Relationships

A Funny Thing That Happens in Relationships

A Surprising Part of Relationships

Are you in a long-term relationship? I’ve realized something…

I’ve been dating my boyfriend Andrew for seven years, and we’ve officially exchanged every story of our lives and the lives of anyone we’ve ever known. With years, comes comfort, and with comfort, comes an embarrassing dynamic that I wouldn’t trade for anything. We interrupt one another, steal food off each other’s plates and spar over things like the merits of Dijon mustard and our sleep schedules. And who doesn’t? But for our friends’ sanity (and ours), we’ve learned to keep these quarrels happily contained in our 175-square-foot studio apartment.

When I was reading ‘Company Man,’ in David Sedaris’s latest collection of essays, he explained this hilarious dynamic with his boyfriend, Hugh:

    “Guests usually take the train from London, and before we pick them up at the station, I remind Hugh that for the duration of their visit, he and I will be playing the role of a perfect couple. This means no bickering and no contradicting each other. If I am seated at the kitchen table and he is standing behind me, he is to place a hand on my shoulder right on the spot where a parrot would perch if I were a pirate instead of the ideal boyfriend. When I tell a story he has heard so often he could lip sync it, he is to pretend to be hearing it for the first time and to be appreciating it as much or more than our guests are. I’m to do the same and to feign delight when he serves something I hate, like fish with little bones in it.”

I was laughing out loud. How true is that? And it feels good! Of course, you can’t always keep it together the whole evening/weekend/trip. “I really blew it a few years back when his friend Sue came for the night,” wrote Sedaris. “‘She knows too much.'”

What about you? Does this ring true to you, too?

P.S. How you know your partner is the one, and funny marriage pet peeves.

(Photo by Suzanne Opton/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images.)

  1. ironically this is the best thing of being in a long term relationship where both partners correct each other without getting upset even if there are people around because they have an understanding that neither one is trying to put down the other it is such a beautiful feeling to have that kind of understanding with your partner

  2. Lauren E. says...

    My husband and I like to recite the Chris Rock joke to each other.

    “And they’re like, ”Remember that time?”
    ”Yeah, l remember that time!”
    ”l ever tell you about–”
    ”Yeah, you told me about that time! Stop telling me the same shit over and over again! Why don’t you go out and get kidnapped, have some new shit happen to you?”

    • Babur says...

      :D

  3. Danielle says...

    My husband and I have been married for almost 11 years with 2 kids. All of our friends are in similar scenarios, and a couple of years ago, we went on a couple’s trip to Napa Valley.

    It was a day we had rented a van with a driver and he had planned an amazing itinerary for us. We could all drink and relax, and no one had to drive. It was a great day and we were all having the best time. At our last stop, one of our couple friends got into a small tiff. It wasn’t a big deal, but by the time we were back on the van and heading back to the hotel, they were screaming and cursing at each other. There was no where to go and no escaping it. It was absolutely horrible. However, unfortunately not out of the ordinary for these 2. They don’t care whose around and who is uncomfortable by their behavior.

    The fight went on and on that night, to the point where they ate dinner separately. The next morning however, they were acting like nothing happened.

    My husband and I actually considered it a cautionary tale. We made a vow not to ever do that in front of people, no matter how mad we get.

  4. Cris says...

    I feel so lonely

  5. Ashley says...

    I read that excerpt in David Sedaris’ voice from hearing him so many times!

  6. To be completely honest, I can’t imagine pretending to have the perfect relationship for the sake of keeping up public appearances (not even if my partner’s in on it)… It sounds unbelievably exhausting instead of fun / humorous. Kind of makes me glad my Husband and I actually have a baseline relationship like that in our every day as is- no pretending necessary XD

  7. Hannah says...

    We’re about to move in together and one of my greatest fears (both of us coming from divorced families) is the familiarity. What a sweet way to think of it – I’ve loved reading all the comments! I recently visited him at his office to meet for lunch and all his coworkers made a point to tell me how awesome they think he is or tell a personal story of how he helped them out at one point. Such a wonderful reminder of the caliber of person I’ve been lucky to find.

  8. The other night I said to my husband “Do I look like someone familiar?” He frowned and looked me over then laughed and took a photo. I’m slowly turning into him and his tragic home uniform: vintage sweater, sweatpants, ankle socks and Adidas slides. Send help.

    • Sadie says...

      This is so cute.

  9. mindi says...

    Oh my gosh, I loved this essay (just finished the book) and laughed out loud, as I usually do when reading Sedaris.

    Not on the bickering point, but on relationships and knowing all your partner’s stories: my partner and I have been together for 14 years, married for almost 3. Tonight I was telling him about how excited I was that the new Halloween movie was coming out, and I was gushing about Jamie Lee Curtis…when he said, “You know, I don’t really love horror movies.”

