A commonly used phrase in relationships is “pick your battles.” Sometimes fighting is productive; it brings to the table issues that can be worked on and resolved. Not all things are worth a fight, but deciding what’s “worth” it is subjective.

When I was less emotionally experienced, i.e. on my first and second boyfriends, everything seemed worth a fight. If something was thoughtless or offensive, I wasn’t gonna let him get away with it. It led to a lot of arguing and bruised egos, as the other party felt like I was picking on him or unreasonable. Another thing feeding the feeling that everything’s potentially a devastingly big deal is insecurity. Young love is often insecure, because this new feeling of love and relationship is so great that you’re suddenly afraid of losing it, and you’re convinced there will never be a guy who could be as funny, as loving, as affectionate, as clever, or have as much in common with you. (Now I look back and think, HAHA!) So anything that isn’t smooth sailing, you want to stomp out instantly. You’re also more sensitive to being hurt because no one else was ever in the position of being able to hurt you so exquisitely. People associate this state of mind with youth, but I don’t think it’s limited to youth as much as inexperience. People have come to me with stories of 30-somethings going through the kind of anguish and arguments as teenagers, because these 30-somethings are on their first relationship.

I’m not saying this is true across the board and no exceptions exist. There are older people who are always oversensitive and throw immature tantrums when their high demands aren’t met. There are younger people who have rarely been oversensitive even in early relationships. My childhood friend Sandy is my age, and she’s dated a lot more people than me, but even in high school, I was never surprised at the battles she chose to fight. In fact, I was often surprised at the battles she didn’t choose. She’s the person I call when I find myself uncontrollably angry at something that my brain is telling me shouldn’t be that big a deal. I call her and ask to borrow her scale, and to inquire if I’m overreacting. When she tells me I’m not, that’s when the guy’s really in trouble. Mr. W’s teenage daughter is another one that continues to astound me with her ability to forgive and move forward with someone, altho with her I’m not sure that she isn’t caught up in the “I have to make my first love work” mentality.

I read somewhere, or maybe saw on a show, that people fight when they feel there’s something to fight for. That when people stop fighting, it’s because they’ve given up on saving the relationship. This is of course referring to productive fighting (“I feel like when your mother criticizes me, you start accusing me of the same things instead of defending me. If you truly have a problem with these things, can you come to me first, and if you don’t have a problem, please don’t adopt your mother’s problems with me as your own.”), not insulting self-esteem killing fights where someone’s just picking on the other person (“You lazy fat good-for-nothing slob, you’re lucky no hot girls were at the bar or I would’ve cheated on you tonight.”). Sometimes a fight isn’t as much a fight as a struggle to hammer out some common ground for the relationship.

I think a good thing to do, which I had to learn the hard way, is to decide whether something is worth a fight before even stepping in the vinicity of the issue. Sometimes things happen to you that you can’t control and suddenly, you find yourself in a conflict. Like your drunk boyfriend walks in the door and throws a tantrum for your not knowingw here his favorite shirt is. But there are other fights that happen because we don’t leave well enough alone. My classic example is of a girl asking, “Do I look fat in this dress?” If he says yes, she’d be mad, and if he says no, she probably wouldn’t believe him. And when it comes down to it, is the answer to this question so vital to the relationship that it’s worth the fight, especially if he’s still with her because he loves and is attracted to her? This is why I have a huge list of TMI no-nos. I don’t ask if I’m the best lover, best girlfriend, favorite girlfriend, smartest person he knows, funniest person he knows, prettiest person he’s dated. I don’t ask where the most unusual place he had sex was, what his favorite sex act is, what his most romantic date entailed, where his favorite date restaurant is. I don’t want to see his old gifts from other women, old love letters and cards, old photos (he can have them as keepsakes, I sure do, but don’t show me). I don’t want to know, it doesn’t affect our relationship for me to know the details, and in knowing the details, it only gives me visuals that make me bitter, competitive and insecure.

I look at myself sometimes and wonder whether I’m enlightened or jaded. I wonder whether I’m appreciating the right things, and then whether I’m aware enough of the good things to appreciate them. Sometimes when something positive about someone dawns on me I call the person and acknowledge the positive trait. (Today it was that despite knowing I’m not a baseball fan, when he wanted to go to a game, he bought 2 tickets and offered one to me, with the out that if I really don’t want to go, the extra ticket can go to his son. He makes me feel included, never presuming that just because an activity isn’t my usual routine that he’ll leave me out.)

This… *waving at this long post Vanna White style* …this is what happens when I spend 45 minutes chatting with Vanessa after belly dancing.