The disagreement diaries

Posted May 30, 2011

The disagreement diaries

The average couple argues six times a week, according to a recent survey. Actually, I suspect it’s much more than this because men and women are worlds apart when it comes to how they interpret the same event – he’s on ‘planet thoughtless’, she’s on ‘planet sensitive’. 

I decided to use our own experiences as a couple and put this to the test. So we kept a separate diary of all our disagreements for a week and then compared notes. Is my husband’s view of events really that alien to mine?

Here’s what I learnt … …

Saturday
9.21 am
Me:
He’s been working round the clock and it’s our first real chance to catch up in over a week. However, he tells me at 9 o’clock this morning he’s arranged to meet up with some work colleagues for a drink and a sandwich in the pub. He’s then following this up by watching the Six Nations rugby. It’s a beautiful spring day - we could be DOING THINGS TOGETHER, like packing a picnic and spending the whole day at the coast. I feel I should be getting more attention. Yet when he asks me if I mind about his other commitments, I say no. Of course, I mean the opposite and am disappointed when he doesn’t guess this. 

Him:
I begin to apologise for waking up late as we want to get a lot of things done this morning. I needn’t have bothered as Karen is nowhere near converting her comatose condition into any level of consciousness and so she doesn’t hear me. When she eventually comes to, I mention about meeting up with the guys from work. I would have invited her too but it’s a bit of a boy’s day out. She doesn’t seem to mind though. 

Sunday 
10.13 am
Me:
He’s cooking scrambled eggs, bacon and mushrooms for breakfast. This is fine by me but does he have to use every saucepan and every utensil we possess?  I’m keeping the mess under control by tidying up as he goes along. He completely loses it. He tells me to get the hell out of his way. I say I’m only trying to help. 

Him:
I’ve taken on the role of cook in our house as a matter of self-preservation (her cooking is woeful). I still have recurring nightmares about the chicken casserole she ‘cooked’ for me when we first met. She got her timings wrong and the meat was raw in the middle. Frankly, I don’t know how I wasn’t poisoned! Karen now happily accepts the role of sous chef. In other words, she does the clearing up. After all our years together we’ve become a well-integrated team. Not any more. Karen has moved the clearing up process to the next level. I now can’t leave anything for longer than ten seconds without it being whipped away. She even tidies and cleans the cooking utensils WHILE I AM STILL USING THEM!!!.


3.26 pm
Me:
I offer to help tidy up his office. What a complete tip! I look in disgust at the pile of dirt in the middle of the floor, the discarded mug with fungus growing on it and the random heaps of books, papers and magazines scattered everywhere. “How can you possibly work in this mess?” I ask. He tells me to SHUT UP. He wants to know if I’m here to help or just criticise. I give him a withering look, then start cleaning and decluttering. He goes through the rubbish bags and picks things out again. I want to stuff him in a rubbish bag!! 

Him:
I want to clear some floor space in the office as Karen has been talking about needing somewhere to do her Pilates exercises and I want to surprise her. The floor clearing exercise should really be a simple matter of moving the various piles of vertical filing from the middle of the floor to the edges. Unfortunately Karen has volunteered to ‘assist’.  Before I know it, every carefully retained book, magazine and newspaper clipping is hovering over the mouth of a black bin bag. If I want to save anything I have to list the reasons why it is of crucial importance to some future project. What should be a 15 minute job turns into a 4 hour marathon!


Monday 
7.00pm
Me:
He’s off on a business trip to Moscow at the end of the week. He’s bought some new clothes to take with him. “Sorry, can you turn up my trousers?” he asks. Then he swans off to dinner with clients at The Ivy. “Sorry” is not enough. I feel I should be promised a treat in return considering:
a)  He’s dining at The Ivy and I’m left at home
b) I hate sewing
c) Before he leaves he tells me to make the stitches smaller this time????!!!!

