How do you feel when you have a fight with someone you love? Hurt? Resentful? Sad? One thing I learned from improv is that anger is just a mask for other emotions. There’s always something behind anger. Anger is just the outward reaction that protects us from something else.
When I was younger, I used to run away from fights with people who were important to me. I’d say, “I’ve got enough problems in my life. I don’t need this stress from you.” That would be the end of it. Soon enough, I wouldn’t have to deal with that person any more because they’d be gone. Then I started dating Lissa. In the beginning, Lissa and I had a very turbulent relationship. She and I were both very stubborn and emotional. We’d get in huge fights. We’d hang up on each other after yelling on the phone. She’d break things on the floor. Once she got up and stormed out of the restaurant we were eating at. It was so embarassing. But she wouldn’t let me run away and let things just die. If she had hung up on me, she’d phone me back after she cooled down to talk about it rationally. She waited on the sidewalk outside that restaurant for me to come out so we could work things out. She would say something like, “That hurt me because…” or “I found that insulting because…” I learned how to do the same thing, although she didn’t do or say nearly the number of stupid things that I did, so I had fewer opportunities to practice. :S Eventually, we discovered almost everything about the other person’s behaviour that hurt or irritated them. Mutual respect compelled us to change or at least be aware of those behaviours, and that made things so much smoother. We broke up a few years ago, for more complicated reasons than I can explain here, but I’ll never forget those things I learned from her.