  And by relationships, I mean all of them – relationship with friends, family, spouse, girlfriend, boyfriend, – whatever.

This blog post is about fights : why they’re important, what they accomplish, and maybe a bit about moving past them.

     1. King of the Castle

     2. R-E-S-P-E-C-T

     3. Kiss and Make Up

As a note, I’m not talking about the big, dramatic fights that don’t get settled – I’m talking about disagreements, arguments, and normal fights.

King of The Castle

When I was a kid, we’d play this game right after the snowplow cleared the parking lot, making giant mountains of ice and snow on the edge of the school yard.  The point of the game was to be the lone wolf atop the mount, and yell out, “I’m the King of the Castle, and you’re the dirty rascals.”  And obviously, being called a dirty rascal wasn’t too high on my bucket list.  So we’d all fight, tackle, body slam, and push our way to the top.  Kids would get armfuls of snow shoved down their coats, and others get ganged up on and lifted and thrown down to the rest of the dirty rascals below.   The amount of kids who got sprained ankles and broken wrists was alarming.

A lot of times, to get to the top, you’d need to make an alliance – you’d need to have your buddy’s back.  And he would need to have yours.  But when you get to the top, it’s all about betrayal, because there can only be one King of the Castle.

Sometimes, relationships end up this way.  With someone who dominates while the rest ( or just other ) becomes the dirty rascal.  Maybe one of the most important things I’m learning about fighting is what it reveals when it isn’t there.  Sort of like this little proverb :

Without oxen a stable stays clean, but you need a strong ox for a large harvest.

As in, you can keep a stable clean as long as you don’t have oxen – but if you don’t have oxen, why would you even have a stable ?  You’re definitely not going to be able to reap the harvest without them.

I’m pretty convinced people who don’t fight with others they are in relationship with, fall into at least two categories :

  • They don’t communicate or understand each other
  • One of them is a perpetual “Dirty Rascal”

I’m sure there are a million other reasons people don’t fight – but these are just my observations.

First reason, then, for why people don’t fight is because they don’t communicate or understand each other.  Sounds pretty obvious, but it’s probably worth discussing a bit.  Take the salsa scrap between my wife and I above.  There were definitely communication issues – mostly mine.  I didn’t say that I was insecure or nervous, I just said this is dumb.  But, I did say something.  I did try to communicate. I’m not patting myself on the back for how I did it, just for that I did it.

There are people though, who for some reason or another, always keep their lips sealed.  Their whole relationship is like that – and so they never fight.  They don’t understand each other, they don’t honestly communicate, and so, they never fight.  But that’s a bummer.  That’s not a real friendship – it’s superficial and ignorant.

Second reason is the perpetual Dirty Rascal.  As in, someone in the relationship is always the King and the other person just submits and acquiesces.  If you need a practical example of this, look no further than Lefou and Gaston.  Gaston, the handsome, chauvinistic hunter set out for Belle’s hand, has a right hand man named Lefou.  Lefou is almost the opposite of Gaston, short, unsightly, etc.  But Lefou praises and does everything Gaston does.  He always agrees with Gaston, stays on his good side – he even wrote a song about how Gaston is everyone’s favourite guy.

And that can happen in relationships.  One of the people just submits – becomes a yes-man, and gets walked all over.  Sure, you don’t fight, but one of the people in the relationship is not having their needs met, let alone ever having a good time.

Fighting can, at least in this section, prove that people are communicating ( even if it’s a bit messy ), that they are being understood, and that no one is being walked all over.  It’s worth thinking this through for a moment – to ask yourself a couple little questions :

Do I communicate well and understand others ?

Do I dominate and trample down others ?

Perhaps the answers to those will reveal more about you and your relationships than is comfortable.


Fights also prove other aspects of healthy relationships.

They can prove that there is mutual respect, challenge, and personal growth.  I didn’t marry my wife because I don’t respect her opinions, because she agrees with my every thought, motive, and action, or because she thinks I’m a pure paragon.  If I wanted that, I would have married Lefou ( that’s assuming I’m Gaston ).  Instead, I married her because she calls me out on my stuff and because she has ideas and perspectives that are challenging and sometimes frustrating.  But, in all of that, since we’ve been married, I’ve grown – at least a little bit.

