Anatomy of Marital Argument: The Idiot and the A**Hole

Jeff and I are practically still newlyweds– last week we celebrated our 4th wedding anniversary.  And our relationship has all the stuff that good relationships have: communication, mutual respect, shared responsibilities, chemistry.  We have good grades on all the subjects that Dr. Phil tells his “patients” to work on.  We’ve also got that shared Costco account, which bulletproofs our marriage, as far as I’m concerned.

If you’re looking for a solid modern marriage, look at us. (But wait until my bangs grow out before you take a picture.)

But, dear friends, sometimes we have tense moments.  We snap, we bicker, we sigh, we get defensive.  Yesterday, we shared one of those moments, which I take credit for, since I was the one who got the trunk of the mini-van stuck in the garage door.  Once we discovered my horrible timing (duh! I was supposed to open the garage door all the way before popping the trunk), we stared, mouths agape, at the unfortunate situation.

What followed were some snaps back and forth, and a hasty retreat by both parties to avoid an escalation.  Luckily for our well-adjusted children, they were standing right there as this all went down.  If nothing else, maybe they will internalize the proper order for opening the garage door and the trunk even if their gentle psyches were traumatized from seeing me and Jeff lose our cools.

This breakdown of marital bliss was slightly more drastic than others, owing to our exhaustion level (we were both up at 4:30 AM) and the running-ragged feeling that pursues us constantly.

But, here’s a common theme in all of our disagreements: (1) there’s always an asshole, and (2) and there’s always an idiot.  Guess which one I am. (Hint: starts with an “i” rhymes with “schmidiot”.) This is how I perceive our roles during a heated exchange.  Naturally, I am the idiot– like today when I almost broke our car and our house in one mis-timed gesture.  Once I don the full-on idiot role, Jeff can’t help but be cast as the asshole.  (*NOTE: It’s not that I am actually an idiot or that Jeff is actually an asshole, but it’s a little paradigm I slip into during conflict.)

Luckily, we sometimes exchange the roles, so I can see that both of them suck. Still, I am more comfortable playing the idiot, unless we are arguing over sleep, scheduling, hair styles or the hours of operation for Nordstrom Rack.

I have actually seen this play out for us enough times that I am convinced it’s a dichotomy that all marriages fall into.  Believe me, if I know you, I have run you and your partner through my mental test to see which of you plays the asshole and which one’s plays the idiot.

If you find yourself saying the following about your partner, you are probably the asshole:

  • What the hell was he/she thinking?
  • What the flapjack is wrong with her/him?
  • Why is he/she doing it that way?
  • Why can’t she/he ever do it right?
  • Doesn’t he/she know how I do it?
  • He/she’s a frigging idiot.

On the other hand, if you say the following things about your partner or yourself during conflict, you are probably the idiot:

  • What’s the big deal?
  • Why is he/she so uptight? (As in, what’s wrong with a car trunk being stuck in a garage?)
  • Why does it matter so much how we do this?
  • Who says the kids need to eat today?
  • Why do we have to be so rigid?
  • If no one is going to get hurt, what’s the problem?
  • Why is he/she such an asshole?

Which one are you?  Have you managed the dual asshole fight? I can’t pull that off.  Do tell.


52 thoughts on “Anatomy of Marital Argument: The Idiot and the A**Hole

  1. Oh, my! The adventures of marriage and parenthood are never-ending. Hilarious to read about. Probably much less funny to endure. I vote for a more-sleep moratorium for all – for starters! Bless you and your abundant and unpredictable life. Xoxo

  2. Oh goodie. I’m the asshole most of the time, but really, who starts renovations two months before Christmas? What the Hell was he thinking?

    Being the asshole is hard work, plus you’ve got the whole shame spiral (why am I such a jerk guilt trip afterward). I think it’s much easier to be the idiot.

  3. Scott and I flip flop in the same disagreement. One minute I’m an asshole, the next I’m an idiot. He’s the opposite. And sometimes, he’s both. It’s possible.

  4. i bet you know know exactly which of us is which… 🙂 Its a good thing, though, because 2 assholes would have zero fun, and 2 idiots would never bathe. One of each is good. Homo-slur-ality no es bueno.

      • REALLY? oh awesome. I have idiot oozing from my pores. And she’s only an asshole because I do such idiotic things… Particularly when it comes to the car, speeding, rear ending, hitting the side of the garage while backing out, hitting JOYCE AND FRANKS car on the way out…. Lucky I’m so damn charming.

  5. Asshole. I’m the asshole. Hands down. Is a that how you would diagnose us? Maybe I don’t want to know. ;). Great blog, friend. Miss you guys.

  6. Brilliant observation and analysis! Unfortunately I am the asshole, always. However, I prefer to see myself as the one that’s always right (a typical asshole view I fear).

  7. If I’m the one mad, usually I’m the asshole (why are jackets all over the dining room chairs when we have plenty of closet space?). But when he gets mad, he won’t talk to me. Since I can tell he’s mad, I keep asking and he still won’t talk to me – until I start crying. What’s that called?

  8. Sorry to break your friends’ streak, but I’m usually the idiot. Except when it comes to cooking and any artistic/fine detail work. Then I’m the asshole. This may have something to do with why Frank doesn’t cook – ever – and why I’m going to be stuck doing 100% of the wet saw cuts when we tile our bathroom this weekend.

  9. I’m going to go on record as saying that adults who say “what the flapjack” when arguing with another adult are definite assholes just by virtue of saying “what the flapjack.” But then again, in a bit of a bitch so…

    Hope the car and house were ok. Totally something I would do!!

  10. I’m definitely the A-hole (capital A). It would be almost impossible not to be since “he’s such an idiot”. This is brilliant. You could write a on-line quiz to see who’s who and get therapists to pay for ads. He’s not even home and he’s the idiot for not insisting we make the Christmas tree a little straighter after I asked 20 times if it looked straight enough. Obviously it didn’t or I wouldn’t have kept asking. So today I precariously straightened a fully trimmed tree by myself since it’s been driving me nuts for a week. Whew. I feel better. I’m such an asshole. Also I have gotten the lift-gate stuck on the garage door. I employed a lie of omission for that situation. An asshole knows when to keep her trap shut. Sometimes.

  11. Fabulous post! I don’t know how you continue to be so funny on a near-daily basis, but I’ll just count myself lucky to be part of your audience. My husband and I don’t fight enough to have an identifiable dynamic, but that’s in part because we both have awful marriages behind us so we’re still kind of. . .resting.

    • Awww. That was a great way to put it. Your marriage sounds lovely. We are both still feisty over here, trying to figure out partnership after 3+ decades of running our own shows.

  12. Pingback: My kid is an asshole. And your kid is an asshole, too. - Wealthy Single Mommy | Wealthy Single Mommywealthy single mommy

  13. This is awesome! I’m am definitely the asshole in the relationship, which is saying something since I’m also the one who constantly misplaces her phone and forgets something is cooking on the stove. My husband is really a lucky guy, huh? BTW – I heard a comedian do the idiot-asshole schtick about driving: people who drive slower than you are idiots, people who drive faster are assholes. ; )

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