Elysha and I have been together for ten years.
We’ll celebrate our eighth wedding anniversary in July.
Over the course of the decade that we have been together, we have probably argued three times.
I think that’s really it. Three times. She may tell me that I’m wrong (perhaps provoking our fourth fight), but the number is most assuredly less than ten.
I recently read that the average couple argues 2,455 times a year, or about seven times per day.
I have a hard time believing that number, but I’m certain that three arguments in ten years is low. So I’ve been asking myself why.
I think I found an answer by was of example. Or at least part of the answer.
Elysha has been concerned about our daughter’s refusal to eat a variety of foods and her anxiety over trying new foods. She believed that it was an indication of a problem more serious than just a picky eater. She spoke to the pediatrician about her concerns and was referred to Hartford Hospital’s feeding team: a group of medical, mental health and nutrition experts who diagnose and treat issues like these.
I thought that Elysha’s concerns were unfounded. I’ve known many picky eaters over the years and thought that Clara’s attitude toward eating was not unusual. I thought that our appointment with the feeding team was almost certainly a waste of time.
I didn’t want to go.
But here’s why we don’t fight:
I supported Elysha’s decision and went to the appointment with an open mind, even though I thought it was silly and unnecessary. Unless I think that a decision will do harm, I always remember that Elysha makes decisions because she thinks they are right and good. She’s not acting selfishly or carelessly. She truly believed that Clara had a problem. Even though I completely disagreed, I went along with her decision because she was doing what she thought was right, even if I thought it was wrong.
It turned out that she was right. It took the feeding team all of 10 minutes to inform us that Clara’s food anxiety is not normal. In fact, it’s understandably unusual.
My daughter is allergic to peanuts, so she has spent her entire life knowing that certain foods are very dangerous to her.
When she was three years-old, she had what was believed to be an allergic reaction in the car (it was ultimately determined to be a reaction to a virus). Elysha pulled the car over, flagged down a police officer and an ambulance, and got Clara aboard, where paramedics administered epinephrine through hypodermic needles and rushed her to the hospital, thus reinforcing the dangerous nature of foods.
There are other factors contributing to the problem as well, including (oddly enough) her highly active and complex imagination), but it’s certainly understandable why Clara might have anxiety about foods that she has never tried before.
She’s come to believe that food is dangerous and potentially life threatening. Which it is.
But the important part is this:
Elysha was right. Clara’s anxiety is not normal. Best of all, it’s treatable.
I suspect that in many marriages, the disagreement over the need to see the feeding team would’ve led to an argument. I didn’t say a word. Elysha knew how I felt, but I made it clear that I was fully supporting her decision.
I’m glad I did.
One more example:
Last week we were driving home from Massachusetts. I was late, and Charlie was already asleep in his car seat. Clara was using the iPad. When we pulled into a gas station, Elysha informed Clara that she had five more minutes on the iPad and then needed to hand it over. She wanted Clara to sleep, too.
Clara was not pleased.
I thought that we should leave the iPad in Clara’s hands. We had about an hour to go before arriving home, and I didn’t think that the hour of possible sleep in her car seat would amount to much. It had been a long day, and Clara had behaved remarkably well, so why not let her play a little longer?
Even though I disagreed with Elysha’s decision, I said nothing. I knew that Elysha was doing what she believed was right, and I knew that taking away the device would do no harm.
Once again, I trusted her decision because it was being made unselfishly. She was doing what she thought was best for Clara.
Elysha knew that I disagreed with her decision, and I suspect that in many marriages, this could’ve been the source of an eventual argument. But why argue with your spouse over a parenting decision that will ultimately mean very little, will do no harm, and is being made in the child’s best interests?
In the end, Clara fell asleep, and perhaps the extra hour of sleep did her some good. I’m not sure. But it certainly wasn’t worth a fight.
I don’t know if this is the only reason that Elysha and I don’t argue, but I suspect it plays an important role. Neither of us ever feels the need to be right or be fully in control. Rarely do either one of us believe that the other is making a decision out of selfishness or stupidity. While we may disagree as often as the average couple, we don’t argue over these disagreements because we are willing to trust each other’s judgment enough to allow things to move forward without complaint.
And we’re not always right. We each allow decisions to be made that backfire. We’re not perfect. But so few decisions result in any long-term damage that when we are wrong, it rarely matters.
We take the long view. We trust each other’s intent. We have faith in each other’s judgment.
I think. Elysha has yet to read this, so she may think differently.
But she probably won’t argue with me about it.