Keeping the fun in marriage

with Dr. Muffy Hollandaise, MSW, PhD, ASAP, LSMFT

Part 162 – Creative Disagreement — Keeping It Civil

As my fifth husband always used to say: “If you can’t fight standing up how do you expect to make love lying down.” While many of us here in the business are not clear as to what he means, we will go to the wall to defend his rite of common passage. Given: Everyone, with the possible exception of white doves, hermits, the dead and laudanum addicts locks horns sometimes. Nowhere is this phenomenon more interesting than within the sacred bondage of marital harmony.

You may ask: How then Dr. Muffy can two people learn to tolerate each other when the green grasses of secularism beckon and the chains monogamy rattle throughout the night. The answer: Don’t just sit there like a rusty old war memorial. Kick up some dust. Here’s how to do it:

Most people would agree that it’s far easier watching someone else explode than to hit the ceiling yourself. That’s our first direction: Shut the hell up. Sure, it’s tough but generally your opponent will continue to hold the floor at least until they have exuded all primary hostility. Everyone thinks they know what they are talking about but no one has a clue. Blah, blah, blah…and so on. Rocking from toe to heel with a knowing smile can be very effective in this realm.

During this peripheral exchange be sure to keep a serious look on your face (laughing will only succeed in making matters worse). Don’t make eye contact (it is often seen as a sign of aggression and yet can simultaneously denote fear). Back away slowly attempting to make yourself seem larger and more formidable (running will convince the predator that you are food).

While surfing the primrose path it is wise to make lots of noise so as not to startle your mate, especially if he or she is traveling with cubs (off-spring).

When the confrontation reaches phase two — the actual dialogue, it may help to circulate a print-out to the participating parties. This helpful sheet can provide guidelines, parameters and information that will be covered during the brawl. This way nobody feels blindsided by issues introduced in the heat of battle. Hint: Always hold back just a little in case backstabbing is the only recourse. For example: Personal attacks on in-laws and personal hygiene are good while implications as to the lack of integrity and/or obesity are less effective.

Always take time to choose a setting that benefits both sides. The kitchen is often better than the bedroom, even though that’s where the knives are housed. The garden may work well for the combatants but what about the tomato plants? Squash can be very sensitive to upheavals and often wilts on the vine in the face of entanglement. (And that says nothing of endive and/or periwinkle). Referring to the set as the battleground does not carry with it the indication that one is serious about solutions. Waiting for the other partner to be drunk is not a good idea as one runs the risk that he or she could pass out during your rebuttal.

Timing is important too. She should throw out a contentious line during, say, the final game of the NBA Playoffs. He could do well waiting until the VISA bill arrives, unless of course he is the big spender. Bringing up an old mate is a valid approach only when he is in jail or her hair is falling out.

Never presume that you are a better lover unless you were actually present during their tender moments. Don’t accept guilt connected to such evangelical surprises as: “After failing at several suicide attempts she joined a cloistered order and was hit by a bolt of lightning while on her way to vespers; He passed away after contracting leprosy, you know, working with the poor in India; or the old standby he jumped into a small bucket of chilled white table wine from a squat piñon tree atop lover’s leap and it’s your fault!”

Along with the setting one should consider the general ambiance. The sound of a distant lawn mower or chain saw can be relaxing. The sound of a dog barking can lead to further frustration. Make sure no faucets are dripping or digital beeping is present as distraction can cause breakdowns of the communicative process.

Music is very important. Country and Western works well, especially compared to the annoying repetitions sometimes inherent in progressive jazz. Samba is good. Salsa is too much. Rap is not a beneficial option since it is often loud, repetitive and crude. Love songs may not be appropriate either. Save them for the making up part, if it ever comes.

Body language should not be a consideration and physical response isn’t a solution, even for lower primates. The habit of repeating verbatim every sentence uttered by your opponent is childish and can provoke further duress.

At some point in the proceedings there should be a period of dead air when everyone is finally exhausted. This is the right time to terminate the argument. The best way to do so is to throw your arms around your partner and hug them till they turn blue. Most people find this extension less attractive than facing a bayonet but moments after the initial fear of rejection is conquered anger is usually replaced by relief. Never leave during an argument since it can be taken as a retreat and you may have to go through this discussion process all over again.

Now that the argument has come to a halt it is time to start gathering ammunition for the next big fight which we will undress in the next episode. Too-DA-loo…

Dr. Hollandaise graduated from some school back east & uses a lot of words she doesn’t understand. She can’t cook, has over 40 mirrors in her abode and is lousy in bed, according to undisclothed sources.

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