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.