I just read this article on the scientific studies around creating and maintaining a happy and healthy relationship: http://www.businessinsider.com/lasting-relationships-rely-on-2-traits-2014-11 It doesn’t say anything I haven’t seen before: there was a media hoorah about micro-expressions a year or two ago as predictors of marital harmony, and they too found the connection between discord and initial reactions of disgust/criticism, and harmony with reactions of fondness, where your reaction to your partner was hardwired into positive or negative lines which could be used to predict the longevity of your relationship.
It amused me though, as it made me think of how a recent turmoil in my house was resolved.
See, the toilet in our bathroom is broken, in that you have to reach into the cistern and tweak the mechanism a little before it will refill after flushing. This is annoying, and we will fix it once we have a spare afternoon, but it is still functional. It does increase the chance that someone will use the toilet and find themselves stranded with no water, then having to awkwardly wait while it refills. I got stranded a number of times, and was starting to get irritated with Pea for not courteously refilling after flushing. A few days after I had started to get resentful about being the only one ever bothering to refill the cistern, Pea stepped out of the bathroom after a prolonged visit, and mentioned he had had to wait to fill the bowl. He did so in a tone of semi-resigned resentment which implied he was bringing it up because he’d had to do it so often he was now irritated with me, and was gently chastising me.
My instincts are to get defensive when chastised. I’d been running up a tally of annoyance on this issue already, and was near to the point where I’d be picking a fight about it (being decidedly more volatile than Pea, this was unlikely to come in the form of a gentle reminder of inconvenience).
Here’s why this is a happy story: I am hardwired to treat Pea well and to believe him. For him to use even a slightly disappointed or antagonistic tone means he was ALSO running a tally of annoyance, which is very rare. So I took him seriously. My instinct was to get angry in retaliation, but I gave it a moment first. And in less than a second, realized the problem. Our toilet also leaks. We were BOTH conscientiously refilling the bowl, but nonetheless finding ourselves stranded any time there was a lapse of time between visits. I blurted out my revelation, coupled to a non-rancorous “I keep getting stranded too, and I’ve always been refilling it!”. Pea’s brow cleared, and he grinned, and that was that. We agreed to only fill as necessary, so as to avoid wasting water in this drought-ridden city.
Really, the moral is we should fix our stupid toilet, and we shall. However, I am pleased we remain hard-wired into lines of affection and respect, especially as it was our five year anniversary yesterday which we both forgot about til lunch time. Flowers from Pea and a blueberry tart from me rounded out a leftover pizza dinner in celebration, which was perfect.