The Silly Phrase That Stops Every Argument With My Husband

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The Silly Phrase That Stops Every Argument With My Husband
Love

It definitely didn't come from a marriage handbook.

I come by my hot temper honestly. In more than 40 years of marriage, my parents have honed their arguing skills so well they could win an Olympic gold medal in couples bickering. Growing up, I was surprised that the neighbors didn't interrupt their loud arguments to send them to neutral corners.

So it's no surprise that peaceful solutions to disagreements don't come naturally to me.

In my twenties, when I got angry with a boyfriend, I'd slam down the phone, or storm out. This led to me stomping past the Eiffel Tower, followed by a beau begging me to stop and listen to him — a scene straight out of a perfume commercial.

Mostly I just ended up with relationships tromped to death before they ever stood a chance. 

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In my thirties, yoga mellowed me a bit, but once I moved in with my future husband, flashes of hostility kept sneaking up on me.

I could tolerate the irritating sword-on-sword noise of his beloved samurai movies, but Mike kept doing things wrong.

Of course, by "wrong" I mean, "not exactly the way I would do it." As a software systems analyst, it was my job to find the best way to perform all sorts of tasks, and I didn't turn off that skill when it came to housework. I'd read articles about women who scare their husbands away from cooking and cleaning with their nagging perfectionism, but I was sure I wasn't one of them.

I was a professional problem-solver. It was maddening that my man didn't immediately pick up my methods. And I never nagged. Just loudly expressed my frustration with him. 

But Mike is a mild-mannered Midwesterner, even after years of living in New York. When I yelled, he'd pause, consider my point and agree with me. It was no fun fighting with someone who wouldn't shout back. I pleaded with him to argue with me just so we could experience makeup sex. He promised to try but never managed to raise his voice.

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.

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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.

And so, in that moment when I was just about to blow my lid, 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." 

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.  

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