The Sentence That Saved My Marriage

By Jen Anderson

I come by my hot temper honestly. In more than 40 years of marriage, my parents have honed their arguing skills so well they could win an Olympic gold medal in couples bickering. Growing up, I was surprised that the neighbors didn’t interrupt their loud arguments to send them to neutral corners.

So it’s no surprise that peaceful solutions to disagreements don’t come naturally to me. In my twenties, when I got angry with a boyfriend, I’d slam down the phone, or storm out. This led to me stomping past the Eiffel Tower, followed by a beau begging me to stop and listen to him—a scene straight out of a perfume commercial. But mostly I just ended up with a relationship tromped to death before it ever stood a chance.

In my thirties, yoga mellowed me a bit, but once I moved in with my future husband, flashes of hostility kept sneaking up on me. I could tolerate the irritating sword-on-sword noise of his beloved samurai movies, but Mike kept doing things wrong. Of course, by “wrong” I mean, “not exactly the way I would do it.” As a software systems analyst, it was my job to find the best way to perform all sorts of tasks, and I didn’t turn off that skill when it came to housework. I’d read articles about women who scare their husbands away from cooking and cleaning with their nagging perfectionism, but I was sure I wasn’t one of them. I was a professional problem solver. It was maddening that my man didn’t immediately pick up my methods. And I never nagged. Just loudly expressed my frustration with him.

But Mike is a mild-mannered Midwesterner, even after years of living in New York. When I yelled, he’d pause, consider my point and agree with me. It was no fun fighting with someone who wouldn’t shout back. I pleaded with him to argue with me just so we could experience makeup sex. He promised to try but never managed to raise his voice.

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