    Record. Scratch. Wait, what?

    I flashed through my memories, like a scene from an M. Knight Shyamalan movie where the heroin is piecing together what happened over the movie, and ohmygosh, it’s not what she thought. My husband clarified: “Well, the slasher kind.” I love horror films, and realized that although we have watched hours of true crime, and suspense, and even some paranormal (I think?! My memory feels so fragile) …we have never, ever watched a slasher film together. Sometimes there are still things left in your relationship that surprise you.

  10. Claire says...

    My husband and I do not bicker, we tease each other which is probably more passive aggressive (?) but bickering is something that makes me SUPER uncomfortable. My best friend and her husband bicker and if I get stuck in a room with them I will inevitably burst out “YOU HAVE TO STOP THIS. I AM SO UNCOMFORTABLE” and they look at me like I’m nuts. She told me once it was how her parents talk to each other, so she sees it as totally normal. I can’t. I’d rather I witness a full on brawl then listen to two people just take jabs at each other over and over and over again.

    • Grace says...

      I totally agree. My parents used to have little jabs at each other that would inevitably culminate in blow out, knock down fights (usually around the time one of us kids were about to sit for major exams!) so it was an incredibly stressful environment to grow up in. As a result as an adult I made a conscious decision to find a relationship that was diametrically opposite of that and it’s been like a balm to my soul. It’s not that my husband and I never get on each other’s nerves — we just take a break and walk away when emotions run high and revisit sensitive topics when we’re calmer. Usually this results in us making fun of each other’s foibles in a way that makes us laugh while also getting the point across. A win-win, in my book ?? I don’t think we’ve ever fought in front of friends — I think it’s important to maintain your partner’s “face” in front of others so as not to embarrass them or make them feel small.

  11. Court says...

    My husband and I have a code word. If he says something inappropriate, a topic is brought up that we don’t want to discuss, if we both want to leave a gathering but it isn’t time yet, pretty much anytime we are in the company of others and we go borderline not-perfect, we say, “CACTUS!” and the other person gets in line. It always works.

    • Monte Avi says...

      Us too! Our code phrase is “the cat”. Anytime we’d like to nip a not-for-public conversation, we ask “What about the cat?” or “Do you think that cat is okay?” It also works as code for “Help, rescue me from this conversation/obligation I am too polite or don’t know how to exit.”

    • Karinny says...

      Love this!!!

    • Cheyenne says...

      My boyfriend and I have a word too! It’s “waffle”. When we’re out in public and feeling uncomfortable, sick, anxious, etc. or if we start arguing and it gets a little out of hand we say waffle to secretly let the other one know that “I understand you and I’m here for you/can we discuss this later in private?”

  12. My husband and I are so wildly opposite of each other that I invariably find out something new about him when we’re around our friends. It’s both funny and horrifying that after (almost 15!!!) years together, I both know him exquisitely & don’t know him at all… But it keeps things interesting, for sure.

    On the other hand, there are moments when we’re so in synch that I get ahead of him in a conversation & get giddy about the story he’s about to tell–because I know it by heart.

    And I like sharing him with other people, this person that I picked–and that I choose over & over again every single day.

    • Natalie says...

      This is one of the most beautiful things I have ever read about love

  13. Rachel says...

    The first few years that my husband and I were together, we were so in love that I thought our bickering was witty banter. I wouldn’t hesitate to go after him for something in front of our friends. I thought it was funny and charming. It makes me blush now to think of it. It took me years to realize that no one outside of the relationship wants to see that. I felt like I was showing how much I loved him by returning to our well worn disputes. It was a familiar, comforting place for us. But our friends didn’t understand that. To them it was just uncomfortable and weird. I have resolved not to do it any more (with moderate success)

    • Anastasia says...

      YES – early on my husband and I would do this too, you’re right it felt like a comfortable place of banter/bickering. Not only did we realize it made others uncomfortable, but we realized it was a fine line between the two and after a while we would often cross into actually arguing about something trivial. So we made a silly code word whenever we need to remind bad each other to cut it out!

    • Robin says...

      Oh goodness this reminds me of when I was 14 and met my boyfriend’s grade school friends for the first time. He’s now my husband – it’s been a loooong time. I was trying to be flirtatious and cool and cute and play slapped him as part of exactly this kind of couple’s dispute over nothing. Not cute. At all. Twenty five years later, I still cringe. I never saw most of those kids again. Hopefully they don’t remember me as that terrible girl their friend ended up MARRYING. But if they did I couldn’t blame them. Ugh. I don’t love some aspects of getting older, but at least I’m not a teenager any more!

  14. Kate says...

    I used to find myself in a bad mood almost every time my husband and I were visiting my family- it seemed like everyone was always picking on me! I realized in trying to ingratiate himself to my parents, he was using their common denominator (me) plus what he thought was funny criticism. My parents do this a lot too. I had a talk with him and told me it made me feel bad even if he was kidding. I often remind him before family events to avoid making fun of me and criticizing me in front of others and he’s gotten a lot better.

