Rob and I bicker a fair amount, usually about the same old thing. For us the worst rows are the ones about each other’s families, and money. Those are the ones that can lead to a good few hours of being on ‘non speakers’ with each other.
In my 20’s, I used to absolutely hate confrontation. If a boyfriend was mean I’d sulk around miserable for weeks before giving up on the whole affair. Now, seventeen years into my relationship with Rob, we hurl the most vile abuse at each other and yet we stay together and our relationship is strong.
Within minutes of yelling, ‘you’re just like your bloody mother!’ (Rob) or ‘when will you pull your finger out of your arse and offer me some support?’ (Me) we will be laughing at the dog, chatting about what to have for supper, or planning our new kitchen.
I am constantly amazed by this. There is something curiously satisfying about blowing off steam by screaming at each other, safe in the knowledge that once things blow over we will settle down in front of The Walking Dead, or Fear the Walking Dead to swap plot theories before rolling up in the warmth of the marriage bed.
Saying that, though, the warmth of the marriage bed is all very well but if Rob’s had a drink, even one glass of wine, he snores. Pretty badly. The way in which he snores has a uniqueness and certain quality I find infuriating. As I am just dropping off to sleep, the timbre of Rob’s snoring somehow mimics a quiet but urgent conversation. Something about the pattern of the snorts and reverberations causes my dreams to be dominated by anxiety ridden adventures where I spend my time eavesdropping in dark corners, trying to work out what mysterious strangers are muttering to each other.
A particularly loud whinnying gasp will wake me up with a jolt. I lie there, shaking my head as I try to disperse the threads of disturbing nightmares caused by my brain’s frustrated efforts to turn Rob’s grunted syllables and whistles into words. Then I can’t get back to sleep and I spend the rest of the night poking him in the ribs to make him turn over so the snores are pointing in the opposite direction.
To be fair, I also drive him mad in the bedroom (and not in the good way). My annoying habit is I hate having my feet covered. I cover my top half with a corner of the duvet before – according to Rob -spinning like a top, wrapping the covers round me creating a great sausage roll of bed linen, leaving Rob with a small corner of duvet, shivering in the cold.
This has gone on for seventeen years and not once has it ever crossed our mind to get separate bedrooms. No matter how huge our argument, we always seem to go to sleep (but maybe not speaking) peacefully. It really is amazing what you will put up with in a long term relationship, things you would never tolerate when young – pre children!
I get cross with Rob when I feel he doesn’t help me. He argues I am perfectly capable of doing things myself and he’d never ask me to help him. (True). The first big row we ever had was over a ham roll. The second was what made you a better human: Science? (Rob) or Art and Literature? (me).
My mother bought me up to look after myself. By the time I met Rob I had learned to be self-sufficient. Rob’s mother had a slightly different attitude in that she did EVERYTHING for him. On our first holiday, dreamily in love in Cyprus, we rented a little self catering apartment. We had been shopping and when we got back I made myself a ham roll. It didn’t cross my MIND to offer to make Rob one. Boy, he was mad at me. The same goes for cups of tea and coffee. If I’m back at home before him I’m such a crap wife it never occurs to me to make him a nice cup of tea. What a cow!
It has become legend in our family household the phrase ‘you reap what you sow.’ When I stupidly organised a giant party for Son and Daughter for their ninth and eleventh birthdays, I organised everything and was feeling very frazzled. I called Rob over to help me with some party games and he stalked off calling, ‘you reap what you sow’ over his shoulder. Git. OK, he’s right, I am the one who wanted the party and I was the one who made the mistake of inviting over what felt like a billion crazed children to zoom all over the house we had just moved into, and had packing boxes all over the place. There was some logic to this – something to do with it not being a problem if they made a mess – but it doesn’t make a lot of sense to me now.
My problem is I am impetuous, I jump straight in with very little thought. Rob is the compete opposite, he will research, and plan, and plot, and plan again before making a decision. It makes me twitch just thinking about the amount of meticulous, thoughtful and SLOOOOWWWWW concentration that he puts in. Often it works really well, I give him a push when he needs it, and he holds me back when I’m about to go careering off a metaphorical cliff.
Last week I wrote about my nightmare weekend baking a million cakes for the school fête. The ensuing exchange of messages is a good example of one of our text rows.
I had to work Saturday night and having made a whole load of brownies, asked Rob to help Daughter make the cream cheese icing. He refused. I went to work and texted him instructions for the next hour. Probably not a good idea but I was weary and cross. His replies ranged from ‘No way, José’ to making a rude joke about ‘frosting’ and certain parts of my anatomy. Eventually I tried to guilt trip him into helping out. (Not a move I am proud of, but one I use often) His response was to send me this GIF.
Swiftly followed by this one
He clearly thought he was being absolutely hilarious. I could picture him, back home with the children chuckling away as the Brownies went un-iced.
Having explained in detail to Rob that the Brownies had to be iced as they would last longer, patient, carefully written texts, those gifs were the final straw. Are you going to support me on this? I asked. His response? ‘Grow up’.
Ooooohhh that gets me every time, and he uses it more than he should in our arguments. Probably because he knows it winds me up. ‘It’s just a cake’ he says. Oh my goodness I saw red then. I couldn’t show any more of my response as I am not very proud of the rant that followed.
What keeps us together is we can row like this – proper tooth and nail stuff – but within an hour Rob makes me laugh with his description of trying to get Son and Daughter interested in one of his favourite films: 2001: A Space Odyssey
His weary exasperation at having to answer endless questions had me in stitches and I forgot all about the icing row.
And that, my friends, is the secret to keeping a long term relationship going. You have to make each other laugh. Rob is very, very funny when he wants to be and that’s what really charmed me when I first met him. That and the fact he could rod my drains as WELL as getting to the end of James Joyce’s Ulysses. What a guy.
The good thing about texting your arguments is you can carefully compose your answer, it takes out the negative impact of having someone yell in your face; it’s easier to say sorry. Also, many of our arguments have ended with a good laugh because an expletive ridden rant has been auto-corrected so every swear word is changed to ‘duck’ and ‘ducking’, which slightly undermines Rob’s expression of righteous outrage.
Recently I have shared two newsworthy events with Rob via text. One was seeking reassurance after I sent an email criticising my boss, to my boss.
The second was this:
It was a warm day. I couldn’t find anything to wear as I am currently between fat clothes from years ago but can’t quite get into my skinny clothes. I found an old, almost ankle length red silk skirt which I hadn’t worn for ages. I teamed it with a little black jumper and off I went to my spiritual home, Marks and Spencer’s.
As I was scanning the wine shelf trying to find the £5 bottles, I felt a distinct breeze.
My skirt had fallen off.
Not slipped to the hips.
Fell, with a silent and I would imagine dramatic swish to the ground, so I stood there, bare and proud in my black control bikini bottoms which luckily covered me from upper thigh to waist.
Oh God the shame, the shame.
Finally I also want to give a huge hoorah and thank you to the wonderful Claudette who writes the brilliant blog Writer of Words etc. She has written this fantastic post on women who have the urge to write, to share and to connect with other women who are battle scarred but not defeated, those with a zest for life and a wonderful sense of humour.
Claudette writes in this post, ‘see if we can collaborate on a new post, to see if we can find more people who are just like us: parents of older kids or empty nesters dealing with the next chapter: re-discovering who we moms are as individuals, and how to navigate the next milestone when those minions of ours move on into the teenage years and beyond.’
I am so up for this. So, yes, Claudette, let’s do something!