Monday, November 3, 2014

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If That's All We Have To Fight About, Our Marriage Is Working

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It was late on a Thursday night. I was using the master bathroom toilet, and Mel was changing into her pajamas in the bedroom.

“Did you see the sign?” she asked.

Above our toilet Mel had posted a crayon-colored picture of two toilets. One with an open lid, and one with a closed lid. Next to the picture of the open toilet were red x’s and next to the closed toilet were green checkmarks. I had to assume that this was a reaction to when our 7-year-old accidently threw a football into the toilet the night before.

“If the lid had been down, this never would’ve happened!” Mel said, her fists at her sides. She must have repeated it several times as Tristan and I fished the football from the bowl and placed it in a grocery sack. However, I should admit that this was not the first time Mel had brought up her irritation with me leaving the toilet seat up. We’d been married for almost ten years, and Mel getting irritated over the toilet seat really was the refrain of our marriage.

“Yes,” I said. “I saw the sign. It’s really classy. I’m sure all your all friends will be doing it soon.”

She glared.

I thought about this long, ridiculous toilet thing, and wondered what else I did that irritated her. I wondered what else she’d been tolerating for years. This is not to say that I haven’t put up with a few quirks from Mel. She is a mighty leaver of clutter piles. She smacks her lips when she eats pizza, and insists on putting onions in all things. I’ve heard it said that 90% of marriage is finding someone who is willing to put up with your crap. I think this is true. I honestly love Mel. I think she is amazing. She has grown more beautiful with age. She is a wonderful mother, and she has done more to better my life than anyone else. But at the same time, after living together for ten years, I’ve realized that her little quirks can drive me crazy. I think about them probably more than I should, and yet it’s unusual for me to think about how I bother her.

I looked at her sign and said, “What else do I do that bothers you?”

Mel didn’t say anything for a while. I washed my hands, and once I turned off the water she opened the bathroom door. She was in her pajamas, her hair down, resting just above her shoulders, her glasses still on.  She smiled and said, “Do you really want to know?”

I thought about it for a moment, and said, “No, I don’t really. But at the same time I do. I don’t want some silly irritation to drive us apart. That can happen, you know.”

Mel thought about it for a moment and said, “Yeah… I’ve heard that. Just put the toilet seat down. You can start there.”  

“You know I won’t do it,” I said. “I’ve never done it. I will forget to do it in the night. I will argue with you about it, asking why you can’t put the seat up for me. It’s the same logic. I mean… it’s a silly, battle of the sexes argument that has been going on for most of our marriage. I don’t think its grounds for divorce, but at the same time, I probably shouldn’t think about it in those terms. I don’t want to push things to the limits.”

Mel rolled her eyes. “Is it really that hard to put it down?”

“No,” I said. “But that’s not the point. The point is that I don’t value it. I don’t see why it’s that big of a deal. It’s the same reason you don’t clean up your clutter piles even though you know it drives me crazy. I mean honestly, if we made a deal right now. If I told you that I would put down the toilet seat if you cleaned up your piles of papers and other crap off the table and desk and wherever, would you do it?”

“Yes!” Mel said. “I would.”

I opened my eyes wide and said, “Really? Don’t lie.”

We went back and forth for a while. We got off topic for a moment. Then I brought it up again. I asked her the question again.

“No,” she said. “I probably wouldn’t.”

The problem is that we are getting more and more stuck in our ways. Both of us are in our 30’s, and there are things we just do. I know that Mel is going to stay up late watching movies and eating snacks, and then bitch the next morning about being tired. She’s been doing it for years. I have suggested that she should go to bed earlier, but she doesn’t. She needs that alone time at night, much like I need my early mornings. It’s not that we are set in stone, but we just don’t change like we used to. Our habits are more and more set. I think this is one of the major obstacles with being married for many years. I think this is the rut that many older couples tell me they get stuck in.

I took a step back and looked at what we have to fight about. It wasn’t anything major. Just stupid irritations. Although in the heat of an argument, a clutter pile and an open toilet can seem like a huge thing, actually, they’re not. It’s just what happens when two people live together for a really long time.

“On the bright side,” I said. “There are bigger problems out there.  My parents divorced because my dad was a drug addict and had an affair. If all we have to fight about is leaving the toilet seat up and clutter piles, I think we are doing pretty good.”

Mel nodded and said, “Yeah… I think you are right. So are you going to put the toilet seat down?”

I shrugged. “I will try to try.”  

Mel rolled her eyes. “Thanks.”

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Clint Edwards was blessed with a charming and spitfire wife, a video game obsessed little boy, a snarky little girl in a Cinderella play dress, and an angry baby girl. When Clint was 9-years-old his father left. With no example of fatherhood, he had to learn how to be a father and husband through trial and error. His work has been featured in Good Morning America, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Huffington Post, Scary Mommy, The Good Men Project, Fast Company, and elsewhere. He lives in Oregon. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter