Our first heated “discussion” as a married couple wasn’t about what people call the “important” stuff – our values, family, money, jobs, or kids.
Instead, our first “couple argument” was a top of the lungs, door-slamming, Tupperware-throwing, window rattling discussion about – our trash cans.
We weren’t discussing color, size, number, or shape of our trash cans. We both pretty much agreed that a trash can is a trash can and should definitely look like a trash can. No issues there.
Our fight was about who of the two of us would be deemed (for eternity and thereafter) the primary trash can “dragger” each and every week – 52 times a year – to the curb in front of our house before leaving for work – and, of course, then also retrieve the cans upon returning from work 52 times a year.
So this was major stuff going on. Time-consuming, boring, heavy-lifting, sometimes smelly w-o-r-k that we were deciding on. Of course neither of us wanted the job.
It began when one of us politely “suggested” that the other take the 2 pretty full trash cans in the garage up our 4-car-length long, barely uphill driveway. But the suggestion was silently ignored by the other. As the evening wore on, the suggestion became more demanding. By this time, however, we were both involved in watching our favorite TV show, and the suggestion was met with “Why don’t you take the trash cans out if you want them out there so bad?”
“You can take them out during a commercial.”
“You can take them out during a commercial too.”
From that point the discussion became a full-blown screamfest the likes that hasn’t been spoken of since.
So how did this world-changing argument end?
When during the heat of battle – after the Tupperware had bounced around the kitchen and the door to the garage had been slammed a few times by both of us – we blurted out the following:
“In my family my Dad always took out the trash!”
“Well in my family my Mom always took out the trash!”
Which stopped us cold.
We suddenly realized that this mind-blowing battle wasn’t about either of us being lazy or mean or just plain stubborn. It was about how our individual experiences watching our parents’ relationship play out had caused both of us to have specific expectations about the roles of a husband and wife in a marriage.
And it became clear to us that we needed to base trash can duty on what our marriage relationship required – not on the roles we saw in our parents’ marriages.
Our trash talk that day turned our old attitudes toward roles in a marriage into a jointly cherished treasure of focusing on our needs in our relationship instead of the expectations we brought with us.
Maybe you and your spouse need to trash talk too.