The dirty little secret about marriage and fighting that no one likes to admit.
When one of my friends got engaged, he was over the moon. At dinner one night, he told my husband how much he was in love.
"It's like nothing I've ever felt before!" he said so sweetly that it was easy to forgive him the cliche.
"I know," my husband said smiling at me. "It's great being in love."
"No," our friend said shaking his head. "This is different than what you have. We never fight, ever."
I winced, but my husband maintained his gracious smile. "That's great! We can't wait to be at that wedding."
Six months after their wedding, I got a call from our friend. I could tell something was bothering him. "Are you alright?" I asked.
"Yeah," he said. "It's just that we fought and it was really bad."
After talking with him some more, I learned that a "really bad" fight meant that she walked out of the room on him only to return a half-hour later to apologize.
I told him about our fights. I told him how we had both slammed doors, said really horrible things, stomped, and not only left the room but left the house for hours on end, returning to fight again instead of make up. I told him how I, in a fit of anger, had thrown away an entirely good batch of cookies just so my husband couldn't eat them. I had also hidden cookies, turned up the thermostat and left every single light on in the house (including flashlights and closet lights), just to irk my husband. Also, once, I air-conditioned the outside. I still haven't apologized for that.
When I finished, we were both laughing and my friend was breathing easier.
When love is newly minted, it's easy to be insular and believe that you and your partner have everything figured out, that nothing can ever shake you, you will never fight, and nothing so stupid as socks on the floor could ever make you raise your voice at that adorable face. I don't mean to be condescending. It's a great time. Every couple has it and it is my sincere wish that it lasts as long as possible.
But it doesn't.
At some point in every marriage, you will find yourself sobbing into your pillow over toothpaste caps and if you don't, you're a Stepford Wife.
When Dave and I got married, no one told us about these ugly moments — when something as simple as sweeping the floor can cause you to question whether you've committed to the right "forever after." A friend once told me that she felt horrible for questioning her choice of spouse until she told her mom, who has been married for 50 years. "Oh honey," her mom said, "I ask that question at least once a week."
In the early days of our marriage, I felt ashamed about coming clean about our arguments. Wasn't I being disloyal? Wouldn't people think horrible things about us? But the truth is, the more I talked to married couples, the more I realized how normal it is to occasionally slam a door, or hide a cookie, or lay in bed and wonder if you just committed to the same old remote control fight for as long as you both shall live.
I am forever indebted to a couple who told my husband and me a story about their epic battle over putting together a bookshelf. During the heat of the fight, the husband walked out of their apartment. The wife then decided the best way to make him sorry was to eat an entire pie his mother had made for him. When he came back, he found his wife, in the middle of the kitchen floor, her face covered in blueberry pie, crying. He grabbed a fork and joined her. They've been married for 20 years.
At the time, I remember feeling shocked. How could they say they had a good marriage when they were both that ridiculous?
That, of course, was before I stooped low and hid the cookies. Now, I cling to that blueberry pie story like a talisman. On my worst days, it reminds me, we can be both dumb and happily married. I'm not condoning acts of childishness or silly fights. It's good to always keep perspective, but the truth is you can't always keep perspective. In those moments, when you've lost all dignity and you are covered in blueberry pie and crying on the floor, just know, it's OK. We've all been there, whether we admit it or not.
Recently, during a fight, I told my husband, "You know what? I'm OK with this fight. I know I have the rest of my life to spend making you learn how to do the laundry."
"That's right," he said, "and I have the rest of my life to train you to turn the lights out in the house." Then, we went to bed, still a little angry, but very much committed to figuring it out as long as we both shall live.