What Are We Really Fighting About?

My husband and I have the distinction of probably being the only couple in America ever to have a knock-down, drag out argument about how people remove nose hairs.

I will pause here to let that sink in.

We had an argument over nose hairs.

We were deadly earnest about it, too.   We took our stands – plucking versus trimming – and neither of us would back down.

On the face of it, arguing about nose hairs is ridiculous.  But this argument is symptomatic of a larger issue that frequently pops up between two people swimming along in a relationship — any two people.

We argue with co-workers.  We argue with strangers.  But most of us argue most fiercely at home.  Mom and Dad, sister and brother, husband and wife – these arguments are a constant in most of our worlds.

Who squeezed the toothpaste from the middle?

Who left the dirty dishes in the sink?

Who left the toilet seat up?

Any one of these questions can lead to a thundering verbal battle.  Accusations fly faster than bullets, striking our opponent (who just 10 seconds ago was our loved one), wounding before our very eyes.  We argue with a ferocity that is frightening.  We argue without really thinking about why.

Back to the nose hairs.  My husband and I were deep into this topic, arguing loudly, vigorously, intensely.  Then, suddenly, one of us asked the other a telling question.  What would Martians say if they could lift the corner of our roof and listen in?

Not only did the argument end, we burst into laughter, holding our sides and wondering how we could have gotten so deeply angry over such a stupid topic.

We got a good laugh out of our ridiculous argument; we also got an insight that has saved us countless hours of bickering, backbiting and verbal abuse.  We learned why we were fighting.

Control.

We were arguing over control.  Who’s in charge here – me or you?  Who gets to rule the roost? Run the house?  Make the decisions?

We also learned that we share control; both of us are in charge.  We make decisions.  Now, when we are vergeof yet another stupid argument, we just ask one question – What would the Martians say?

Then we settle in with a cup of coffee and talk our way to the answer

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