Before you jump into a quarrel, you might consider asking yourself these things.
1. IS IT WORTH IT? Most marital disputes are about nothing at all. Nothing… at all… Nothing! At all! So keep that in mind when you head in the direction of a spat. Is it worth the stress it will cause you to get upset — about THIS? Probably not.
2. WHAT’S AT THE CORE OF THIS CLASH? What’s the essence of the issue at hand? Usually, it’s about having what you want, or freedom to be you. That’s a nice thing to have, so see if you can figure out how to be you and get what you need. Don’t go for compromise, go for being creative. Your differences make you a stronger couple.
3. LEARN TO OBSERVE YOURSELF. You can say somebody’s wrong, you can even shake your finger at them and give them a lecture, without making them wrong, and it’s way more fun. You do this by not taking yourself so seriously. How do you get there? Learn to observe your thinking. Be the observer of the thinker of the thought. The thought is just a thought. It’s not you. You don’t have to get all caught up in the thought. You can observe the thought, as in “Oh, I notice I’m having this thought.” If you can teach yourself to do that, oh, the freedom you’ll find!
4. MAYBE YOU’RE NOT THAT FAR APART. The essence of what you’re both saying may not be that far apart. We’ve all watched our parents declare that they are on opposite sides of the fence — but they’re not! Often, all it takes is one small act of generosity in listeningon the part of either person to turn things around. Or being lighthearted or keeping a sense of humor for heavens sake!
5. DON’T TAKE THINGS SO PERSONALLY. Learn to be unarguable-with! Don’t take personally what the other person says. If you take it personally, you’ve sunk your own ship. Whatever they are saying is more about them. Let them say it and leave it with them. Don’t pick it up and make it about you. This is huge.
6. WHAT’S MORE IMPORTANT? Decide what’s more fun, arguing or getting along. Fighting or loving. Saying awful things or respectful things. Hating or laughing. Being frustrated or calm. Being judgmental or being who you truly are. Make a choice and go with it. You’ll learn a lot either way.
7. HOW COULD WE HAVE MORE FUN TOGETHER? Find the places where you enjoy each other to the fullest and do more of that. What makes you laugh? One of the things I love about Eric is that we meet in the field of humor. We have similar, quirky ideas about what’s funny and it saves us.
Of course this subject of laughter is in some ways a cautionary tale. Remember that sarcasm is not humor. Being mean-spirited doesn’t feel good to the giver or the receiver. Criticizing someone through laughter is a “no pass.”
And finally, if you need a little regular practice in lightening up, play with animals, babies or young children. Or maybe even customer service folks. Whatever works for you! Get your silly back!
You can use laughter to open up your heart about something tense, rather than covering up emotion. Let laughter be a doorway to letting go, exploring or uncovering. Laughter can open you and your beautiful, passionate heart to more awareness and more love.
Happy “arguing!” Have (much more) fun with your differences. Your differences are not there to create problems. They are there to help you. They are there for your exploration, expansion, self-expression and joy.
The conversation started out innocent enough. My husband Eric ventured that he wanted to ask me a question, but said he didn’t want his question to sound like a criticism.
HE: (to me) So how would I do that — ask a question that could go sideways?
ME: I don’t know, just go ahead and ask me. Just blurt it out and we’ll see how it goes. It can’t be that bad.
(At least I could hope.)
We were eating a late lunch in our living room in Spring. Bushels of beautiful light was pouring in everywhere — it’s a spacious room with big windows and skylights. He was sitting on the couch, with me across from him on the other side of the coffee table in an easy chair. In his left hand, he held a piece of pizza made by yours truly — pepperoni (his favorite), chicken breast, asparagus, kale, tomato, garlic, and Cheddar and Amish Pepper Jack cheese. He gestured and spoke with his right hand.
HE: OK, so here’s my question. Do you put green vegetables on the pizza because you enjoy them or for some other reason?
