One afternoon, I glared at him across the living room, livid that he had committed an intolerable transgression. I don't remember the details, but he probably folded an afghan incorrectly. I wanted to yell with every fiber of my being. But I stopped for a moment to consider. I could hurl insults at him, he'd take it and we'd move on. But would he put up with my temper indefinitely? And should he have to? Was this how I wanted to communicate with my life partner?
Our relationship wasn't in immediate danger. But I was leading us down a path that could've ended it. I've seen my husband angry twice in the eight years we've known each other. Once was in an argument about politics, and the other instance was when I'd hurled an unfair insult at him. Anger makes him speak quietly and shake with contained rage. It scared me to see that I had actually managed to make him mad. Mike is no doormat, and he wouldn't tolerate being the target of an unreasonable temper for a lifetime. He put up with my shouting only when I was right. Left unchecked, I'd start yelling when I was wrong. And then he'd yell back. But between his parents' happy marriage and my parents' contentious one, we both believed that splitting up was preferable to years of discontent. We wouldn't become world-class bickerers like my parents. We'd just get divorced.
I didn't want to chase away the one person who thought it was cute when I made up songs about him. And I didn't want to spend the next ten years hollering at him.
I threw my head back and shouted to the skies, "Oh my God, you suck so much!" We laughed, and I decided to overlook his subpar blanket-folding technique.
In the five years since then, we've rarely argued. But we recite that sentence, or a variation of it, on a daily basis. "I'm sorry I suck so much." Or "Why did you do that?" "Because I suck so much." Occasionally, we tone it down to a childish, "You stink." Humor: The Language of Intimacy
That primal acknowledgement—that we expect each other to be perfect when neither one of us is—is all we need to blow of steam and discuss things reasonably. It may even be turning me into a mild-mannered New Yorker.