Articles

But I Like to Fight With My Wife

Staying happy though married presented no problems to the Allens while they fought and made up. But a marriage counselor almost wrecked their bliss

ROBERT THOMAS ALLEN June 15 1950
Articles

But I Like to Fight With My Wife

Staying happy though married presented no problems to the Allens while they fought and made up. But a marriage counselor almost wrecked their bliss

ROBERT THOMAS ALLEN June 15 1950

But I Like to Fight With My Wife

Articles

ROBERT THOMAS ALLEN

Staying happy though married presented no problems to the Allens while they fought and made up. But a marriage counselor almost wrecked their bliss

EVERY time I pick up a magazine these days I read about some marriage counselor having the phoniest conversation I have ever heard with a babe named Mrs. X. The counselor leans back, smiles mysteriously and says: “What makes you think your husband doesn’t love you just because he chases you around the house with an axe?”

The woman looks up, surprised, and says: “You mean, then, doctor, that both of us are focusing our emotions on a preformulated aspect of the husband-wife relationship, and that this is just a normal adjustment of our personality patterns?” “Exactly,” smiles the doctor.

He then tells her about the five phases of love and how she must give a lot of thought and attention to making her marriage work.

This new trade is getting altogether too brisk and I give fair warning that the first love psychologist, bride counselor, home surgeon or marriage mechanic I see prowling around my geraniums I’ll wrap my youngest child around his neck.

Until my wife started reading this sort of thing our marriage worked out fine. We separated every Sunday. We’d storm around in our dressing gowns,

pointing trembling fingers at one another and shouting: “I WARN YOU, I HAVE JUST

ABOUT REACHED THE END OF MY TETHER!” I’d order my wife out of the house. My wife would order me out of the house.

I’d peer balefully through my glasses, thinking: This is what I get after 15 years of fighting finance companies, waiting outside groceterias, and finding milk tickets stuffed among my income

tax receipts. I’d tell her she should have married a man who d have given her a licking every day. My wife would say she wished she’d married a man wbo co«/d lick her. I’d say: “Is that so! IS THAT

Wed stand at open doors taking deep breaths and thumb through the phone book looking for the numbers of travel agencies and divorce lawyers.

When we d finished we’d

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But I Like to Fight With My Wife

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feel a fine healthy glow and be ready for a cold shower and a rubdown. One of our kids would come in hollering that someone had hit her over the head with a wind-up toy or we’d suddenly remember that we had company coming. We’d pick up our marriage where we’d left off as if nothing had happened. In fact, we’d have a lot of fun reminding one another of the things we’d said.

“Well,” my wife would say as she began to make the beds, “I never realized that you’d given up a burning ambition to be the world’s greatest mountain climber just for me.” Or I’d call above the sound of my electric razor, “So I’ve got big feet, have I?”

There’s no reason why we couldn’t have gone on this way until we had to be propped up in our wheel chairs while we slugged one another with our shawls if the experts hadn’t started telling my wife how to bring harmony into the house.

For the past six months I’ve done everything but sneak up and cut the ends off my wife’s permanent and yell “My old man can lick your old man” to get her to fight, and all she does is smile patiently, look like Mrs. Miniver, and say: “Don’t you think, dear, we

could talk it over more sensibly in the morning?”

I don’t want to talk it over in the morning. I want to kick her around tonight; to be left dangling alone on the end of a bad mood leaves me feeling like an overtrained zombie.

No man can stand great stifling gobs of harmony. Domesticity is not a natural condition for a normal male; he was trapped into it about 10,000 years ago by the girls sprinkling seed around and ever since he has repressed an urge to wander off over the hills. The best he can do now is to thump around the house in his pyjama tops and a foul mood swatting kids and yelling: “Who’s been using my razor blades?” Take that away from him and what has he got?

Even if it were desirable, complete harmony, coming suddenly, is liable to strain a few tendons. Having someone in the family stop fighting without any warning is like expecting another step at the top of a dark staircase.