The question stopped my brain. It sounded like a backward question to me, a non-direct question, a “what do you really mean by that” kind of question. So it confused me for a second. But I decided to take the question at face value. In my experience, that’s a really, really good place to start. Answer his question, no matter what I think about the question itself.
So his question hung in the silence. Why do I put green vegetables on the pizza?
Huh. I thought about it. I smiled. I had my answer.
ME: I put them on the pizza because it’s pretty.
HE: (bursts out laughing) OK, well, there you go! I just wanted to know!
ME: (apparently I felt compelled to elaborate) You know, making food is an artistic thing. Food needs to be appealing to the eye. So I spread tomato sauce like a backdrop color on the pizza canvas. And then on goes the asparagus spears here and here and here — nice color, don’t you think? (I demonstrate with air art.) And then round I go with red Roma tomato slices. And bright green kale goes here and here for contrast. And I figure the bonus is that if there are many colors in the food we’re eating, we’re probably getting our vitamins and minerals as well. But it’s really important that food be pretty.
He smiled in a twinkly kind of way. (Love that about him.)
Clearly, he also thought it was humorous that I thought food should be pretty. But to his total credit, he let that idea all the way to the middle of his soul. He continued the conversation by mentioning that he picks off the vegetables first so he can really enjoy the pizza, which totally made me laugh out loud. In 16 years of being together, he had never said that to me!
I had sometimes noticed that he picks off the veggies, and occasionally wondered why, but never asked about it, and I thought it was admirable and bold of him just now to say why he does. His comment piqued my interest. This conversation was clearly very important to him — he brought it up — and it made me curious to know more. He was taking a risk to talk about it, and I was taking a risk to listen and take in the feedback. The work goes both ways, always.
HE: You know, really, I just like tomato sauce, meat and cheese on my pizza. Everything else is just extra. And not an important kind of extra. Take mushrooms for instance. To me, they don’t add or detract from the pizza. If they don’t add to my experience, why would I want them there? I’m neutral about mushrooms on pizza.
ME: (I had just taken a bite of my lunch, which was entirely different than his because he won’t eat fish, and isn’t fond of peas or mushrooms and a whole lot of other things. Sputtering through my food I blurt) Oh, that is SUCH BS that you’re neutral about mushrooms!!! That’s just not true! If you were truly neutral, you wouldn’t be bringing up the subject. It would be like, who cares, and you wouldn’t even talk about it!
I was in a positive frame of mind, but I was not going to let that kind of BS go by without a spirited and sparkly “that’s a bunch of crap” comment from me. And about this time, I had to take off my jacket ’cause I could feel my temperature a risin’. My brain was ready, I had food fuel in my tummy, my BS meter was ON, and I was ready to take on this man I adore. C’mon, give it to me! I was in the mood for some spunky fun.
(But first, a personal confession) I think Eric is a (very) picky eater (compared to me). (In my opinion) he doesn’t appreciate a variety of food (like I do, and my way is better of course), and (compared to me) he has a very limited palate (how boring.) There are all sorts of things he won’t eat (which is different than me, and did I say my way is better) and that’s truly no way to live (according to me, ’cause of course my way is better). Yep, I have an attitude. Clearly!
Then something unexpected happened.
I became magically super aware of how opinionated I was about “his BS,” but what was different was that I was vividly aware that it was fun — really fun — to be opinionated while being super aware. In that moment, my opinionated side struck me funny. I started giggling.
(You know, we’re all pretty funny if we stand outside ourselves and take a look!)
And at the same time Eric found it frigging hilarious that we were having a conversation about neutrality while neither of us were being neutral. This kind of humor is right up his alley.
So, right along with me, he started to lose it. Both of us began to unravel. Who even knew we needed it! It was like the water rose too fast, and our laughing dams broke at the same time. Pipes burst, ropes broke, pins snapped.
There is a way that Eric laughs that makes me laugh harder. The more he lets go, the more entertained I am by watching him. It usually happens when he gets surprised — something funny comes out of left field — and he’s helplessly, hopelessly humored. His voice jumps up a couple of registers, and he laughs in falsetto.