    • Alice says...

      Ha, I have had many, many boyfriends do this to me! My family are a family of teasers- they won’t really tease new people, but we WILL tease each other, and everyone else piles on. Generally it’s fine, but there have been times when family members have gone too far and boyfriends have laughed along and I’ve got really upset. Glad I’m not the only one who has people like this in her life!

  15. I wish I could send this to a couple I know… They were so rude and mean to each other in front of me so often that I had flashbacks to my own fraught childhood (“Mom! Dad! Stop fighting!”) I had to stop being friends with them. I miss their kids and frankly, feel sorry for them. :(

  16. sarah says...

    I love watching other couples bicker!! This is part of what I love about my own relationship with my husband — we have a rhythmic banter that creates a little bit of friction, adding depth and heat to our relationship. Of course full- blown fights in front of others are not ok, but some bickering (as long as it’s not constant) is fine. Couples who are always too polite to each other seem dull to me, and I’m always wondering, “What are they hiding?”

  17. Ann says...

    So so true! And when couple friends don’t do this for each other and constantly contradict or roll their eyes, it makes everyone uncomfortable. Also, I LOVE David Sedaris and laugh at everything he writes. Honestly, how did he work a pirate into this paragraph?! Whenever I come across someone who hasn’t read his books, I am so jealous and tell them to run not walk to get them!

  18. GFY says...

    I love this idea as a practice because everything I’ve read on relationships that last says that kindness to each other is THE reason why they stay together forever. It’s like the practice of grace and I want that in my life .

  19. Anna says...

    Okay, this reminds me of when I was a sophomore in college, and my apartment-mate (we had a two-bedroom) and her boyfriend would bicker like I WASN’T EVEN THERE. He was over constantly, and they really brought out the worst in each other. I was raised in very much a kind words family, and they blew my mind DAILY.

    The kicker was one night that started, ominously, by him being pissed off that dinner wasn’t ready when he came over around 8. Yikes. I left to go to the library for the night, and when I came back close to midnight, there was still this air of tension in the apartment. I was in my room, getting ready for bed, but I could hear every word because the walls were paper-thin. He asked if she had a toenail clipper, she said yes, I heard his footsteps going down the hall and then coming back…

    A few minutes later, I heard her whisper-scream “Whatareyoudoing????” And it quickly became crystal clear that he was clipping his toenails and then EATING THEM at the kitchen table. Like…to spite her.

    Her, whisper-screaming: “Stop that!! Stop that!! That is disgusting!”
    Him, normal volume, smarmily: “Are you calling my feet disgusting?”
    Her: “Yes!! Who knows where those things have been!!!!!!”
    Him: “……” (eating his toenails)
    Her: “Spit it out! Spit it out! Spit it out!”

    The next day I could not get it off my mind. Could not. But then when I saw her that afternoon, hoping to ask her what the hell was going on, she acted like nothing had happened!!!! I asked her how she was doing and she was totally chirpy, saying that she and her boyfriend were about to go on an awesome date to a comedy show. wtf!!!! Clearly I still can’t get it off my mind.

    The whole incident was so funny, in a horrifying sort of way, but it also bummed me out. I was never worried for her safety or anything, but their relationship just made me sad (still makes me sad–they are living together, with him probably being a boring jerk, while she is clearly brilliant as she’s going through an MD-PhD program!!! grrrrrrrrrrrr). No idea if she reads Cup of Jo, hope she doesn’t read this. Or maybe I do. Dump him, girl!!!!

    • Anna C says...

      LOL

    • Maria says...

      I had the same roommate back when I have just started working. She and her boyfriend would fight over the small things, like him not replying to her text immediately or not buying the thing she specifically asked him to. Next time you see them, they’re sweet to each other as if nothing happened. It’s so awkward especially if these bickering and fights happen during special occasions like summer outings and birthdays.

    • Rainbow says...

      OMG, Anna!

      Yes, DUMP HIM! You are awesome! And he…eats his own toenails to spite you.

    • Sarah H says...

      Yikes!

    • Luli says...

      This is hilarious! I hope she dumps him, too!!

    • Abbe says...

      HE ATE HIS OWN TOENAILS?! Absolutely not. I could never kiss a person again after witnessing that. Dump him girl!!

  20. a. says...

    Sometimes it really helps my 10ish year relationship to be around other people in that way that David is describing…. it reminds me that my husband can be really thoughtful and a great listener, and always puts everyone at ease. It’s not that things are awful in every day life, by any stretch, but familiarity wears you down and seeing him through someone else’s eyes is so sweet! It brings me back to all the reasons I was attracted to him in the first place, many of which are hard to remember when I’m tripping over his quickly-discarded work shoes for the millionth day in a row :)

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      YES! i agree so much. sometimes i look over the table to see alex telling a funny story and am like MAN he is funny and cute! vs when i’m at home and annoyed at his snoring etc :)

    • Joy says...

