Negotiating Toilet Seats and Peace Treaties

Published on by Lisa Gates.

At a gathering over the weekend, I spoke with a couple of friends, a married couple with three grown children, about how they resolve conflict. It went something like this:

SHE:  We just made a new agreement.

HE:  Well no, it wasn't an agreement.

SHE:  Right, it was more like an obligation to notice.

HE:  Yes, that's it.

SHE: So let's say she gets mad at me for something--

HE:  And we have an agreement that we don't try to resolve anything from a place of anger.

SHE: So rather than go off to our respective corners and pout, and eat away precious hours pouting and avoiding, we decided to say --

HE:  Wait, let me tell it honey. We decided we have an obligation.

SHE:  And so if I'm mad, he says, "Hey, you're mad at me. Get off it."

HE:  Like right now I could get mad that you're finishing my sentences and not letting me tell it.

(They burst out laughing.)

SHE: But it's so much more fun to tell it together, isn't it?

HE: Yes, and it's a good demonstration of getting off it before you're even on it.

(They burst out laughing again.)

SHE: Yeah. And then if we actually do really get pissy, we just decide right then and there to stop being mad.

ME:  How does that work?

SHE:  Really well. Okay, it's only been a couple of days, but so far so good.

ME:  Have you gotten mad at each other since that "obligation" pact?

SHE:  Umm, yes. I was mad at him for something or other--

HE: I think it was when I forgot to put the toilet seat down--

SHE: Oh yeah, that. And he said, "Are you mad?" And I said--

HE:  She said, "Yes, I'm stark raving mad. I'm a lunatic. I'm deranged!"

SHE:  And then we just fell over laughing.

(They burst out laughing again again.)

ME:  Don't you wish we could create peace in the Middle East this way? Or in Ghana?

HE:  I think we can. Isn't it the same thing? Somebody's mad, and we get pissy. We're like two kings on a chessboard and we're somehow the last two people standing, and we're not budging.

ME:  So somehow we have to disappear the chess board, and get on common ground. That's not so easy. How do we do that?

SHE: We have to find out what we find funny together. What we love in common. What we want in common. How we love our children madly. How we appreciate a great sunset and fine glass of wine. We have to get "related" again.

HE:  I think Hilary will be calling on us soon. We're the ace in the hole.

(They burst out laughing again.)


Want more lessons in resolving conflict? Get Victoria Pynchon's book, "A is for Asshole, the Grownups' ABCs of Conflict Resolution.


Conflict Resolution A IS FOR Asshole, Marriage and conflict, Negotiating Conflict

Published on by Lisa Gates.