The arguments my husband and I have usually begin with something trivial. One of us figuratively steps on the other’s toes. The offended one complains and the offender goes into defense mode. Before we know it, we are airing grievances going back 15 or 20 years. We resolve nothing but simply decide to move on.
I wish neither one of us would step on the other’s toes. I wish when one of us does step on the other’s toes, the offender would apologize, the offended one would graciously accept that apology, and life would move on.
That has not been our history.
I have a friend who has been married to the same man longer than I have been married to Dan. She told me, “My husband and I never fight. We had one argument shortly after we married. The argument was over which one of us had left the donut box open. We realized later how silly that spat was and vowed never to have another one, and we never have.”
Good for them.
Surely no couple has ever divorced because of one single argument over an open donut box. But I suspect that many, many couples have divorced after having multiple arguments of the “donut box” variety every day for several years.
I know couples like this. They appear to agree on nothing, argue over every trivial matter and then sulk and go for days without speaking to each other. These couples either eventually divorce or decide to remain in an unhappy marriage.
I don’t want either of those eventualities to occur in my marriage or in yours.
If your spouse is unfaithful, a habitual liar, an abuser, or a wanted felon, I have no advice for you.
I will, however, share with you some basic rules that Dan and I have established in order to ward off silly arguments.
- No spouse is allowed to leave one small 5 x 5-inch sheet of toilet paper on a roll and claim, when asked why he/she didn’t replace the roll, “There was paper on the roll when I left the bathroom.”
- Similarly, no spouse is allowed to leave a tablespoon of milk in the jug in the refrigerator and claim, “I left some milk for you.”
- No spouse is to pretend she/he didn’t clean up the big blue glob of toothpaste left on the white bathroom sink, claiming, “I didn’t see it.”
- No spouse is allowed to drive home and park in the driveway a vehicle whose gas level indicator is in the red zone.
- The spouse who does not return the TV remote controls to their designated place on the round table beside the recliner will be hanged by the neck until dead.
- Any spouse who washes a load of clothes is required to dry, hang up, fold, and put away those same clothes. (This admonition is aimed at the spouse who says, “I thought I would help you with the laundry by starting a load of clothes.”)
- The spouse who wants to cut open an old metal can is not allowed to do so using the nice Fiskars scissors from the sewing basket. In a related vein, no spouse is permitted to borrow a wrench from the garage in order to remove a stuck-on lid on a bottle of nail polish and leave the wrench inside the bathroom linen closet.
- It is considered courteous to announce when you are eating the last Oreo, “I am eating the last Oreo.”
- A spouse sitting on the living room couch is not allowed to criticize the other spouse who is productively working. I remember as a child watching my mother work to get Sunday dinner on the table. Whenever she turned on the mixer, my dad shouted from the living room, “Turn off that mixer! It’s messing up the TV and I’m missing the game!”
- No spouse is allowed to sit idly by and watch the other spouse carry in armloads of groceries from the car.
- If one spouse says, “When you are reading in bed while I am still up, please do not use my pillow to prop up your head. It makes my pillow hot and I like to sleep on a cool pillow,” the other spouse should comply, regardless of how silly he/she believes the request to be.