      My husband and I celebrated our 10th anniversary a couple of months ago, and I can so relate to this. Our son arrived two years ago — so, late in our relationship — and seeing my husband as a father has helped me see him in a fresh and flattering perspective all over again. He is patience on a monument with our toddler and insanely gifted at the parent jiu-jitsu while I’m — let’s just say that patience is not my forte — and I am so grateful for him all over again, for making me laugh and keeping me sane.

    • Alex says...

      Totally agree!!! Actually, when we are angry at each other after a fight, a visit often helps to ease out the atmosphere and get us into a better mood and eventually make it up :)

    • Barbara Jane says...

      THIS! I love my husband so much, but for some reason when I see him in that super-charming “entertainer” mode, telling stories and jokes to friends, I am reminded why I fell in love with him in the first place. He’s funny! And sweet! And generous! And his smile! It’s so different than how we are at home, doing our chores, chasing the kiddo, and complaining about work/how tired we are!

  21. Kara says...

    David Sedaris is so good! “She knows too much.” ?

    I could write a novel on bickering because my husband and I are bickerers…. always have been and likely always will be. We both love to debate, he loves getting a rise out of people, I’m a know-it-all. I could try to act in front of others like we’re not this way, but my husband is an honest-to-a-fault person, he’d think it was crazy. That being said, if we don’t know people well, they won’t see this side of us, just like they won’t see many other parts of our personalities.

    Two other thoughts (guess I will write a novel ha!): 1) My sister was visiting when I was pregnant with my second and in the throes of terrible twos with my first. My husband and I went from bickering to straight up fighting in front of her. She later said to me that she was discussing a theory on stages of marriage with a psychologist friend, and one of those stages is called “misery.” “It often comes when your children are young,” she finished. What a sweet (and hilarious) way to tell me that we weren’t alone in our behavior! Also I still LOL when thinking about it. MISERY.
    2) We recently re-watched The Office, and during the last season we kept turning to each other and saying, “how have Jim and Pam not discussed this?? How have they not talked or argued about it??” At least the good thing about being bickerers is that you always air out your stuff and know what your partner is feeling and thinking. (Not that non-bickerers don’t of course! I’m sure there are much calmer ways to discuss your feelings with your partner;))

    • Valeria says...

      Ahahahah MISERY!

    • Stella Blackmon says...

      Kara, I love all of this so, so much. Hahahaha.

    • molly says...

      Me and my husband are bickerers all the way. It would feel inauthentic if both of us were to “pretend” in front of friends and family. They are friends/family because they like who we are, as we are. Plus neither of us could pretend for that long :)

    • lamcal says...

      Great post. We are married 40 years this Sunday. We have that bicker style. We are both “oldest” from big families and we live by “you are not the the boss of me.” Constant negotiation and debate…and lots of laughs, love and affection. Yes, it does drive others crazy, but we are happy and looking forward to our next 40 years. It does drive our kids a bit nuts too, but they have the right and responsibility to figure out their own relationships. We should all tend our own fields and stop comparing. Life can be way to short for all of that.

    • Alex says...

      Thank you, I love this. Yes, my relationship is in a stage of MISERY right now (3 yo daughter ;). Also, my husbands hates to confront or quarrel with me and it makes me mad, I never know what´s going on in his head!!!

    • Angela says...

      I relate with this so much!

      We joke that we’re petty AF because we’ll debate about the most ridiculous of details (no we ordered x at the restaurant last time). But rarely fight about the big things (anymore…after 7 years of marriage & some counseling of course). Our friends all know us so well and are either similar or just feel super comfortable being around us, but for those we aren’t as familiar with we try and keep our petty moments to a minimum

      And the comment about misery makes me laugh. We’ve seen my sister & brother-in-law go through it and we just had our first baby a few months ago. We’re trying to be super aware knowing what we’re getting ourselves into, haha!

  22. Cynthia says...

    We’ve been married for 40 years and sometimes we bicker but we get it ironed out. I don’t always agree with him and he doesn’t always agree with me but that’s life. I think the longer you are with someone, the more you mellow
    out.

  23. Cynthia says...

    We’ve been married for 40 years and sometimes we bicker but we get it ironed out. I don’t always agree with him and he doesn’t always agree with me but that’s life. I think the longer you are with someone, the more you mellow out.

    • Kel says...

