In theory, marriage should be the perfect balance of power between two parties. A husband is the yin to his wife’s yang. Spouses are each other’s “better halves.” Couples are like planets exerting complimentary gravitational pulls, caught in each other’s orbits, circling together in one planetary system.
But in reality, marriage is often an adversarial system, requiring the two parties to regularly negotiate resolutions to conflicts.
All the talk of divisiveness in Washington these days has me wondering if the politicians might learn a few things from how typical husbands and wives manage to make decisions on everything from buying a new couch to whose mother is coming for Thanksgiving.
When I met my Navy husband, Francis, he was a bit of a dark horse candidate. He came from out of nowhere, in a time in my life when I wasn’t looking for a running mate. But much to my surprise, we had one of those goofy “love at first sight” kind of meetings, and after a brief courtship, we tied the knot and I became a military spouse.
We’ve spent the last 24 years working together to make our union run smoothly.
Thankfully, we found out that we have very similar platforms on big ticket items such as politics, morality, military duty stations, NFL teams, and whether John Candy movies are the best (they are, in case you didn’t know).
Certainly, there are some conflicts without an absolute majority opinion. Whether it’s Thai food or pizza, comedy or suspense, lights on or lights off — sometimes a married couple has to hold a special session before they can come to an accord that each party can live with.
It certainly isn’t easy. There’s often lengthy debate, and sometimes filibuster — which, by the way, husbands completely tune out while their minds wander to things like cars, women’s body parts, and peanuts.
When bargaining on whether to stay home and watch the baseball game on Sunday or go blueberry picking with the family, a wife might try to negotiate a continuing resolution requiring her husband to give her a foot rub on the couch during the seventh inning stretch. While perusing the family’s Netflix watch list on Friday night, a husband might try to logroll the swing voters (a.k.a., the kids) to vote for “Leprechaun: Back 2 Tha Hood” instead of “The Notebook.” During debate over whose in-laws should get first dibs on Christmas, a husband might propagate “fake news” that his mother’s recent attack of gout was arguably life-threatening and therefore entitles her to priority status.
Both husbands and wives will make shameless attempts to propagandize the family, promising pork barrel spending on sugared cereals, brand name clothing, expensive electronics, and puppies to garner support for their personal agendas. There’s muckraking and mudslinging, dissent and demagoguery, tyranny and totalitarianism.
But in the end, even if it takes cloture, husbands and wives do something that our government just can’t seem to do these days: they compromise.
Wives give in on golf outings as long as husbands help with dishes. Husbands give in on mani-pedis, as long as wives make meatballs. Whatever the terms of compromise, most married couples do what they need to do to keep their system of government running smoothly, just like Francis and I have done for the last 24 years.
That being said, I must confess, there is one thing in our marriage that Francis and I have yet to agree upon. You see, Francis insists that the toilet paper roll must be placed such that the edge of the paper hangs on the side of the roll closest to the wall; whereas, I firmly believe that toilet paper rolls are meant to hang so that the edge of the paper hangs on the side of the roll away from the wall.
This is our Cold War, our Berlin Wall, our 38th Parallel.
I fear we will never achieve detente, because getting Francis and I to compromise on toilet paper roll placement would take an Act of Congress, and that’s something we know isn’t going to happen any time soon.