The husband was reading an article that said 69 percent of all differences in a marriage are never resolved.
"Do you believe that?" he asked.
I looked at him and solemnly said, "I do."
John Gottman, a relationship researcher and an affiliate of Smart Marriages, a sharp and enthusiastic coalition working to
strengthen marriage, has found that most couples have irreconcilable differences that are never reconciled.
Nice to know you have company, isn't it?
The husband and I have proven this theory to be true, in that we do not argue about a lot of things; we simply argue about the
same things over and over.
I call them our perennials. Since we have had ample practice at the same arguments, we have been able to shorten many of
them to 20 words or less.
For example, the husband does not appreciate the fact that I was born cold-blooded, just as I do not appreciate the fact that
he has a circulatory system unable to deliver a single drop of blood to any of his extremities.
When we are in the car and he has turned the heat to the hottest setting with the fan blowing on high, I no longer inform him
that I am getting hot and nauseated and believe this is inconsiderate and insensitive on his part.
That would just stir up one of those dreaded relationship talks that ends with neither of us remembering how it started in the
first place. Now, I simply say, "Honey, the flames of Hell." (five words)
He knows what this means and moves the knob ever so slightly away from the red and toward the blue. "Now?" he says.
If it is still too hot, I say, "Bo
nfires of Hell." (three words.) He moves the knob further toward the blue and I am once again
able to breathe, although he now has small icicles hanging from his nose.
When I am not looking, he slides the lever back to the high heat setting, whereupon I roll down my window and either the
exchange begins anew, or we have reached our destination.
One of our other perennials is about being on time. I believe punctuality means arriving at least 10 minutes before an event
starts. He believes arriving before an event starts is a waste of time.
Instead of arguing, I now move the start time of events up by one hour. He is satisfied, thinking he successfully slid in at the last
second, and I am happy in that it has been two years since we raced a bride down the aisle.
Our third perennial involves holiday travel. He enjoys burning 2,000 miles of interstate to visit all members of both families,
while it makes me weary. Instead of prolonging this argument, we now have it down to a bare-bones banter:
"Four states, seven days," he says.
"Three states, five days and potty breaks every 90 minutes of travel," I say.
"Three states, six days, potty breaks every two hours," he counters.
That discussion used to take an entire evening, but now we can have a holiday travel plan formed in under two minutes, with
only occasional rolling of the eyes on my part.
It would probably behoove every couple to pinpoint their perennials and whittle them down to a 15-word-or-less exchange.
This allows couples to argue more quickly and efficiently, hence allowing more time for other things, like getting along.