      I agree. After 20 years married, it’s so much easer to be benevolent about conflict. I think as a I get to know myself better–introvert, HSP, morning person, Questioner–I realize he also goes through the world with a solid way of receiving it. How unkind and pretty messy to try to change that. My husband doesn’t bat an eye after I’ve been totally ridiculous, because of course I’m hard enough on myself. It’s lovely to grow older with someone who gives you grace to fully be your evolving self. It’s sort of an intimate, romantic thing to try to reciprocate.

    • M says...

      “It’s lovely to grow older with someone who gives you grace to fully be your evolving self. It’s sort of an intimate, romantic thing to try to reciprocate.”

      Kel, that is beautifully said and so lovely to imagine in practice.

  24. Sarah says...

    Things with my husband and I moved fast. By the time we hit our two year dating anniversary we were married with a baby. At first the bickering and occasional fight terrified me. We’re we falling apart? We’re we right together? Then I would look around and see all the good in our lives. That’s when I realized the bickering, for us at least, was just growing pains. Every argument ultimately made our life more cohesive and manageable. We try to not bicker in front of others though—that can get real awkward.

    • Molly says...

      This is our trajectory too! Baby coming next month and our dating anniversary in August. :) Growing pains is a good way of looking st it!

  25. michaela says...

    This is so true! I love it. My husband and I have known each other for 10 years, been together for 8 and married for 3. We have a close friend who’s been in our lives that whole time and sometimes around her, we totally “slip up” and snap at each other in a way we normally don’t in public! It’s always slightly awkward and funny to realize we’ve swiftly departed “we’re just three friends hanging out” mode and entered “uh, is this turning into a marital dispute that you need some privacy for?” land. As David Sedaris says, she knows too much…

  26. Cait says...

    I’ve only recently had experiences with seeing friends argue in public – and it has made me super uncomfortable. I would be crushed if my husband talked to me like that in private, much less in front of my friends…but I also know people havedifferent communication personalities and being blunt or bickering may just be their thing. But when there’s no context, it can read a little less ‘ok, none of us have a perfect relationship,’ and a little more ‘is my friend’s husband treating her terribly!?’

  27. This could not be any more true. My husband and I have created our own little world, with our own dynamic. We enjoy just being around each other when work keeps us busy or laughing about our own inside jokes. Of course, we sometimes take our dinner choice a little too serious or sometimes he would roll his eyes when I take a little too long getting ready in the morning. So what?
    I also really like listening to his stories. And I would listen to them a thousand times more when he tells his friends. It makes me so happy to see him happy doing exactely that.

  28. Maryann says...

    “She knows too much.” Ha! Oh David Sedaris cracks me up. I can totally relate.

  29. My husband and I have been together for 15 years, and our interactions have evolved so much of the years. I assume it’s a combination of maturity (35 is MUCH different from 20) and having already hashed out the big things, but we used to have huge blow out fights every couple of months, and now we only bicker. From reading through some of the comments, it sounds like people are confusing bickering with being mean. When we bicker it’s like releasing a valve and letting out a bit of steam so things don’t blow up. It’s just clearing the air. We are very direct, sometimes testy, but not mean or insulting. It’s usually the result of stress or fatigue. Sometimes when I get very cranky he will ask when I have eaten last, and many times that’s the culprit. With three kids and very demanding careers we sometimes have to let out our feelings and we do it with each other. It’s really a safe space to express yourself, once you learn how to do it correctly. It’s the same thing as after school restraint collapse…where kids behave all day at school and are wild and break the rules and don’t listen at home. They aren’t being “bad” they are releasing the energy they’ve bottled up inside. It really is an intimate bonding exercise as long as you keep things civil.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      YES! agree totally with this definition of bickering — just letting off steam, almost like banter. nothing mean-spirited! that’s what we meant by this post :)

    • Lisa says...

      Totally agree. I remember reading somewhere that it’s good for couples to argue (particularly at the beginning), as they’re learning to resolve disputes. With my first serious boyfriend, we literally member fought but then we never discussed the serious issues (which led to us breaking up). My husband and I bicker, but after ten years together we both know when and where to stop. There’s things I say to him in my head that I would NEVER say in real life. We’re bickering a lot now, but we have stress from all sides and we’re tired. In the rare times we get to just be a couple, we don’t and we just enjoy spending time with each other

  30. Alexia says...

    My best friend and I have heard each other’s stories so many times but I feel no matter how long you know someone, new stories/experiences always crop up. And if not, Donald Trump is always up to something or Everlane has dropped a new piece we can obsess over.

  31. Julia says...

    I wish I could understand why we always feel this need to compete about “Who is happier” when meeting with another couple. WHY is that, why do we need the others in order to understand in which happiness state we actually are (if they are happy, we get anxious if we are happy enough, if they are unhappy we celebrate that we are “far better off”? This need to compare is so awful and yet I cannot fight it, either…

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      i always think it’s just being on your best behavior. i’ll let little annoyances go, or listen to alex’s story more intently, versus when we’re just hanging at home or i’m in a bad mood :)

  32. Grace says...

    David Sedaris is a national treasure. I was nodding along reading that line about being able to lip sync Hugh’s stories that he’s heard a billion times. My husband also has his go-to funny stories and jokes that he must bust out around new people. I don’t even try to hide my eye roll anymore, but it’s all in good fun. I truly admire how outgoing he is. While I’m more likely to keep to myself, he can shoot the shit with literally anyone, and we’ve met many fascinating people because he started the conversation.

