When I was a young married person, I
would sometimes find myself in the company of an older married couple who had
been together for a very long time.
It was impossible not to notice that
they would frequently disagree over the most unimportant subjects. And this
disagreement would invariably lead to an argument.
I used to wonder to myself if this
was the way they had been communicating for the past 40 years, and if so, they
had done a very good job of concealing their battle scars.
Or, could the pattern of their
discourse be something more recent? And if so, which wedding anniversary was
the one that became the fatal turning point?
The image of the quarreling older duo
became front and center in my mind as my husband and I celebrated another year
of marriage. And I feared that we might have reached that critical time. Was it
my imagination, or were we in danger of becoming “that couple”?
Knowing Your Spouse Takes Time
It’s been said that you really don’t
know someone until you live with them. And sometimes, even clichés can be true.
Early in a relationship, the goal is to impress the object of our affection.
Therefore, we are careful to reveal
only those parts of ourselves that we want them to know. And we try hard to
hide the rest. But the honeymoon phase of any partnership cannot last forever,
and sooner or later, infatuation and best behavior take a back seat to facing
life’s little realities.
Like, one of you never replaces the
cap on the tube of toothpaste, or consistently forgets to close the pantry door
after retrieving the box of cereal. Or becomes critical of the way the other
partner slices the roast.
After almost 40 years of marriage (to the same man), I realized how easy it was to let petty issues become irksome and rule the day. Fortunately, I became a humor writer, and learned to relish each little perceived misdeed as fodder for a new essay.
While I’m not suggesting that
everyone should become a humor writer or a stand-up comic, I am suggesting that
we might step back a bit and view the misdemeanor with a lighter heart.
Hide the Wrapper
I offer an example from my own life…
The daily newspaper is delivered to
our front door, wrapped in a protective plastic sleeve. Typically, it’s my
husband who brings the paper into the house, removes the wrapper, and places it
in the most convenient spot. For him. It could be the floor, or the coffee
table, or the place where we eat breakfast.
But somehow, he never gets as far as
the kitchen to drop it in the garbage pail. Unless I bring it to his attention.
This scenario has been repeated so often that I hear the scolding voice in my
head shouting, “How many times have I asked you to please throw the plastic
into the trash.”
But before I let that voice escape, I
had another idea.
“Joe,” I said (the name has been
changed to protect the not-so-innocent), “since you seem to have a real problem
finding your way to the kitchen, how about we do this with the wrapper. Instead
of throwing it on the floor, or the table, why don’t you get creative and hide
it in a different place each morning, before you go off to work. Then it will
be my job to find it, and I will properly dispose of it.”
At first, he looked up at me and
suggested maybe I needed a second cup of coffee to clear my head. But then he
smiled, and so did I. Next day, I found the wrapper in a flower pot; the day
after that, behind the pillow of the couch.
And each time I discovered the
wrapper in a different spot, I would have a good laugh. And I know he had as
good a time hiding it, as I did finding it. Of course, the game didn’t last
forever, but it did manage to avoid a quarrel. The wrapper now makes it to the
garbage pail – at least some of the time.
The Importance of Laughter in Marriage
To use a quote attributed to Henry
Ward Beecher, “A marriage without a sense of humor is like a wagon without
springs. It’s jolted by every pebble in the road.” Additionally, studies have
shown that humor a couple can create together is strongly related to relationship satisfaction.
Besides defusing uncomfortable
situations, humor and laughter have the following attributes:
has been called “a vitamin for your marriage.”
can help keep a relationship fresh
releases oxytocin, a hormone that has been linked to empathy and increased
So, lighten up! Even tense situations
may have a funny side if we know how to look for it. And while it’s true that
my husband and I have become “an older couple,” I believe that our shared sense
of humor has kept us from being “that couple.”
How do you handle irksome situations with your spouse/partner? Are there
any circumstances where humor intervened and dispersed an argument? Please
share your stories in the comments below!