Without Fighting, Is There Any Passion?

Whenever Mara and I write about our commitment to seek to embody virtues like love, patience, kindness, calm, forgiveness, and gratitude (instead of anger, impatience, sharpness, agitation, grudge holding, and bitterness) we always get some people expressing disbelief. Especially when we talk about applying it to difficult moments in your relationship with your significant other, we often get this question:

“Don’t you ever fight? Isn’t the fighting good for the the passion aspect of a relationship? Isn’t the arguing part of a healthy dynamic?”

I’ve heard this a great deal over the years as people have shared their marriage advice. It’s also something that has come in over comments and emails as long as we’ve had the blog.

I’m entirely comfortable (and in fact happy to take a stand) saying that you will NEVER hear us touting the importance of anger or fighting in order to increase passion in a relationship. My experience is it does the opposite.

Perhaps some will see it as a sign of my own emotional immaturity, but I am honestly incapable of connecting a fight with my wife to an increase in passion. Fighting has never been something I enjoy.

If I were to think about what it is that people so enjoy about the much talked about “make-up sex” after a fight, it is because in that special moment all differences are put aside, forgiveness and vulnerability are re-extended, egos are laid down, and two people decide to come “back together” after a period of forced separation.

I suppose I can understand how something like that is appealing. It’s certainly better than remaining angry with each other for hours or days or weeks.

But what is more appealing to me, is trying not to ever leave the place of forgiveness, vulnerability, togetherness, and companionship in the first place. My experience is that when I succeed in doing this, the passion and love actually doesn’t need to be rekindled, it is always there.

The most tender moments in our marriage have come when one or the other exerted the inner strength to avoid an argument by maintaining their cool and control when the other partner was heated. In such situations, the agitated spouse has come down from the state of being so much faster than arguing would have ever achieved. And when they come down, not only is there an outpouring of love as they return to their normal/healthier selves, but there is overwhelming gratitude for the spouse that kept their ego in check when the other was struggling.

That, to me, is a tremendous source of deep love, passion, and unity.

For those that feel the occasional anger/argument is important to the expression of passion in the relationship, help me understand why you feel that is so. And if arguments have lead to passion and love, what was it about the situation that you think created that love? Do you believe your passion could be more consistent and sustained if you approached things differently? 

For those that have found greater passion with a more peaceful and patient route, explain why and what the results have been.

There are all types of people, and we need not all be the same. So please don’t hesitate to answer even if it differs from what I described above. We love to hear from both sides!

If you want more discussion on this subject, or to look at other great comments, follow the link at the top of the post.

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  1. Tanya June 4, 2014 at 1:08 pm - Reply

    I agree with EVERY SINGLE WORD of this post! OMG! Totally agree!

    The times I've felt the most passionate about my husband (like, "send the kids out to play and have some "together" time" passionate) is most decidedly NOT after a fight. It was when he took the high road, or helped me out, or any of the "virtuous" things you've mentioned.

    Unfortunately, he subscribes to the other school of thought, and I could NEVER understand why anyone would want to culminate an argument with sex. It seems so dysfunctional! Like, let's NOT deal with the issues that we obviously have and distract ourselves with hormones!
    As a result, we have so many unresolved issues and hangups, and resentment, and no sex life, and a failing marriage. So much for passion.

    I'm sure some would consider me naive, but I absolutely believe that a couple can have disagreements, and have different opinions on subjects, and still refrain from an actual fight, with some effort of one or both partners. I believe that THIS is what marriage counselors refer to when they recommend that a couple "learn to fight".
    From personal experience, I found that the times when I want to "fight" is when I don't have anything constructive to add to the discussion or I'm tired/stressed and generally unfit to deal with the issue, so my instinct (or maybe learned behavior from my parents) is to withdraw and try to come back to the issue later, when I've done more research or got rest. In my personal opinion, very few things are so important that cannot bear delaying discussion, and usually it's our personal fears and egos that cause us to NEED to get our way or else. And when you have two people with fears and egos, you have a strong reactions and emotions, and I guess one of definitions of "passion" would fit here, but… I'd rather have it originate from a positive place.