Marriage Is a Used Car

Some of the best fights my wife and I used to have were during motor trips. At one point of the trip we’d get out our route maps. I’d say, “We should take No. 6.” My wife would say, “We should take No. 33a.” I’d say, “I think you’re confusing No. 33a with that two-lane highway through Lettuceville, dear.” My wife would say, “I don’t think so, dear. The route through Lettuceville is No. 18.” Then I’d say: “All right! ALL RIGHT!

We’ll take 33a. We’ll take a balloon! We’ll take a submarine.”

I’d pound the steering wheel, usually making the horn stick, and let out a bellow that would make the kids drop their dolls in the back seat. “Okay! OKAY! We’ll do it your way and if we end up in a swamp you can figure out how to get out of it.”

We never ended up in a swamp. We would cut off five miles and strike a good motor court with a dining room where they served hot toddies. I’d feel a bit hungry after so much noise and my wife would feel so good about being right that she wouldn’t bring up my behavior until Christmas Eve.

But lately, just as I’m getting ready to swat the steering wheel and turn

where my wife tells me to, she gets that Is-he-overworked-am-I-showinghim-enough-affection look and says, “Of course, dear, you are probably right. Let’s try it your way.”

We always end up in a swamp and I have to turn around and back-track to No. 33a while my wife helps Her Husband Save Face and the kids say: “Why don’t you ever turn where Mummy tells you to, Daddy?”

Most marriages are something like used cars—leave them alone and they will perk along fine in spite of loose rings, noisy tappets, miscellaneous knocks and a lot of other reasons why they shouldn’t. But the minute you start fixing one thing everything else is thrown out of alignment.

My wife has always regarded a car as a shopping basket with a clutch. Mileages are measured by the distance between supermarkets and places where they sell seam binding. It’s caused some of our liveliest brawls.

Every year on the way to the cottage, we pass a certain little farmer’s stand on the left-hand side of the highway and my wife wants to stop for some celery hearts. It is the most unlikely looking place on the highway to make a left-hand turn. Thousands of other wives have talked their husbands into stopping there and the place looks as if someone has set up a carnival in the middle of the Indianapolis speed-

Just as I’m considering turning mv lights on to see through the dust my wife says, “Oh, there’s that little stand. Let’s get some celery hearts.”

If it were for a T-bone steak, a cold beer or a slice of cherry pie I could understand it, but to head into that melee for celery hearts seems like getting our sense of values mixed up.

I bare my two front teeth in an odd expression, look into space appealingly and whisper, “Why?”

My wife says, “Now, for heaven’s sake, don’t start that! How am I going to make supper if you don’t stop to let me buy some food.”

“I’ll go without celery hearts,” I say. “You are not the only one in the family,” my wife says.

For 15 years I’ve tried to get past this stand. I’ve never made it. This year when we came to it I simply gripped the steering wheel and yelped, “Well, hold your hats. Here we go for those 11*&?!! celery hearts.”

But my wife had been thinking: “Do I really want celery hearts or is it just an aggressive trait to conceal the fact that my father wanted me to be a boy?”

She said, “It’s really up to you, dear. Keep right on going if you think

It turned out even worse than the other years. I’d already started my turn and now I tried to change my mind. The scene was the same, except now I was backing through it. Transports, motorcycle cops and farmers’ trucks were roaring at me from every angle. The kids started to fight in the back seat. The air was full of dirt. Someone with a chrome rad with the personality of a praying mantis had been nuzzling me for the past five miles trying to get past. He honked. I rolled down the window and told him to drop dead. My wife thought I meant her and said, “Don’t you think, dear, we could talk it over more sensibly in the morning,” and Mary screamed, “Jane bit me!”

If I hear one love psychologist crack that this is the sort of thing that can be overcome by patience and mutual understanding I’ll part his hair with his stethoscope. It can be overcome only by getting to the cottage, finding a little cove down by the lake and doing

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setting-up exercises with a bottle

opener.

