1 a : lack of agreement or harmony (as between persons, things, or ideas) b : active quarreling or conflict resulting from discord among persons or factions : strife
It's funny how the definition of a word doesn't always match your use of the word. I had planned to title this post conflict, but when I read the definition, discord seemed to fit better. I am not a fan of conflict or discord. I would much prefer to just bury any lack of agreement and avoid active quarreling. But I've finally learned after thirteen years of marriage that a little active quarreling can lead to more harmony, both inner harmony and inter-personal harmony.
But not always...
Last night, J and I had a phone conversation with a couple that I'll call C and B for the purposes of this post. On Sunday, B sent an e-mail to J and I that hurt my feelings. The e-mail was written in a pretty businesslike tone and was designed to set expectations about an upcoming event, specifically to remind us of C & B's boundaries for our involvement. I responded pretty emotionally to J that evening, sharing with him that I was offended that B would even feel the need to draw this particular boundary with me. I think most who know me would agree that I'm not an intrusive person. I think most introverts aren't intruders. I don't barge in on people, I don't knowingly intrude on someone's privacy, I tend to stay well on the side of your business being your business. In short, I'm a pretty respectful gal. So it hurt to be told by someone who's known me for about 17 years not to cross an obvious boundary.
One of the things I love about J is that he sometimes feels protective of me. Growing up, I rarely felt like my father protected me and I often felt like I needed to protect myself from him, so it's a new feeling to have someone I trust who looks out for my emotions the way J does. I think the e-mail had frustrated J, too, but it was really my reaction to it that upset him. So he sent an e-mail on Monday venting to B that he was out of bounds. A few e-mails went back and forth and C & B suggested that we talk things out on the phone to clear the air before the upcoming event where we'll all need to interact.
Now, for most of my life, my approach to discord has been remarkably like an ostrich. I prefer to just put my head in the sand and pretend nothing happened. If I wait long enough, others tend to forget as well or at least become willing to play along. So a phone call to "talk it out" was a stressful event.
I tried to prepare myself. I mentally evaluated where I had been in the wrong, so that I would be ready to freely admit this. I immediately owned up to feeling hurt by the e-mail and that my emotional reaction was largely to blame for J's own reaction. The conversation continued from there, with J and I explaining and apologizing as necessary. I was relieved when the conversation was done and spent no time analyzing it - I just wanted to forget it ever happened. But it kept coming back to my mind, niggling at me, until I finally realized that at no point in the conversation did B or C ever admit to doing anything wrong. All blame was laid squarely at our feet and they ended the call feeling much better. I, on the other hand, feel much worse.
What is the point of conflict and strife if I feel worse after the fact? Why even bother? It seems my old standby approach of avoidance would have been infinitely preferable. I'm not sure this is the healthiest reaction to have. But it is honestly how I feel. So if you're reading this, how do you deal with discord? Do you work to regain harmony in the relationship or wait for the ship to right itself after rocking on emotional waves for bit? Is it easy or hard to talk through conflict? Does discord in your relationships hinder your inner harmony?