    • danny June 4, 2014 at 1:39 pm - Reply

      Great comment Tanya. And I truly am sorry that this is such a constant thing in your life.

      I think you also made an important distinction about what counselors are recommending. When they say "learn to fight", it isn't saying to learn the best way to argue with each other and yell and say unkind things….it's learn how to have a disagreement, even a deep rooted one, without turning it into something more than that, a disagreement.

      As for whether or not you're naive in your beliefs…I happen to know it's possible because that's how my parents dealt with most things all my life. They certainly have differing opinions, they most certainly have different personalities and can rub each other the wrong way…and yet I don't have a recollection of anything I would call a "fight".

      That's one of the reasons I'm so committed to the idea…because I've seen it in action, and I've seen what it does for an entire household and not just for the couple.

      I truly wish you the best in this struggle that you have. It is a difficult burden to bear. I hope that you will continually find ways to maintain some cool, control, and compassion on your side of things, even when your spouse behaves differently. My experience, is even when it doesn't change the behavior of the other person, maintaining your own sense of compassion and kindness can be it's own reward (that is of course if you can stop the ego long enough from needing to defend itself and get in a smart word).

  2. Katy June 4, 2014 at 3:23 pm - Reply

    I love this so much, I just had to comment.
    My husband and I don't fight…..ever. People don't understand how that is possible. Often people will say "you fight, you get it all out there and then you make up". Why?
    We definitely have differences of opinions and ways of doing things. I am not submissive to him more than he is submissive to me. Sometimes he bugs me and I'm sure I annoy him too at times. We work together to resolve conflict without using harsh words or loud voices. I find myself thinking about how he would feel about something I say or do before I do it. And I feel he does the same for me. (our society is become more and more selfish, so often this concept of thinking of others is lost) We have found ways to work out our differences and not just ignore the issues, which I think a lot of people do.
    It's a process, you have to learn to communicate with each other. Sometimes its easy and other times not! At the end of the day it's so great to be able to come home to someone who I can trust, who wants the best for the both of us and who is trying as hard as I am. (and sometimes it is hard and that's OK to). Being able to do that opens up a new level of trust and intimacy in a relationship, I feel like it is so important to have that.

    • danny June 4, 2014 at 3:36 pm - Reply

      Totally agree. And I think you highlight something very important, and that is that not fighting does not mean ignoring problems. I think occasionally people assume if you don't fight then you must be burying things inside, keeping them bottled up, or as you said, being submissive.

      Although that can be true in some cases, I've certainly seen that in people I know…it doesn't have to be. It is about learning how to communicate in a more constructive manner.

      Thanks for insights into how and why it works for you! And yes….the kind of trust created through this "non-violent" form of communication builds a totally different kind of environment that contributes to healthy intimacy in all its forms.

  3. K.J.D.L June 4, 2014 at 4:18 pm - Reply

    I think contention and heated confrontation separates us from the best parts of ourselves, and I don't understand how good can truly come from that. Yelling and contention come from pride, right? When is pride helpful? Preeeetty much never. A passionate episode and resolution may not always be the same thing.

    My husband had a very hot temper as a teenager, but managed to realize his problem long before we met. Soon after we started dating he told me it was his goal for us to never have a fight. Five years later we have so far been able to maintain this goal.

    That isn't to say we always agree. Heavens, there are things in our life about which we are on opposite ends of the spectrum, but just like you said, when at least one partner is willing to keep their cool and put their pride aside, these issues can be talked about, and considered without "fights". Sometimes one of us may need to quietly leave a discussion for a while, or agree to pray and think about it together before we talk about it again. I definitely feel most passionate about my husband when he surprises me by doing something especially tender or thoughtful.

    It is also very important to us for our very young family learns a loving way to deal with conflict, rather than an explosive way. Explosions may clear away unwanted things, but they are hard to control, and can be destructive beyond the boundaries we mean to set.

    • danny June 4, 2014 at 7:02 pm - Reply

      Great comment! A blog post in its own right.