Him:
In advance of the Moscow trip I needed to buy a pair of trousers because something tragic appears to have happened to my waistline after Christmas. Anyway, as always when I ask Karen to do something that I know she hates, I introduce my request with an apology. I do this automatically as a result of my previous experiences. Earlier requests for assistance with tailoring matters are received with a rolling of eyes and a sign of such despair it’s almost heartbreaking. Respite tonight because I’m going for drinks at The Ivy.


Tuesday 
8.45 pm
Me:
We’re chatting over dinner in a restaurant. I flip out when he says he may have to work part of the long Easter Bank Holiday because he has a tight deadline to hit. Our street is planning a party on the day of the royal wedding and we’re contributing by cooking food (his job!) and helping to set things up. My voice is getting shrill and people are starting to glance in our direction. I expect an apology for mucking up this special weekend (everyone else will be relaxing and having fun) but I don’t get one. “It’s not my fault; it’s work,” is all he says. I’ve heard this before!! So he’ll be cooped up in his office in the house while everyone else in the street is out celebrating.

Him:
I suggest a meal out. It’s a further attempt to salve my conscience. Karen appears to still be smarting from my Moscow news so I try and divert the conversation to the Easter holiday when I only have to work one day out of the whole holiday period which is a real result. Unfortunately this tactic backfired as she inexplicably became more wound up. 


Wednesday
6.50pm
Me:
I have just tripped over his cycling gear, which is piled in the middle of the kitchen floor, for the third time today. This is his latest fad and he’s gone totally OTT with the amount of equipment he’s buying. I am now having to circumnavigate a helmet, pair of gloves, shorts, top, waterproof jacket, shoes, bicycle pump, heart monitor???? and backpack.  He hasn’t even bought the bike yet!!! I ask him where he’s thinking of storing all this crap. He rolls his eyes and walks out.

Him:
Karen has been commenting recently about my expanding waistline so she’s pleased when I decide to take up cycling. I’m lucky to work with a group of enthusiastic cyclists who are happy to advise me on all the gear I need. The kit is a bit expensive but if you are going to encase your bum in cycling shorts then you have to make sure it is top quality.  Of course the same goes for the tops, outer weatherproof shells and cycling shoes. I can tell Karen is impressed; she didn’t expect cycling clothes to be quite so stylish.


Thursday
9.13pm
Me:
He’s just asked me if I fancy going cycling with him. Says it’s a great way to burn off the calories. OMG. He thinks I’m fat!!! 

Him:
I ask Karen if she would like me to get her a bike too. Then we could go cycling together. I know she’ll enjoy it because she’s often said she loved to cycle everywhere when she was at college. She says it really helped her to keep in shape. I think she’s quite touched that I’ve remembered. In fact, she looks a bit teary eyed.

12.37pm
Me:
I am just dozing off.  Robert comes in, switches the lights on and starts rummaging noisily through the wardrobe. He’s trying to find something to wear tomorrow. Why does he always leave this until last thing at night? When he finally comes to bed he then proceeds to read for half an hour. All I can hear is the constant flicking of magazine pages being turned. Eventually I grab the magazine from him and make him switch the light off. He falls asleep straight away; I’m now wide awake. I want to scream. 

Him:
Karen tells me I have a habit of ‘footering’ around last thing at night instead of coming straight to bed. So I try hard not to disturb her as I look for clothes to wear tomorrow. I thought she had already nodded off but it turns out she was awake.


Friday 
11.12am
Me:
Hubby is working from home today; I am too. He asks me to call him when I fancy a coffee break. Which I do. However, when he arrives in the kitchen, he complains that I haven’t even put the kettle on.  He says he has no time to waste, he’s extremely busy. Yet he’s the one who wanted me to call him in for a break. Why is it up to me to put the bloody kettle on? I’m not a skivvy! Or his PA!! 

