My ex-wife and I considered arguing something of an art form. We prided ourselves on our ability to fight about absolutely anything, no matter how trivial.
We didn’t wait until we got married to start, either. We quarreled on our first date, bickered through our courtship, and squabbled through a year-long engagement. In a strange way, the least contentious part of the relationship was the divorce. Neither of us could be characterized as in any way “conflict averse” — at least at that point in each of our lives.
But times change, as do people. I have to argue (persuade, really) as part of my job, now. I do it, because it’s part of that career, but it has been years and years and years since I relished arguing with anyone. Spending my spare minutes away from work contending over minutiae is no longer my idea of a good time.
Nevertheless, these days, the Beautiful One and I end up doing a kind of weird reverse arguing that goes something like this:
“There’s one cupcake left,” she says, pointing a catering plate left from the baby shower. “You have it.”
“No, you’ve been running after the kids all day, you take it.”
“It’s yours, you’ve been working crazy hours, and I know we eat dinner later than you’d really like.”
“They had pizza brought in for an afternoon meeting today, and I had, like, five slices. I really shouldn’t even have dinner…”
“I already had a cupcake, and I really need to lose a few pounds; you’ve been to the gym every day…”
… and so on.
My wife and I literally argue about who can concede first before an argument starts.
Every Thursday night for the last seventeen years, the Beautiful One and I have a date night. It involves (ideally) dinner together, maybe a movie, lots of conversation to catch up on each other’s weeks, and as little distraction as possible. That means keeping conversations with other people to a minimum.
Our now-adult children know we have this date night, of course; however, the concept of what a “night” is seems to escape them; they feel like, if my wife and I went to dinner at 7:00 PM, for instance, we should be done with each other by 10:00 PM, whereupon she in particular should be free to have long conversations with them about whatever is on their minds.
Oddly enough, it is the married among my children to whom it never occurs that their might be things that occupy us that time of the evening. Or maybe that’s not so odd. I know there are things that most kids don’t like to imagine their parents doing, no matter how old those ‘kids’ might be.
Nothing in life turns out to be ‘ideal’, of course: whatever we plan, or imagine will happen, life just does what it does. We want to think we’re in control, but ultimately, the things we can control are few, nearby, and limited. Good times come, often in spite of us rather than because of us, and bad times come, no matter what we do to try and stop them.
My ex and I argued for sport because we were young, bored, and mismatched. My wife and I try hard not to argue; but, sometimes, reality happens, and the arguments that ensue are no laughing matter. Because ultimately, relationships are held together with very slight bonds, and we can fray and break them casually. When and if we do, there are arguments that must be had.
Oh, and by the way — that cupcake is still sitting there.