      As for your last paragraph, this is the main reason why I don't see it as an acceptable form of communication. It certainly is possible for two people to have a fight and heated argument, come to their senses, and kiss-and-make-up. But…some of the words said in that heated moment may remain much longer than intended and desired. Too much other things happen in our style of communication when we allow ourselves to "blow-up" at another person.

      Nobody should have to carry around that baggage.

    • Tracy June 4, 2014 at 8:34 pm - Reply

      I agree! Words and actions in those heated conflicts can be so damaging, even when both parties have reconciled and moved on, those hurtful words and actions can still linger. The damage has been done.

      I wish there were more examples of healthy conflict management skills. We talk about how important they are, but sometimes it is hard to imagine what they actually look like in action!

      I love these posts.

      Thanks to you and Mara for your openness and willingness to share. I appreciate you showing how to have appropriate and loving conflict resolution.

  4. Valerie June 4, 2014 at 6:41 pm - Reply

    Goood! Good! Good! 🙂 the thought actually crossed my mind this week reading your blog to ask whether you ever argued loudly( I don't like the word 'fight'). I am so glad that the behind the scene you describe fits the front you show all the time. 🙂
    It is not easy for me as I can get very angry at times, but my husband and I try to cool off first before discussing a disagreement. It is so much nicer than yelling, especially if/ when children are around. They see everything and feel it more intensity than we do.

    • danny June 4, 2014 at 7:03 pm - Reply

      I think you are 100% correct about the effect on kids!

  5. Megan June 4, 2014 at 6:52 pm - Reply

    In my opinion, I think it depends on how you view the word fight. Some people define fighting as yelling and screaming and others (like myself) view fighting as any disagreement. In my opinion, my husband and I have "fights" at least a few times a month where we disagree about something or he does something to upset/annoy me and vice versa. That said, I couldn't tell you the last time we yelled and screamed about something. When viewed in this context, I have a hard time when people tell me they never "fight" in their relationship. I don't understand how this could be since I don't believe people are perfect and therefore there is no perfect relationship. I also think when people hear this they immediately begin to compare their own relationship and start feeling insecure and down on their experiences.

    When I have these disagreements or frustrations with my spouse, I don't feel as close to him as I would like. Once those feelings get resolved, I tend to feel closer to him than before and the passion, tenderness, or whatever you want to call it gets rekindled.

    I guess what I'm saying is while I don't think passion always requires "fighting," it is certainly a welcome reward for forgiveness and humility.

    • danny June 4, 2014 at 7:10 pm - Reply

      I think you make some very valid points about the importance of defining the word "fight". It certainly would mean different things to different people…and those definitions are entirely subjective based on their past experience and their family life.

      I also agree about the danger of comparing a relationship, and it is something Mara and I always try to be conscious of when writing. We choose to talk about principles that we KNOW work, because we've used them time and again…but that doesn't mean we always apply the principles as well as we know we should. It is of course not uncommon for at least one partner to have a bad day, or to be exhausted, or hungry, or upset about something else and therefore less effective in their communication. It happens to us, it happens to everyone.

      One thing I also feel very strongly about, and repeat often…"The message is greater than I am".

      Mara and I advocate for living a life motivated by love (as opposed to the ego that so dominates much of our interactions). We of course have moments where one or both don't succeed.

      But enough practice in exercising that kind of control that is necessary, and developing a deliberate and practiced compassion and patience, makes it so even when both of us aren't at our best, it doesn't turn into explosions.

      That kind of control, is the very definition of love.

  6. Anonymous June 4, 2014 at 6:54 pm - Reply

    Gosh I agree with this post and many of the comments. My husband and I are really fortunate in that we never fight, rarely disagree and only suffer from the occasional snap or cross word due to low blood suger (me!) frustration at his own ability (him)! Completely agree that fighting does not equal passion and also share your frustration Danny that sometimes people can make out that your relationship isn't passionate (or even isn't a 'real' relationship) without fighting. What a load of rubbish!!
    The bit where I feel differently though is I don't feel that our not fighting is much down to our own agency… when I read some of the posts/ comments above it sounds like not fighting is a big struggle, like something we have to work at all the time. It doesn't feel like that to me, its instinctive, I don't want to hurt my husband of course, but also I hate confrontation generally, I've always been a bit of a peacemaker (with siblings, at work, with friends) and this is even more the case in my relationship. (As Katy says above I'm not submissive, its just I think there are other ways of getting ideas across). All I'm saying really is… I think maybe this stuff is much much easier for somepeople than others?

