Saturday, June 16, 2007

Coffee--The Beverage of Marital Discord

When you have been married for more than a year, it becomes obvious that there are really only two or three fights that continually occur. The setting changes, the lines are tweaked a bit, but really, it's the same old fight you had two weeks ago, refreshed and brought out for another go at it.

For example:

"Should I make spaghetti or tacos tonight?"

"Spaghetti sounds good."

"Yeah...but I have those tortillas I need to use."

"We could have them tomorrow."

"No, I think I'll make tacos."

This is not the actual fight, merely the prelude to "The Fight About Why You Ask My Opinion, Then Don't Use It."

Two weeks later it will go something like this:

"I was thinking of painting the bedroom. Do you think this beige color or the blue color would look better?"

"I like the blue. It seems crisp and soothing."

"Yes...but beige is so neutral. It will go with everything. "

"Yeah...but it's kind of boring."

"Still, I think I'm going to go with the beige. Thanks, hon.' "

And...we're back to "The Fight About Why You Ask My Opinion, Then Don't Use It."

One of my oft-recycled arguments is "The Fight About Not Wanting Your Help Unless I Specifically Ask For It." This one pops up quite frequently for me. Maybe it's my Puritan work ethic, or a slight streak of feminism, but please don't try and take over a task that I am working on in an effort to "help" me. I am not a two-year-old. I am a capable, smart, problem-solver. Please, don't insult me by thinking I can't handle things on my own. Yes, I realize this may seem to others, specifically my husband, to be a silly personality quirk. It's my quirk, d@#! it. Accept it already and don't help me! (I realize this is crazy.)

Of course, married life doesn't work that way. One would think that after ten years, or more, of marriage that a couple would understand one another so completely that they would avoid irritating each other in those irrationally annoying aspects of their lives. Nope. Not At All.

A few weeks ago, I woke up tired and feeling a little out of it. I made breakfast for the boys and started a pot of coffee. I hoped a caffeine injection would lift my grumpy spirits. Trying to avoid human contact, I went into the bedroom and began to read while patiently waiting for my coffee to finish its slow brewing, anticipating it with great delight. After about two minutes, in walks my husband with a mug of coffee. For me. Because he loves me. Because he wanted to do something nice.

I sighed and put my head down on the pillow, dreading what was to come. I don't like my husband's coffee. It's too sweet and has more milk than I like in my coffee. He had ruined my expectation of a perfect cup of coffee on this trying morning. I had two choices. I could say nothing, and drink the yucky coffee that I didn't want on this depressing morning, or I could try to secretly pour out the coffee and make my own without him knowing--an impossibility in our small house. I was too impatient for my coffee to wait twenty minutes for him to get in the shower, allowing me to finally get what I wanted and avoid a fight at the same time. While I pondered my options, I grew angry--Who asked him to bring me coffee anyway? Doesn't he know I don't want him to do things for me unless I ask him? He never listens to a thing I say!

I was ramping up for "The Fight About Why You Never Listen To Me."

Familiarity in marriage never prevents the fight. It does, however, greatly decrease the time spent fighting. Once the fight begins it goes something like this:

"Oh, we're having 'The Fight About Why Do You Move My Stuff Without Telling Me.' Let me get out the playbook."

"I say, 'Please, don't move my things.' You say, ' I'm sorry. I didn't mean to do it on purpose.' Then, we go back and forth a few more times explaining why we feel the way we do. Voila. Fight ends."


"Let's go rent a movie."

Half the time, you're just phoning it in. After a while, a fight that once took two excruciating hours of emotional turmoil can be reduced to a two minute conversation during commercial breaks. Of course that is assuming that PMS, a really bad day at work, or plain old craziness doesn't enter the picture. That can sort of derail the process.

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