    • Stella Blackmon says...

      Grace, I love every single this in this comment. I feel they same way about me and Andrew!

  33. Emily says...

    My husband and I are both litigators, so while we don’t really fight for real, we “fight” a lot (all in good fun because it’s just part of our natures). Whenever we are heading to either of our parent’s house I tell him, “now you have to pretend like you REALLY like me for the next # of hours”. Lol.

    • Stella Blackmon says...

      Emily, this is hilarious. Love it so much.

  34. Colleen says...

    Hahahaha! Recently, my husband (of 7 years, who I have been with for 15 years) came to my work since he was in the area for his work and I told him he could hang with me for 30 minutes before his meeting started. He walked in to my building and as I brought him to my office, he stopped outside my office door at my nameplate and his jaw dropped: “Oh my God! You have your own office?! It’s decorated. How long have you had this?! How did I not know this about you?! You’re practically a stranger to me! What other parts of your life are you keeping secret?!” We had a great laugh about it because as you said, there’s not much about each other we DON’T know at this point.

    • Jen says...

      I love this! I love finding out new things because it’s so rare or re-hearing stories now that I first heard when we began dating (18 years and 3 kids ago). Every now and then I’ll think of one…wait, tell me that story again — now that I really know you and all of your old characters. :-)

    • Kristy says...

      This is so cute ! Yes when you’ve been with someone a while it’s nice to see them through other people’s eyes.

    • Stella says...

      My husband hasn’t been to my office of 5 years and sometimes it bothers me. I’ve been to every workplace of his because I need to be able to visualize where he spends the better part of his day. In the almost 20 years I have known him, he has been to two of my workplaces – a restaurant (the early days) and when I worked for an entertainment venue (free concerts!). He doesn’t need the visualization I guess!

  35. Kelly says...

    My general rule about relationships, after wasting too many precious years fighting constantly in an unhappy/unhealthy one, is this: If you spend more time during any given week being disappointed by your partner than you do being pampered by them, it’s time to end it and move on. Full stop.

    Life is short. True partners exist. There’s no reason to settle for anything less.

    • Megan says...

      Yes, yes, yes.

    • Glenda says...

      Yes, Yes to all of this!

    • Emily says...

      I have come to realize that if I feel unhappiness it is usually a result of something within me rather than an external force. If I look outward for my happiness joy can be hard to come by. When I place the responsibility for my happiness in my own hands, I am a better partner.

    • Mia says...

      Wow. Wow. Wow.
      This.

    • Juliette says...

      So nice to read this! Thank you, Kelly. I wish there were more comments and articles about unhealthy relationships/advice about moving on/separation and divorce stories. It is so difficult to find the strenght, especially when a child, immigration, and money are involved.

  36. Twyla says...

    Can David Sedaris please write my eulogy? I love hearing anything he’s written and to have that dry humor cracking people up on a very sad day would be the absolute best! (p.s. I’m not dying anytime soon).

    • Stella Blackmon says...

      Hahahaha, could not agree more!!!!

  37. Caitlin says...

    I love the quote from Sedaris! My fiance’s first language is Spanish and he still makes grammatical mistakes when speaking – I correct him without even thinking about it ALL. THE. TIME. Whenever we are with friends or family, I always stop myself because I worry he will be offended/embarrassed with my correcting him in front of other people but I just can’t help it!!

  38. sasha says...

    I’m almost a little embarrassed by how much I try to play the happy couple in front of people. I always think I’m sparing people serious awkwardness by showing nothing of our squabbles, but truly, I just want everyone to think we’re a perfect couple. It’s so fake, but oh well. My husband doesn’t play happy though, he just doesn’t care what other people think.

  39. sasha says...

    David Sedaris is hilarious. We discovered him years and years ago on NPR, on This American Life. The Christmas Letter, omg.

    We got to see him do a live reading a few years back, and truly, laughed so hard it hurt for days afterward.

    If you get a chance to see him, you won’t be disappointed. His books on audio are also wonderful, because all read by him. He has such a whiny, wry, sarcastic voice…. So so funny. He’s a national treasure imho.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      i love his voice so much!

    • Nadine Hughey says...

      I’m guessing this is from Calypso, just put it on my book list yesterday. Can’t wait!

    • Grace says...

      He was speaking last year in my town and now I’m so bummed that I missed it. I’ll definitely buy tickets the next time I have the chance.