    • danny June 4, 2014 at 7:17 pm - Reply

      Certainly agree with you. It reminds me of the Color Code Personality Tests probably every one has done in school.

      The truth is, for some people like it is going to be more difficult (like Reds). And for others it will be as natural as breathing (whites).

      To me, the important thing is to never use another person as your barometer for where YOU should be, but as inspiration for the fact that change is possible. I think it is much more important to be going in the right direction that to worry about whether or not you've arrived yet.

      For the person who has a greater disposition to short tempers…it should be about the steps that an individual takes to reduce that natural proclivity, because the love the other person and don't desire to hurt them, and because the love themselves and don't desire to so easily harbor such a negative energy.

      It doesn't happen all at once (at least for most people, but I have heard of some remarkable turn arounds)…and people should have patience with themselves.

      And for those for whom not fighting comes easy…there is likely some other trait that does not that will require work and patience and a life time of development. And that's exactly what life is for.

  7. Anonymous June 4, 2014 at 9:59 pm - Reply

    This comment isn't related to your post, but I have a question for you. I love this blog and all of the things you teach on it. I particularly love what you both have to say about choosing happiness, and I fully believe that it's possible. Today I read this post (http://www.joannagoddard.blogspot.com/2014/06/on-happiness.html) and couldn't help but wonder how you would respond to it. I'm not sure all that the author intended by it, but it seems that they're giving permission to be sad…which we all know, sad things come to each of us in life so that's okay and nothing to feel guilty about…but the difference between what this author (to me) is implying and what you promote, is that you guys believe we don't have to focus on sadness and let it stay (are they disguising that point by calling it "wholeness"?)…we can pursue other virtues that will indeed make us happy even in the midst of sad things. I think happiness SHOULD be our default position, why wouldn't you want it to be? Because you feel guilty that it's not? I don't want to be disrespectful to anyone, just honestly trying to work this out in my mind. What are your thoughts?

    • mara June 5, 2014 at 12:35 am - Reply

      Hi! I'm so glad you wrote in. I hadn't seen that post on Cup of Jo. And well, I didn't resonate with that quote. ha. But I guess we're all different in how we view things and that's ok. To me, having a bad day, feeling despair, sadness, disappointment, frustration, etc. are all part of life but they (in themselves) do not lead me to a sense of wholeness, as it seems the author of the quote implied. All of those things make me human, yes. But wholeness to me is more of a sense of wellness, it is the feeling of a healed soul.

      I used to live with lots of those painful emotions all the time and it was awful. I didn't know how to heal from them. I really thought my circumstances were so bad that I had no choice but to be in pain and despair. And I can tell you that I felt anything but wholeness or happiness. This went on for nearly a decade of my adult life until I realized that I had the human potential to live in a different way or see things differently; to rise above my circumstances and CHOOSE a better perspective and truly HEAL. How did I choose a better path? I pursued virtues like my life depended on it. As hard as it was, I started to pursue a path of gratitude (by focusing on the good things in my life and being grateful for them); I pursued forgiveness with every ounce of myself, despite the harm I had received; I pursued compassion for those that had brought me pain (it helped to remind myself that they were in pain, too); I pursued love for my unborn children by deciding that I wanted to practice being a good mother to them in preparation of their arrival, if they ever came; I pursued love for the world by desiring to send a good energy and vibration out (instead of a poisonous one); I pursued hope for my life by reminding myself that I had everything that I needed to have a good life despite my circumstances – that I had all the power in the world to make my life what I wanted it to be; I pursued self worth by training my mind to have a positive script about myself ("I am capable", "I am worthy of being loved and adored", "I am beautiful", "I am a good/wonderful person with so much to offer." These are things I didn't believe at one point. I had to deliberately choose to pursue these thoughts and retrain my brain.) It is all of these PURSUITS that brought me wholeness and healing and freedom from my pain. It is these pursuits that brought me the greatest peace and happiness I have ever known. It is these pursuits that brought the most beautiful vibration and energy to my life; one that overflowed from me and could be felt by all those around me. Had I not CHOSEN to deliberately pursue these things, I can guarantee you I would still be marinating in the greatest despair I could imagine. And I most definitely would not have felt a sense of wholeness nor happiness (to me, those are pretty much one in the same.) But,I had to do the work. True, deep happiness is not putting on a smiley face and pushing things to the side and pretending that everything is ok. You have to be willing to do the work to heal from the inside.