Him:
I’m working from home today which I always enjoy as it gives us time to share lunch and coffee breaks. However, it is still a full working day which Karen fails to appreciate as she operates on a more unstructured timetable (i.e. none). Today this results in an invite down for coffee and yet when I arrive there is no coffee. Karen is arranging some flowers in a vase. I ask her why she’s called me in when she hasn’t even put the kettle on. Time is literally money for me and yet somehow I get the feeling I should be apologising for the situation. However, I hold firm and none is given.

1.05pm
Me:
He’s gone to the supermarket. He says he needs to get some stuff that I forgot to include on the weekly shopping list. Excuse me? The only time I ‘forget’ to put something on the list is if he doesn’t mention it in the first place. Anyway, why am I the one who has to remember everything? I tell him I’m fed up having to organise the house and him. 

Him:
I’ve nipped into town to pick up a bouquet of flowers for Karen. It’s our wedding anniversary today. I think she’s forgotten all about it!! 


Saturday
10:23 am
Me:
I can’t believe I forgot our wedding anniversary. I’m feeling really guilty today. I’m thinking about what I can do to make things up when he comes storming in from the garden and starts ranting incoherently at me. I manage to piece together that I’ve done a really stupid thing. He tells me it’s very serious. I’m starting to get alarmed. I’m wondering if I’ve left the keys in the front door overnight ….. again. Thankfully, I haven’t. Bizarrely, it’s to do with the garden tap. I don’t know what he’s going on about but I assure him I won’t do it again.

Him:                                                                                                                                              Is there such a thing as middle aged dementia? If there is then I think Karen is suffering from it. She turned the garden tap on full last night when she watered the plants and left it running. I think it’s been pumping out water for 14 hours. She doesn’t seem to grasp that she could have flooded the house.  She’s a total liability!


4.32pm
Me:
Robert’s off on his trip for five days first thing tomorrow morning so I want to make the most of our time together. It’s a beautiful day. We’re sharing a meal in the back garden and playing our favourite songs. Bliss! I pop into the kitchen to refill our wine glasses but when I come back he’s nowhere to be seen. I wait for 45 minutes. I’m livid. He’s SPOILT EVERYTHING. 

Him:
Today I cooked us a really tasty BBQ meal, even if I say so myself. We’ve been chilling out and enjoying the unseasonably warm weather. As it’s been so dry I thought I’d better water our front garden (I don’t trust Karen with the tap while I’m away). Anyway, I bumped into some neighbours I haven't had a chance to get to know. They invited me in and gave me a quick guided tour of their very nice house. And they’ve asked us both to dinner next weekend. I think Karen will appreciate this. And yet, on my return, I am subjected to a series of terse, clipped responses. I have no idea what’s brought about this mood change.


It’s the end of the week and we can’t wait to read each other’s diaries. Oh dear!!! We obviously have very different views on … … well, everything really!  So what can we learn from our experience? 


Me: 
It appears that I’m very quick to fly off the handle and think in terms of the worst case scenario. Maybe that’s why our tiffs flare up so suddenly. But they never amount to anything too serious. In fact, I think they add a bit of spice to our marriage. Who wants a partner who agrees with everything you say? I don’t! Reading the diaries has made me appreciate how demanding Robert’s job is. He’s constantly working to deadlines. However, his job shouldn’t take precedence over our relationship so I’d really like us to enjoy more leisure time together. I also don’t think he appreciates what I do around the house; it would be nice if he helped out more. 

Him:
My first impression is that Karen needs to chill out more. What I consider trivial, she sees in a much harsher light. On the other hand, maybe I need to be more open about what I’m thinking. Then she wouldn’t misread my intentions so much. I’ll also try to be tidier (honest!) Reading the diaries has made me realise how much my work spills over into home life. I’m going to try to get a better balance on this. I also take it for granted that Karen will sort out most of the domestic chores - I could chip in a bit more than I do at the moment.  

 

May 2011 Copyright Karen McKibbin
 

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