    • Katherine says...

      Years ago I went to a book reading/signing of his, and stood in line for three hours after to get him to sign my book. My friend and I were some of the last ones in line, and I think Mr. Sedaris was loopy tired by time time we got there (it was nearly midnight!), and upon meeting him, he said, out of the blue, “Have you ever considered if there were animals at the crucifiction of Christ? I have. I think there would have been turtles.” Then he drew a picture of two turtles at the three crosses on a hill in my book. I was so dumbfounded I didn’t even know what to say, but I love him so much for always being his crazy weird self.

    • Becky says...

      I just read Calypso on a flight, it’s a great read. He really can make the mundane so heartbreaking and funny at the same time. I find his quirky family and their bizarre conversations very relatable :)

  40. H says...

    One of mine and my bf’s best “couple friends” will fight incessantly in front of us. Loud voices, digs, the works. Sometimes, one of them will even threaten to “not go” to whatever event or plans we’re about to embark on. Oh boy. This is enough to deter ANY public argument between me and him. LOL

  41. Colleen says...

    Just a few weeks ago my husband and I had some friends over for dinner. My husband and I had been on each other’s nerves all day, and he snapped at me in front of our friends. My friend N. looked at me and said, “Oh good, it’s not just us! We’ve been fighting over the stupidest things lately!” Our son was 17-months old and their son was 11-months old and we’ve all been doing our best to navigate this new-to-us world of parenthood. It felt so good to be able to talk about it openly and then laugh about it together.

    • Kara says...

      What a great friend!!

  42. Lauren says...

    We bicker!

    …but never about anything serious.

    Sometimes I do wonder what kind of impression that leaves on people, and go back and forth about whether I think it’s more important to be authentic (at the risk of looking bad or making people uncomfortable), or to show a little more restraint (in order to, well, avoid those other things).

    Honesty and authenticity are prominent amongst a set of 5 or 6 core values that I hold. Using my values as a compass, for now I choose to maintain our current “practices”, but I’m looking forward to reading through all these comments to see how others perceive this. Thanks!!

  43. Emily says...

    It depends on who we are with, I think, and the dynamics of that relationship. And we have been married so long that we definitely have cooled on the bickering. I’ve begun to believe that most marriages just recycle the same two or three arguments and we are no different. I found we bickered more when our son was small and now, the bickering picks up in stressful times. I’m not prone to bickering bc I grew up in a house without it but my husband grew up in a house where arguing was the norm. I think there are benefits to both styles.

    • sasha says...

      Emily, this is a brilliant insight. Longer together=less bickering. Somehow I was thinking that we had worked through our stuff, but maybe it’s more that we’re just tired of it. At any rate, amen. I’m glad for it. The stress of small children, and then if teenage children led to what could only be called bickering if a euphemism for all out warfare. I’m glad we are past it, and have never been happier in my life or marriage.

      When I see one of those recycled arguments rearing it’s ugly head I try hard to remember I’m actually happy now and not let it steal that previous happiness away.

    • Cate says...

      Interesting that you mention the different styles of households you grew up in. My husband and I are the opposite, so I’ve had to really coach him on how to engage in bickering, ha! I am thankful for our different backgrounds though. You are right that there are benefits to both and it’s great to have a balance. Good thing we found our counterparts!

  44. Amber J says...

    This is hilarious! I love it. I’ll have to read his essays.

    My husband and I are adamant about saving face in public, but I’ll venture to say it’s USUALLY not an act. And if it ever is, we’ve found out that ACTING loving and understanding and supportive always makes us BECOME loving and understanding and supportive. We seem to ONLY get in fights when we’re on our way to spend time with another couple (whom of course we want to impress), but halfway through the evening, after we’ve been gracious and friendly and loving, we realize IT’S ALL FINE, and the tension diffuses.

    We also both adhere to the principle of never talking negatively about the other person, even to our closest friends and family. Yes, if there is an actual issue where we need some outside wisdom, we carefully choose a trusted adviser or two in whom to confide, and that has always proven beneficial. (Sometimes you just need a pastor or a counselor or just someone who has been there before.) But no complaining is allowed. If I were to rattle off about how terrible my husband is, I think I’d start to believe it — but there isn’t a grain of truth to it. No complaining about the other — kind words only. It’s one of the things that keeps us in love.

    • Dana says...

      This, 100%.

      Especially the no complaining about each other part. Not to friends, to family, or anyone. If I’m frustrated with my husband, I have to think of a respectful way to bring it up with him. I can’t take the easy route and vent to friends. It really keeps us close.

    • Ellyn says...

      “We also both adhere to the principle of never talking negatively about the other person, even to our closest friends and family.”

      YES! I have been slipping a bit in this and I need to remember that I, too, adhere to this principle.

