A few days ago, my husband and I met up after work for dinner and somehow, our conversation led to a disagreement. I was annoyed, so I ignored him. We ate dinner in silence because neither wanted to be the first to budge. Although I don’t like going to bed angry, I tend to be more stubborn about him reaching out to me when I’m upset. When we got home, I kept ignoring him and started reading in bed. Soon enough, he grabbed a bunch of photos he’d just printed out (see #1!) and said to me, “Did you look through the photos yet?” It was almost like an unspoken peace offering, so I said, “No, not yet” and began to look through the photos with him. We were fine after that, and it was so refreshing that we were okay again without having to talk about whatever it was we were fighting about (which I don’t even remember!).
Growing up in a Western culture, I was always taught that after couples fight, they should always talk things out afterwards. The intention being to understand how the other person felt, address the issues, and…well, because that’s just what you do after a fight. When my husband and I were dating, and even after we were just married, I constantly felt the need to sit down and talk about any arguments we had, whether it was a big one or a small one. In Chinese culture, however, the tendency is to just ignore the disagreement and move on. No matter how many times I see Chinese people shouting loudly at each other one minute and talking about where to eat the next, I don’t think I’ll ever get used to how quickly they move past the issue. I wrote about this before, when I talked about The Language Of Love. I wrote about how I’ve learned that it’s important to talk about recurring problems or big cultural differences, but it’s also vital to “pick and choose” your battles.
The funny thing is, as I’m learning more about my husband’s culture and how our relationship works, I’m learning more about myself as well. I tend to express myself better through writing than verbally. There were times when we were dating that I’d actually just email him what I was feeling and why I was upset. I realized that a lot of the problems turned out to be minor ones, and that all I really needed to do was vent and then I’d be okay. I’m also learning that after an argument, I need space. Most of the time, I don’t even want to talk about the problem with my husband, and prefer to figure out myself what exactly I’m upset about. If it turns out not to be a big deal, then I can just ignore it, and the awesome thing is, I don’t have to worry that he’ll want to sit down with me and have a talk.
Talk things out or don’t talk things out? What do you think?