So there we were, giggling about disagreeing. (But hold on, we’ve barely begun!)
HE: Really, I don’t care one way or another, but if veggies on my pizza don’t add to my experience of enjoyment, then why would I have them there?
ME: (the pizza maker) Well, I totally get that, and I often make your half of the pizza different than mine — just don’t call yourself neutral!
Which sent him into further peels of laughter, you know, because of my lack of neutrality about his lack of neutrality.
There is no earthly reason it should have been quite that fall-down funny, but we were on a roll. And no-o-o-o-o, heavens no, I wasn’t done pontificating yet.
ME: You know, you are also SO FULL OF BS about how you’re neutral about pecans, too, no different than the darn mushrooms. Even though you SAY you’re neutral about pecans, if I put pecans in your gosh darn chocolate chip cookies, you come into the kitchen all sad and disappointed and all like ‘how could you do this to me’ waaa, waaa, waaa, so don’t even use that word neutral about pecans in chocolate chip cookies. You’re so FULL of it!!! You’re not neutral! You’re a thousand million trillion miles from neutral!
(Imagine my voice traveling the octaves here, and me gesturing extra dramatically to make my points ..)
HE: Oh, and I’m not being neutral! (He’s pretty much unable to breathe at this point. We’re really, really totally out of control.)
Two people who love each other, who are willing to be entertained by their strong opinions (rather than upset by them) can pull a whole lot of fun out of practically nothing and nowhere, and end up more in love when it’s all over.
HOW ABOUT A LITTLE SCIENTIFIC PROOF ABOUT THE VALUE OF LAUGHTER?
ME:Your words say one thing, but your vibration says another. It’s a complete disconnect. If a consulting client of mine did this, I would totally call them on it!
He was laughing even harder now.
ME: (now in complete hysterics): You know, I wish we had this on video, so I could teach my relationship clients how to argue — teach them the finer points of arguing!
Which sent us both reeling…
I plunked my plate down on the table next to me so as not to spill the whole thing on the floor, and leaned back in my chair, giving my now helplessly flailing arms more freedom to express. Eric practically dropped his plate on the coffee table, and then fell backwards on the couch, holding his stomach and laughing.
This went on for a while… quite a while…
Then when we could breathe better, we talked, exploring the whole question of eating preferences and neutrality and who knows what all. We talked about a lot of things.
After talking for a while, he said, “Wow, if I had known arguing would be so much fun, I would have brought up this food subject long ago!”
Which, of course, started the laughing all over again!
Who knew “almost arguing” could be quite so entertaining! I highly recommend it as an aerobic workout — and way more fun than a treadmill!
Today, I’m sharing a story about how I accidentally accomplished something on my bucket list. I ran through an exit gate while looking the other way. The hood of my car is scratched up, and one windshield wiper is a mess, but let’s have a good laugh about how we never expect what “getting what we want” includes!
It seems to be a growing fad these days to call someone a narcissist, or declare they are toxic.
Political name-calling is similar—we assign politicians and voters to categories, and brush them off as if they are unintelligent, inferior, or even worthless.
By labeling others, we miss their humanity. We gloss over their struggle, their best effort at dealing with life. We dismiss them.
We do to them what we believe they are doing to others.
Look past a label, and in the soft light of day, there stands a person like you or like me, coping as best they can. At the end of the day, no friend, parent, or lover making conscious choices intends to be mean, or to ignore, or to embellish. There is always more to the story.
If we label others, then for sure we label ourselves. We trap ourselves into believing we are less than. Or not enough. Or we don’t give ourselves the time and forgiveness to work through our “stuff.” Maybe, if we stopped accusing others of narcissism, we could forgive ourselves for those moments when we were narrow-minded, inconsiderate, or afraid.
When it comes to labels, nobody wins.
So, my dear people, I suggest we peer a little deeper into ourselves to investigate a need to separate ourselves from others by tacking them with a label filled with disdain or scorn.
It is my wish that you view this video and take it to heart.