Negotiating Toilet Seats and Peace Treaties
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.