      It's important to note that while the pain I experience in life does not bring a sense of wholeness, pain is the greatest teacher as presents opportunity after opportunity for me learn how to pursue great things. Pain is not something to be afraid of; but something that can be seen as an opportunity to become a greater human being; an opportunity to do the greatest thing we could ever do in this life, which is to love.

    • Anonymous June 5, 2014 at 5:29 pm - Reply

      Thank you so much Mara! This is the perfect response, and I completely agree. You have the amazing gift of articulating into words everything I felt in my gut but couldn't organize verbally 🙂 Thank you and never stop blogging!

    • Anonymous June 5, 2014 at 9:37 pm - Reply

      Mara, I think your persistence, perseverance, and overall attitude are really a great example to so many out there. I think happiness is definitely what we've all been taught to pursue, but I have to say that the excerpt from Joanna's blog did resonate with me, in that wholeness is more of a realistic pursuit, mostly because sadness, failure, and frustration are inevitable, continuous, and truly part of being a human, just as happiness is also. Although happiness is viewed as the more desirable state of being to pursue, there is no way any of us would know happiness if we did not regularly experience sadness and failure. Not only do these supposed negative states allow us to truly appreciate the happy times and triumphs, but they teach us other necessary attributes, like strength, perspective, and humility.

      I don't think the author was implying that we should all embrace the "glass is half empty" adage or pretend to be happy, or to give up seeking happiness; I just think he was implying that wholeness is the more "human" state, and without sadness, there is no happiness (simplistic terms, but you catch my drift). The quote resonated with me also because I think he was trying to say that sadness is OK. I don't think anyone should revel in it or waste time dwelling on the past (whole other issues in and of themselves), but life is made up of ebbs and flows, and wholeness means embracing the range of experiences and emotions that actually do play off each other.

  8. Anonymous June 5, 2014 at 3:59 am - Reply

    I totally agree with the comments so far that state there is a huge difference between not fighting and avoiding any communication/ discussion.
    My ex and I never fought. We also never communicated effectively. And with a ton of other issues, are now divorced.
    I sometimes yearned for a fight just to have some communication instead of avoidance.
    Thanks for the reminder that it doesn't have to be fighting or avoidance. There can be a healthy relationship with honest kind communication and discussion and resolving differences .
    Your blog gives me hope for a better future. Thank you!

    • danny June 5, 2014 at 4:47 am - Reply

      Thank you! And yes, there totally is hope for the future. And that hope starts with you! You're the one who gets to decide how you will conduct your half of a conversation/argument. You get to decide if your contribution to any conversation or disagreement stems from a healthy or dysfunctional place. And even when, and especially when, the other person is being dysfunctional (whether they are a significant other, a parent. a child, or a stranger)….it is still possible to keep that calm and compassion, and treat the other person with patience and respect.

      Good Luck!

  9. Relationship Help June 6, 2014 at 6:26 am - Reply

    I think that it really differs, but generally the need to express oneself freely without feeling like any less of a person is what matters most. Listening to each other and being open about each others thoughts counts for so much in keeping a relationship strong. – Ritter

  10. Anonymous July 17, 2014 at 5:57 pm - Reply

    Thank you for this article 😀 I've always heard about that "There's no love if you don't fight" thing, so I tried searching for people talking about love without fighting… Since that's how it works with my partner. Before getting into it, we both somehow take a step back and try to view it from the other's perspective. I can't recall us ever having a real fight o_o And I still deeply love her.

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