If you want a life that includes love, sex, and companionship, you have to get used to the occasional blow-out fight about the tiniest details of life. For example: Early into my current relationship, we were trying to recreate my boyfriend's family spaghetti sauce recipe, and as the tomato sauce simmered, we figured there'd be time for a quickie. We were wrong. An hour later, the sauce was burnt, neither of us finished, and we were left with neither a satisfying dinner nor sex. We did succeed in having an excruciating argument over the nature of responsibility.
Sometimes in these fights you're just horny and hungry; other times, we're using the burnt dinner as an excuse to vent all the anger we've been bottling up for months. "Often those pettiest of arguments are a symptom of unfulfilled needs, deeply rooted fears and insecurities. and unexpressed feelings," says relationship coach Effy Blue. "Instead of recognizing our need for order and structure to feel safe and requesting [those things] from our partner, we pick an argument about the direction of the toilet paper. Instead of dealing with the weight of disappointment in ourselves having missed an anniversary or a special occasion, we cause conflict about whose turn it is to take the garbage out to deflect the pain."
Sounds legit. But that doesn't mean commiserating about the dumbest of these pain-deflecting fights won't help.
Christina: I can't believe you did that to the Ronald Reagan statue
My senior year in college, I lived in the capital of Maryland, and the Republican State Headquarters moved into the building next to my apartment. It was an old historic house, and they erected a life-size bronze statue of a smiling, waving Ronald Reagan that from certain angles looked like it was giving the Nazi salute. I was in a toxic relationship with this guy, and we would constantly discuss what an eyesore it was. One night, we had gotten into an argument because I had skipped my therapy session (again, toxic relationship) and had come to a tentative cease-fire. We were walking home from a party, and he started to get increasingly agitated. As we passed the Republican Headquarters, he suddenly broke away and dashed up the stairs, toppling the Reagan statue in a quick gesture. I was so upset that I ran to my house and locked the glass door, screaming at him that he was an indecent human being and that he should go home. (We had obviously been drinking.) When I woke up the next morning he was somehow in my bedroom holding two bottles of red Gatorade, and all was (temporarily) forgiven.
Nathan: Texting is bad
Once [my wife and I's] text messages got sent out of order, and it made it appear like we were intentionally being obtuse in our responses with one another. When I walked into the apartment afterwards, I was like, "What the fuck, Kat? I just wanted to know what you wanted to do for dinner, and you decided to be a vague asshole about it?" And she was like "Me? You're the one that wouldn't answer my question!"
Sable: Incompatible book tastes and a man terrified of snacking
An ex once broke down in tears because I asked him what was bothering him—he'd been acting weird lately—and he confessed that he was concerned that we don't enjoy the same books and films and that's "all that there really is in the long run." He was also afraid I was going to gain weight and he'd be less physically attracted to mebecause I really like snacking.
As we passed the Republican Headquarters, he suddenly broke away and dashed up the stairs, toppling the Reagan statue in a quick gesture.
We broke up about three months after that, but not before he plagiarized his breakup speech from an episode of Radiolab. If I could do it again, I don't think I could have had a better response, which was to slowly back out of the room, saying nothing. I'm really proud of the fact that, as soon as I realized what was happening—that I was getting lines fed to me from a Radiolab episode about relationships and breakups as I was being broken up with—I calmly picked up the two items I had at that dude's house (they were books), put on my shoes, and said, "Welp... smell ya later."
Zach: How dare you lie to me about stealing pumpkins!
Coming home last Halloween, I grabbed a small pumpkin from my neighbor's doorstep, snuck it into the apartment under my shirt, and placed it on our coffee table. When my girlfriend noticed soon after, I tried to pretend the pumpkin had been there since we moved in two years previously. The subsequent argument on "deception" lasted until dawn.
As with nearly every argument we have, we had been drinking for the previous five hours. We're married now.
Patrick: Too much coffee
A woman I was seeing and I went out to brunch, and we ordered two coffees. The waitress asked if we wanted two large coffees or two small coffees. I was hungover and really wanted a coffee, so I said, "Large." We were looking over the menu, and it wasn't very good. Finally, the waitress comes back with two gigantic French presses filled with coffee. It all came out me at once; I looked at the menu, saw that a large French press cost $16, and insisted that we leave immediately without paying. My girlfriend got super mad—like screaming at me in the streets of Bushwick mad.
Dina: Liking menswear doesn't make you better than me
OK, so this was my fault, except for the fact that he had made casually dismissive comments about my sense of style towards the beginning of our relationship that made a lasting impression, and he was not sensitive to that. Anyway: A couple of weeks ago, my boyfriend and I were coming to the end of a night of drinking, and my shoes were giving me really bad blisters on my heels. As we made our way to the subway, I remarked—as I had been, good-naturedly!, for the entire night—that my feet were hurting. I also lamented the fact that I really (truly) didn't have any shoes. But instead of adopting a nice and caring tone about how I'm beautiful and it was sad that my feet were hurting, my boyfriend responded, "You've needed shoes since we started dating. Just buy shoes!" He was laughing, but I freaked out—I felt his tone conveyed that he thought I was an idiot for not having any shoes, and that he was saying the shoes I did have were bad. (For the record, the shoes I was wearing had never given me blisters before, and they were cool—vintage!) I also felt that this comment was a way for him to say he hates the way I dress. So for the entire trip home I fumed about how he thinks he's so intellectually superior to me because he likes menswear.
The next weekend we went to the city and I bought three pairs of shoes, and now we're happy.