Being patient might be a good thing theoretically but in practice it often works out like one holdup man deciding to reform just as the other is scooping out the till. My wife and I used to occasionally entertain our friends by getting into fights while they sat around peering happily at their sandwiches. They’d think: “Well, we might have our troubles, but I guess we get along pretty good compared to some people.” It made us rather popular hosts. When they left, they’d say something like, “Well, Bob certainly had no reason to get so sore, but on the other hand she’s got a temper, that one ! I think it’s six of one and half a dozen of the other.”

Now it’s just six of one. We get whipping up a good scene when all of a sudden my wife begins to think: “Is he overly tired? Is he worried about finance? Am I really being an understanding wife?” She suddenly leaves me talking in a voice three octaves higher than normal and looking as if I’d spent too long in a hot bath while she smiles meekly, turns to one of our guests, and says: “Now, let’s hear

about your trip to Bermuda.”

It’s getting me a bad reputation. When my friends go home they say, “I know what I’d do with him. That poor woman, how she puts up with him.” I am known among my intimate friends as that beast.

Another thing, I used to have a certain amount of fun at cocktail parties finding a corner and exchanging swizzle sticks with some little blonde in blue glasses. My wife would think, “That bum is up to something and I’ll find what it is if I have to pour molasses in his electric razor.” It used to make me feel a bit of a dog.

Now she asks herself: “But have I any right to interfere. Am I being possessive?” She walks off like a true Woman of Today and finds some guy who looks like a foreign diplomat and who tells her that she is the type of girl he has been looking for and I am stuck with the blonde, whose idea of art, it turns out, is Margaret O’Brien in Technicolor and whose idaa of conversation goes: “So I came out with a spare in the third frame, then I got a strike in the fourth, then my boy friend got two strikes and I blew in the fifth.”

I realize suddenly that my love for my wife has not died, but I can’t find

Since science turned its restless microscopes and inexhaustible vocabulary on marriage it has been coming out with a lot of right answers to the wrong problem. It’s all very well to invent a couple of names and set up an imaginary problem about some guy named Peter and his wife Joan who keeps screaming with rage. It’s different when we’re dealing with real people. The wrong advice can be downright dangerous.

True Bliss Is for the Movies

One recent article suggested that a woman should show her husband that she is interested in his problems by pitching in and helping him whenever she can. “For instance,” it said, “if your husband has to change a tire you could make yourself useful by handing him tools.”

One of my wife’s girl friends tried this the other day when her husband got out to change a tire. Instead of staying in the back seat holding her hands over the kids’ ears she got out and handed him a valve lifter. She almost got decapitated by a tire iron. Her husband checked his swing just in time. He told her, “No, I don’t need

a *&$$ ! * ? valve lifter. I need a *&$?” rim wrench and I WISH YOU’D GET BACK IN THE *&?!xZ CAR WHILE I CHANGE THIS %$??% TIRE!”

All in all it looks as if science is going to do the same job with marriage as it did when it took over raising children, and if you ask me it would do better to keep on making things out of plastic and leave well enough alone.

Most people after 15 years of. marriage can’t disentangle love from a mutual desire to pay the gas bill. They love one another during sad scenes in

movies and when their little girl gets her first part in a play. In between they are too busy putting up storm windows to give it much thought.

Maybe it’s true that, during the first year of their marriage, Peter, who always wants his own way because of a secret resentment at not having been chosen leader of his wolf pack, and Joan, who wants her own way because of a passion for being tidy, will have a lot of fights and Joan will end up screaming with rage. But when they've had a couple of kids there’ll be so much else going on that a scream here or

there won’t be noticed. In the meantime, whenever Joan starts screaming, Peter, if he’s half a man, can wrap her up in a wet sheet and threaten to call the dogcatchers.

All over the continent men and women are throwing ash trays at one another, referring in scathing terms to each other’s lineage, sitting in frigid, harrowing silence broken only by the tick of a clock or the snick of knitting needles. It’s an old marriage custom. They’ll make out all right as long as they don’t start viewing marriage as another PROBLEM OF TODAY, -fa