I’m pretty sure every couple in the world has a few ongoing fights that will never be resolved. At least every couple I’ve ever known has. I don’t know if they are a useful way to vent the annoyance that builds up in spending so much time with one person, of if they mask some deeper issue between the two people, but the argument is always over something stupid, and it is always endlessly fascinating to the arguers and deadly boring to everyone else.
For example, ever since we moved in together, Frank and I have fought over leaving the window shades open while we are away. I maintain that no one cares about our stupid apartment, and even if they did look in and see that we weren’t there, who cares? Our windows have bars and the inside of our apartment is separated from the rest of the world by three doors with three very strong locks. The cats like to sit on the sills during the day and watch the world go by, and the tomatoes that I’m sprouting need the sunlight.
Frank, on the hand, insists that if people look into our apartment and we are not there to scare them away (we are on the ground floor,) then our privacy has been irreparably violated, and also probably thieves will make off with our bookshelves and cats.
I told you the argument was boring. But I swear we’ve gone back and forth on this issue at least twelve hundred million times. Other people I know fight over similarly mundane things—laundry or stereo volume or phone manners. The clichés, of course, are the under/over toilet paper question and control of the television remote.
I think early in a relationship these tiffs are kind of scary. It’s easy to worry that they are indicative of incompatibility or fatigue. But after having them a few times, and after having gotten used to each other’s proclivities and peculiarities, they can be almost comforting. You know how the argument is going to end, which is that it isn’t. When I’m in a grumpy mood, I can pick at the issue like a scab, knowing I’ll get a good fight without having to be sorry that I’ll damage something.
I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that old people whose long-term partner has died still have whatever their fights were with themselves, like a phantom limb or something. It’s strange that this mechanism is so built into the way humans relate to each other. Or if not all humans, then at least contemporary American humans, which are the ones I’m the most familiar with. If I think about it, I had similar recurring snits with my mother and siblings growing up.
I guess they serve as some kind of aggression safety valve. It’s just funny because I can sit here writing this all logically, but the next time the window issue comes up, I’ll be really legitimately mad, and argue as vehemently as though it were the first time we’d talked about it.
I guess the moral of the story is that people are weird, man. Also that we should leave the window shades open. But mostly the first one.