Ah, so easy to pass judgment on others. So easy to find fault, when you yourself never tire of telling your husband that in the five minutes he has spent wedging that big mixing bowl into the dishwasher he could have washed it many times over, and that if he had, there would be space for five or eight dinner plates.
The justification for bringing it up again and again, of course, is that he repeatedly corrects you as well. For 25 years he has been telling you that you don’t make the coffee right, for 25 years he has asked you not to leave his mail on his desk chair.
But you do it anyway, don’t you?
I once complained to an older friend about my husband and the newspaper.He always took it first in the morning,then left sections all over the house. This friend told me that she and her husband bickered for years about the newspaper: She wanted the same section he wanted. She took the section; he took it back when she left the room. And what did you do, I asked? “We got separate newspapers,” she said.
For a long time, I thought that sounded sort of . . . odd. Couldn’t they have taken turns? Shared? And then, after years of losing this particular battle, I did it. I started buying my own paper, and we stopped bickering about it. It’s a waste of money in a way (I know I could read it for free on the Internet; I just like the real thing), but in a way not at all. And I try to remember how well this solution has worked out, particularly when I’m gritting my teeth about that other thing he does. Sometimes you win by walking away. Sometimes you win by losing.
Originally published in the November, 2009 issue of More as "That Thing You Do." For another great story about midlife coupledom, read How Fly Fishing Heated Up My Marriage.