Couples fighting

The kids scatter to get away from the tension between mom and dad. Yelling, screaming, tears, a door slams. Words have been said that can’t be unsaid.

Most fights are not the iconic scenes of the movies like Braveheart where William Wallace inspires his warriors with a freedom speech before they charge into battle. Mr. and Mrs. Smith movie posterOr, the fantastic light show of sabers as Luke Skywalker holds a final showdown with his Darth Vader dad.  Or, even the witty, I love you, but I have to kill you now, undercover spy humor of Mr. and Mrs. Smith. Usually, fights are trivial, hurtful, and often a simple misunderstanding.

Misunderstandings are what develop conflict between the hero and heroine in most romance novel plots. It can be anything from hiding a past shame to believing the hero may be an actual murderer. Whatever the conflict, it’s good to know how and why fights progress. In my research, I came across two types of fighters: duckers and confronters.

Duckers prefer to hide or ignore the issue hoping it will resolve itself on its own. When forced into a confrontation, they think, I don’t need this, or I don’t have time for this.

Confronters prefer to attack the issue. They want to air it all out in the open. When faced with a ducker they think, he’s/she’s not willing to fight for me and wants to press their spouse into standing up for them.

Here’s an example of an argument from my manuscript “Love Never Fails” between a confronter (Abby) and a ducker (Nick). For some background information, Abby’s husband Nick had gone missing during the Napoleonic Wars with France. He’s suffering from what now would be diagnosed as Post-traumatic stress disorder, and even though the war ended, he’s allowed everyone, including his wife to believe he was still deceased.

 Abby crossed her arms over her chest. “Do you have another family?”

“No!” Nick’s bellowed answer reverberated off the cramped cabin walls. His eyes flicked to the lieutenant who stoked the fire as if it was his sole purpose in life.

Abby’d grown tired of excuses. The truth must come out. Tonight. She lifted her chin higher. “You know, for a moment, I was actually relieved to discover you were a spy.”

“I’m contracted out by the War Department for specialized missions.”

“You’re a spy.”

“You’re not listening.” Nick stared into the fire and dragged his fingers through his thick hair.

She continued to watch him, using silence to demand the truth.

He let out a low growl. “Yes, I’m a spy. The lieutenant is my liaison. He can confirm I have no other family.” Cynicism tinged his voice. “Since my word isn’t enough.”

A single nod from the lieutenant verified Nick’s statement. Once again silence fell over the room, interrupted only by the popping and hissing of the fire. Lieutenant Spark’s eyes shifted between her and Nick before he slowly stood, faking a yawn. “It’s been a trying day. I’m going to turn in for the night.”

Abby followed him with her eyes, using it as a chance to blink away tears. Lieutenant Sparks grabbed a blanket from out of his saddlebag and curled up in a corner facing the wall.

Nick continued to stare at the blazing fire. He snapped a twig in his hands and threw it into the flames one piece at a time.

“You never meant to come back home, did you?” Abby demanded in a hoarse whisper. “I discovered you by accident. You planned to sneak back in and grab your bow and arrows while I slept.”

“Don’t do this, Abby.”

Abby stood. “I waited for you for ten years. I prayed and prayed and prayed until I thought God had forgotten me, but you were alive.” Her arms hugged her midsection. “Did you ever plan on telling me?” She shook her head. “No, of course not. That’s why you suggested I remarry because you wanted to continue to play dead so you could resume spying for the crown.” Hot tears choked out her voice. “You would prefer a cloak and dagger life over being with me.”

“I wanted you to remarry,” he hissed in a rough whisper, “so you could have a chance at happiness.”

Abby crouched beside him, her tone lethal. “I’m already married.”

“I’m not the same boy you wed. I was giving you an out.”

“I never wanted an out. I wanted you. I wanted a life and a family of our own. You never gave our marriage a chance.”

“Don’t turn this around on me,” he roared. Nick’s gaze flicked to the lieutenant’s sleeping form and lowered his voice. “Everything I did was for you.”

“What did you do? Save me from heartache? My heart shattered into a million pieces ten years ago.”

His hands clenched into tight fists. “I don’t need this right now. You’ve made up your mind. I’m the bad guy. I can’t reason with you if you’re not going to listen.”

“So, you’re not even going to try?” Hot tears flowed freely down her cheeks.

Nick chucked a large stick into the fire and stood. “I can’t do this.” In three long strides, he stalked to the door. The wooden door crashed into the weeds as he exited, leaving a gaping hole.

Love and Respect a book by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs talks about the “crazy cycle” in which married couples can find themselves trapped. Men yearn for respect. If they don’t receive it, then some will withhold love using it as a weapon to lash out. In the same line, women yearn for love, but if they’re not getting it, they may disrespect their husband as a method of revenge. Dr. Eggerichs found that these tactics only land couples in an endless circle of dishing out more disrespect and unloving behavior. He encourages people to break the cycle. How? Husbands—by being bold and doing something that shows your love, even if you think she doesn’t deserve it. Write a love note, buy flowers, finish the honey-do-list. Wives—respect your husband, even if he may not have earned it. Tell him qualities you admire in him, thank him for working or even taking out the trash, encourage him. Even little acts of love and respect compounded over time can reverse the “crazy cycle.”

I know I’m a hopeless romantic (it’s why I write romance novels), but I believe there’s a reason why little girls play princess and boys pretend to be superheroes. Deep down women want to know, “You’re worth fighting for,” and men want to hear, “I believe in you.”

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