I was watching a story on the news the other night about a couple who were celebrating their 70th wedding anniversary. The interviewer asked them what advice they would give to newlyweds.
"Never let the sun go down on your anger," the woman answered. Her husband nodded sagely, agreeing. And then he added, "Hold hands when you fight."
My response: Oh, bloody bullshit.
I have heard those pieces of idiotic advice more than once and I have never agreed with them.
I think this only works when you have two people of the exact same temperaments.
This does not work for Bing and I.
We were raised in families that were like night and day. Bing grew up in the deep south. Her father died when she was a baby, leaving her mother with 4 children ages 3, 2 and 1. (Bing has a twin brother. They were 2 years old when her father died.) Her mother cleaned houses to earn a living. They were dirt poor. Her mother was bi-polar and undiagnosed. Bing grew up in a family where her mother was a staunch believer that if you spared the rod, you spoiled the child. She could make a family dinner by the age of eight. She did her own laundry too. She is the most self sufficient person I have ever met.
Bing's family is alarmingly frank. They simply do NOT understand the meaning of the word tact. They say exactly what they think and damn the torpedoes. I have been at more family dinners at her mother's house (she ended up moving here several years ago) where I was convinced that the people fighting would either end up dead or maimed. And then they hugged and kissed goodbye. It was as if that terrible fight where she called him a dick and he said she was a bitch in front of all of us had never happened.
Bing has a short fuse. She gets angry easily, vents it and lets it go. She says what she thinks. If you ask her if that dress makes you look fat and it does, she will say so. She is honest to a fault and like the rest of her family, seems unable to self censor.
I both love this and detest this at the same time. And she will be the first to tell you that I am giving her a crash course in tact and simple social manners.
I, on the other hand, grew up in a very devout Irish Catholic family. We prayed over all meals, before bed and just whenever one of my parents felt like it. They felt like it a lot. I have three sisters and we were not allowed to argue or even raise a voice to each other. If we did, we were sent to our rooms where we were instructed to write ten things that we loved about the sister we were fighting with. We could not come out until we did this. And then we had to hug and apologize. Our home was not only tidy, it was very mannerly and extremely quiet and serene.
Well, on the surface anyway.
I was the kind of child who could knock off ten things that I loved about my sister on one sheet of paper and then secretly write ten truly sinister, wicked traits of theirs in my diary. It helped with the pent up anger.
But, the result is that I do not know how to fight properly and Bing does it too easily and with little tact or grace.
We are very, very different.
If I had to make up after a fight before I could go to sleep, I would stubbornly force myself to stay awake for days. Bing is fine with making up. In fact, ten minutes after she has had a hissy fit over some dumb thing, she will come sniffing up to me to make up. She has since learned that while she is usually ready, I need time and space.
Here is an example:
One night last week, Bing called me from work to say that she had to keep several kids after school, so she would be late going to the gym for her daily work out and not to expect her for dinner. I said okay.
I figured that this was a perfect time for Liv to bake her plate for Bing. Liv had purchased a porcelain plate at Goodwill and then bought some porcelain paints at the local paint store. She painted Bing's plate, but it needed to bake for a half hour to set the paint. So, she and I stuck it in the oven and were sitting and eating cream of wheat for dinner.
Bing came through the back door looking mad as hell.
Turns out she had forgotten her gym bag and therefore had to skip the gym and ride the stationary bike in the basement instead. She was crabby; it didn't take a genius to figure that out.
I told her not to peek in the oven as her gift from Liv was in there. Liv sat beaming at the kitchen table at her.
And Bing said, "Please tell me that you didn't make a big mess in that oven. I just cleaned it last week."
I glared at her and told her that of COURSE we didn't make a mess.
Bing then went to the kitchen sink for a glass of water and commented that the sink was dirty. I told her that I would clean it out after Liv and I were finished with dinner. She sighed and got out the Comet cleanser.
"I know how you clean. I'll just do it...." she said. She didn't notice that I was shooting her a heated look. We have a recurring argument that I don't get things clean enough. I think I clean just fine.
She then went to throw something away in the trash and that was it. Her temper flared.
"God! Would it KILL YOU to empty the trash before it is overflowing?" she half shouted at me.
That did it for me too, but I am always very careful not to argue in front of Liv. I just won't do it. So, I went up to her and said very, very quietly that she had told me to please not empty the trash anymore. I was emptying it too often and "wasting paper bags."
Bing is very green. She is a champion at recycling.
Bing sighed and said, "Fine. Never mind. Don't lift a damn finger. I'll just do it."
She muttered something else that I couldn't hear. I glanced at Liv who had carefully sidled out of her chair and headed to the living room to watch television.
I ended up following Bing to the bedroom where she was changing into her workout shorts.
I hissed at her. Told her that she was mad because she forgot her gym bag and decided to take it out on me and she could just stop this shit right now. That I wasn't her dog to kick when she came home. I told her that making a snotty remark about the oven when Liv had her Christmas gift baking in there was tactless and rude. And then I told her to stay clear of me for awhile. If I had felt forced to hold her hand while I was saying all of this, I probably would have sunk my nails into it.
I stalked out.
She stalked down to the basement to ride the bike. She cranked up her music so loudly that it was pulsating in my feet as I walked across the kitchen, tidying up. I took Liv's plate out of the oven and she and I admired it. I put it on the back porch to cool off.
I read to Liv and put her to bed. Bing came back upstairs and I could tell by her face that she had seen the error of her ways and wanted to cozy up.
NO WAY, RAY.
See...she had cooled off. She was mad, she vented, and then it was over.
Not me. While she was riding her bike, I was silently seething as I had learned as a child. I am a master at holding it in.
Bing tried to talk to me twice. Twice I ignored her. She wisely backed off.
We didn't sleep together that night. Bing also knew not to even try to get in that bed with me. She slept in the guest room. Luckily, we do this occasionally. If Liv is sick, she sleeps with me and Bing sleeps in the guest room. If one of us has a cold, we sleep in the guest room. If I snore (this is a wicked falsehood....Bing says that I sometimes snore. I DO NOT. No. Absolutely not.), Bing will sleep in the guest room. If her RLS (restless leg syndrome) kicks up, I will sleep in the guest room rather than wake up because she has slapped her hand over my face like a dead fish or kicked me hard in her sleep.
Liv doesn't know that we also sleep separately when we argue. Or maybe she does. I guess I don't know. I only know that it isn't unusual for us to sleep alone sometimes.
The next morning, before work, Bing came in and apologized, said that yes, she HAD been mad about her gym bag and overreacted, etc and that she would make a big happy fuss around Liv and try to guess what had been in the oven. She said, "Can we start the day fresh and kiss good morning?"
Yes, we could.
But, I am telling you right now, I had not been ready to make up the night before. I had to sleep it off a bit. Time and space work wonders for me.
So, I am not keen on the arguments for holding hands when fighting and not letting the sun go down on your anger.
What do you think? Yea or Nay?