I crave immediate resolution; once a conflict erupts, I feel that both parties ought to lock themselves in a room and speak their minds, loudly if necessary, until a conclusion has been reached. Emily is more circumspect; if she finds herself getting too emotional, she'll walk out and stay away until she figures out exactly what she needs to say—leaving me writhing in suspense. As George W. Bush has learned, asymmetrical warfare is a bitch.
Our worst fight ever was over money. It took place a few months before our wedding, a time when Emily, a student, was earning none, and I, a reporter, was not doing much better. Emily's a consummate grown-up about money, sticking to a budget and never running a balance on her credit card. I have trouble with those things, and have been known to cut myself some slack.
During a discussion of finances, it emerged that I had unilaterally decided to increase the size of my own budget, thereby decreasing the proportion of each paycheck that went into the wedding fund. Her eyes filled with tears as she demanded to know how I could be so callous. That was the first and only time I've slept on the couch. I remember standing outside my own locked bedroom door, laughing in spite of myself at being reduced to a clichéd sitcom husband.
Like the others, that one worked itself out too. But since then, I've been very careful not to make that mistake.
She's wrong about that, of course, and in the calmer moments that make up the vast majority of our time together, she knows it. As alien as we can seem to each other during a fight, we couldn't be more alike in the ways that matter most.