It occurred to me as I was reading (and laughing and nodding along with) this Onion piece, “Mom Calmly Emptying Dishwasher As If Shrieking Argument Didn’t Happen 10 Minutes Ago,” that many people (even married ones) don’t really understand how much married people fight. That’s bad because I think sometimes people think their marriages are in grave danger as soon as the fighting begins — which generally coincides with having children (To my kids reading my blog eventually: This is because it’s hard work, not because it’s your fault. Your parents love you with all of their heart).
I try to explain the fighting to my kids this way: “You know how you guys, as brother and sister, fight? And how you usually get along really well, and love each other more than anything, but that sometimes the other one irritates you, and does stuff to annoy you on purpose, and that sometimes you are having a bad day and are upset and take it out on each other? And that you have certain toys or things that you just seem to fight about all the time? Well, that’s how daddy and I are.”
So I guess what I’m sort of saying is that longtime married spouses start to become like siblings or roommates who also have sex. And I fully understand that that is a very weird concept and way of explaining it (I don’t add in that part for the kids. So they are cringing right now.) At your core (hopefully), you have a deep friendship, love, and history that connects you to one another. And (hopefully), you still enjoy spending time together when you have the chance. But yes, you also can fight and bicker like a brother and sister. Because essentially, you are like roommates sharing household responsibilities and banking accounts, while adding in that having sex part. Daily bullshit, money, and sex. That leaves a lot of stuff to fight about.
I also realize that this gets even weirder as you get older. My parents and my husband’s parents had their share of normal fights while we were growing up. (We’ve dated since we were 12 years old. So I can attest to that.) Yet they are all still happily married to the same people. But now? When they get annoyed at each other, they sort of just tell each other to shut the fuck up. Right in front of us kids! And I noticed when I was younger and would go out to dinner with my grandparents that they didn’t really fight much anymore, they just talked right over one another all through dinner.
So my theory is this: fights are traumatic in your early years as a couple, they become as regular as bickering siblings when you are middle aged, you start to tell the other one to fuck off at retirement age, and you pretend the other one isn’t even there when you are old.
Yet you still love each other. Isn’t that weird?