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.

(They burst out laughing again.)