I should be embarrassed to confess this, except that it’s absolutely true … Mike and I are master fighters. We fight best over meaningless stuff. We’re pros actually.
The following is an actual replay of one of the best meaningless fights yet:
We are checking out of the grocery store when the checker asks one of us (to be un-pointed-out by name or gender) if we’d like game tokens for the current “game” the store has going on.
“Uh … no. I don’t think so,” said the spouse, trying to make a decision as the grumpy clerk stared. “I think we’ve stopped playing.”
Forty-three seconds later, as we are pushing our cart to the door, the second spouse says, “Did you get game tokens?”
“Uh … no,” the first spouse was feeling redundant. “Didn’t you hear me respond to the checker? I waited for you to say something. Plus, you know that I threw all that stuff in the garbage last week because it had been sitting there for days. We hardly ever shop here anywhere.”
“But we could have gotten free stuff,” the second spouse was clearly upset.
By the time we got to the car, tensions hit full throttle, and snippy comments flew like some incredible metaphor that I can’t fully capture.
“I was packing the cart and didn’t hear the checker.”
“Well, you didn’t say anything, so I didn’t think it mattered to you.”
“I didn’t answer because I didn’t hear.” (Our voices are growing louder … in that hushed, intense kind of non-whisper that people use when they fight and think no one can hear them.)
“I didn’t know.”
“You never ask my input.”
“You never listen to me.”
To make matters worse, as the first spouse pushed the cart into the return spot, it was noted that a store attendant who was gathering carts, heard everything. The boy shook his head with a slight grin on his face. The spouse gave a shoulder shrug as if to say, “I know. I know. We’re ridiculous.”
Back in the car, unable to resist trying to prove who was right, the tiff heated up again, died back a bit, then went full-broil before screeching to a long – extremely long – iced-over silence.
Mike was the one who got hold of himself first, “You know … we’re fighting over a stupid game token. We probably wouldn’t have won anything anyway.”
And that was that … a stupid little thing, tried to convince us that we were fighting about something more … about all the ways the we didn’t value, listen, love, honor, help each other … all kinds of nonsense tried to eek out. Mountain-out-of-molehill kind of stuff.
A little later, Mike proved again, that we’d gotten past the brew-ha-ha, “How you holding out?” he asked … voice sincere. (I had been doing all the driving that day, and he was nicely checking on me.)
“Good … a little tired.”
“Did I ever tell you that you look most beautiful when you’re tired?” The dumb grin on his face was fitting for such a dumb comment, because I knew I looked awful. But if he could move past it all, so could I … “Yeah,” I giggled like an eleven-year- old in front of a cool, older teen boy, “People say that it’s one of my strong points.”
And there … all was better.
You’d think that two people who have recently survived three rounds of “death at the doorstep” moments would be a little more gracious with each other. Well … that’s the good news. We are. Yep, it used to be even MORE ridiculous. We could carry on for hours, days even, and stew over even stupider stuff like hot dog stands and how to hang the towels in the bathroom. After all, marriage is ripe and fertile soil for stirring up selfish pride … and boy, are we are a pair who is well-equipped with both selfishness and pride and … a good measure of stubbornness, just to make it interesting.
But, I’ll tell you, that as embarrassing as it is that 26 years of marriage – and three of them filled chock-full of crisis – and we’re still fighting … there is something redeeming. There’s a sense of hope in knowing that we fight less, we recover more quickly, and we’ve been through too much together to let anything separate us. Most importantly, we’re figuring out how to fight together against our real battles, not battle each other … at least we’re improving. Power be to couples who realize that marriage battles are just practice for the real enemies … and the enemy is never one another.
9 Two are better than one,
Because they have a good reward for their labor.
10 For if they fall, one will lift up his companion.
But woe to him who is alone when he falls,
For he has no one to help him up.
11 Again, if two lie down together, they will keep warm;
But how can one be warm alone?
12 Though one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him.
And a threefold cord is not quickly broken. Ecclesiastes 4
P.S. As an update: every time one of us does happen to go to that particular store, we always take the game tokens. So far we’ve won an online cooking class, a bottle of some drink with artificial everything, and 30 cents off of a loaf of bread. Wonder what we missed the first time!