And that’s what fights can bring about.

Challenges and differing opinions bring the best out of us, and we need people like this in our lives.  No character in the shows or movies we watch starts out being the hero – they need to become the hero through obstacles.  I’ve written a bit about that here, but for our purposes, it’s worth thinking through in our relationships.

Take Harry Potter, for example.  Little Harry didn’t start out with the bravery he needed to save the world and fight he who must not be named.  He had to become brave – through physical challenges and adversities, but also relational ones.  How many arguments and differences of opinion did Harry get in with Ron, Hermoine, and pretty much everyone else ? And how often was he perfectly right ?

I’ve got friends who both support me in life and also disagree with me.  Those disagreements can lead to challenges and growth – and that is a very important thing in life.  Going the other way, to have people who never challenge you or cause you to grow should be disarming.  Unnerving.

Dr Jordan Peterson says it like this :

“A narcissistic person who never wants to be challenged will want a partner who will do nothing but deliver what they’re told to deliver, and they will mistreat them, beyond belief, and perhaps deservedly so.” – Jordan Peterson

Not having fights reveals a lot about us; and about how we view our friends or partners.  It reveals if we respect them or let them walk all over us; it reveals if we are very arrogant or rampantly self-abasing.  That always strikes me as something profound, the reasons we don’t fight with others.  It can be too much pride, too much self pity, or a severe lack of relational understanding.

I still have to think this through – because sometimes being challenged is really, really annoying.  That’s the issue, isn’t it ? That in some sense there’s an insufficiency ( perceived or real ) in us that needs to change.  So a fight starts – and, if there is respect, the can be true challenge and growth.

Kiss and Make Up

Maybe I’d be remiss not to mention anything about moving on from fights.

Again, this is personal and observational ( including a bit of reading ), but a lot of how to move on comes from being humble and not taking yourself so seriously.

After having the disagreement or debate, whether the most healthy or not, there needs to come a time when the relationship is mended.  If not, there’s the retreating, the awkward avoidance, and maybe even a sweeping under the rug.  And left in disrepair, there are breakdowns and breakups.

Fixing things up is important – it continues on with the benefits mentioned above : understanding, communication, respect, and growth.

I don’t have catchphrases for this either.  I just have this belief that if I am in relationship with someone, we’re on the same side – after the same goal.  It’s less about me or the other person being right, and more about growth.  The only way I’ve found for that to work is to be chill, to take myself way less serious.  To even laugh and joke about mistakes.

Realistically, there’s this recognition that fights aren’t the end of the world – in fact, they are mostly beneficial.

The Salsa Fiasco ended for us, later that night.  After some tears and raised voices and then some apologies and hugs.  The next morning we went out for an amazing brunch – because my wife was mature enough to grow and understand me, and then challenge me.  And then, we were chill, and didn’t take it too seriously – and had some fun.

Wrapping It Up

I really don’t think that fighting should get all the bad press it seems to be getting.  Fighting is a pretty key tool in assessing yourself ( and your friends / partner ) in a relationship.

Fighting can help reveal how strong ( or weak ) our communication is and if we really understand the other person.

Fighting also reveals how we think about other people in relationships – whether we respect them and value them, or just want “yes-men” around us.  We need fighting in our lives to challenge us and cause us to grow – that’s what a healthy relationship is made up of.

Lastly, to get past a fight, we need to learn to take ourselves a bit less serious and recognize that we aren’t ultimately against each other.  We’re on the same side if we’re in some sort of relationship.

What about you ?  Do you think fights are beneficial ? What have you learned from fights with your friends, family, partners ?

In case you missed the earlier entries in this series :

How-to Communicate – Part 1 : Orwell, At Least Try**

How-to Communicate – Part 2 : Listen Up


2 thoughts on “How-to Communicate – Part 3 : Knuckle Sandwiches and Just Desserts

  1. Hi Josh, as you know, we spend a lot of time fighting in this family. I’m not sure everyone is always restored to their original position or degraded during the heat of the argument. But I do believe for the most part that once removed from the heated state one contemplates what occurred and looks for ways to improve.Thanks for your words.


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