      Also, I read once that if you need to vent/complain, then you should do it to your Mother-in-law (assuming you have a good relationship and she won’t hold your venting against you). SHE will ALWAYS forgive him and if you truly just need to vent, you don’t want to do that to someone that might hold a grudge against your husband (like your mom or sisters or girlfriends). I may just be super spoiled in the MIL area, though. She’s the best! :)

  45. I am just about to move in with my boyfriend. We are looking for something that would fit our tight budget, so probably a closet judging on affordable apartments in London. We never fight. Maybe it is because we have only been together for under two years, but we rarely even get annoyed with each other or disagree. But I am still very nervous about moving in together because there will be no escape. However, it is comforting to read that all couples go through that and nobody’s perfect – but everyone pretends to be!

  46. Laura says...

    So glad I’m not alone in thinking George & Amal Clooney are the perfect couple (:

  47. Amanda says...

    My boyfriend and I were young teenage sweethearts – we dated all of high school, moved in together at 18, and are still living together at 28 (still not married though, ha!, just not interested yet). It’s surprising to even me how we’ve grown together – we’ve totally evolved as people, several times even, but luckily it’s been mostly together rather than apart. We know each others stories because we’ve lived them together. Sometimes it does get boring and I relish our weekend friend time, but sometimes we still surprise each other… for instance, he didn’t know I played soccer as a kid until a week or two ago! Anyways, I love these relationship posts, keep them coming!

  48. Amanda G says...

    My husband and I live with my sister-in-law and her husband in order to cut housing costs in the crazy Denver market. Before we moved in together we enjoyed hanging out with them, but now that we live with them we realize they bicker ALL. THE. TIME. They bicker about who walked the dog last, and about who bought what last, and about who is being more “selfish” (this is a favorite term of theirs to throw around). They also have massive blowout fights at least twice a week.

    My husband and I, on the other hand, are far more laid-back about how we approach disagreements, and on the off-chance we do have a huge argument (once a year, if that), I am usually the one who goads him to no avail. Our arguments never get far! Day to day bickering is almost nonexistent for us, because honestly it’s not worth the energy. Plus, I am pretty sensitive and would probably take anything even remotely good-natured as a personal affront!

    I’ve read some interesting comments in this thread that say bickering is healthy and even intimate, and I know I’ve heard that piece of “wisdom” so many times over the years that says that if you don’t argue your relationship is unhealthy, but I definitely know who I’d put money on divorcing if it’s between the arguing/bickering SIL/BIL or my husband and me. Not saying all bickering is bad, but I think the petty/mean-spirited and constant nitpicks at each other can’t possibly be good.

    • Emily says...

      Wow. I hope your sister-in-law doesn’t read this. In my experience, betting on people divorcing is never a healthy idea.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      i hear you, amanda, and totally understand!

    • Amanda G says...

      Emily, trust me, I have never bet on or wished for divorce at any other point in my life – but when you are privy every day to all the intimate details of mean and hurtful things that a couple is saying to each other, especially when one of the people involved is someone you have loved dearly as your own sister for over ten years of your life, it is a completely different ball game.

    • Emily says...

      It sounds like it’s not worth the money you are saving. I would imagine that living scenario is stressful for even the most serene of people.

    • sasha says...

      Amanda, I know what you mean. I won’t give details, but I was privy to a relationship like this. The arguing was mean. One partner would demean the other, there was plenty of sarcasm and eye rolling and petty retaliation. I am honestly astonished that they are still together, and it makes me sad. If they cause each other as much unhappiness as I witnessed, they’d be happier apart. Seeing their relationship did help me and my husband eliminate some of this stuff from our own. We were not like them but my husband did occasionally roll eyes when he was angry or hurt and he’s stopped doing that. And we were both sarcastic sometimes with each other and we’ve both stopped. Also contempt. Yuck. There was so much of that. If I hear even a tiny bit I call my husband out on it and because he saw it so much in their marriage, he knows how bad and he’ll stop and apologize and we’ll talk about why it happened.

      Anyway, I hope these guys get some help. It’s super hard to witness hurtfulness between couples.

  49. Lizzie says...

    My husband and I have totally different private and public modes: in private it’s all love and snuggles, but in public we put on our Company Acts, which happen to annoy each other. For example, my husband tends to hyperbolize when he tells stories–he’ll say he “had a panic attack” when he really just felt anxious, or that he “got in trouble” when he just felt chagrined about something he did–and I’m a stickler for precision. So I have the bad habit of correcting him in front of people because I don’t want them to take his exaggerations literally. In private, however, I let things go. So we have this weird tension where we ONLY bicker in public, and I kind of dread going to social events together because I don’t like who we are in public. It’s something I’m trying to be mindful of, but it’s so hard to break old patterns.

    • Emily says...

      Lizzie,
      My well-worn line is this: every relationship has a story teller and a fact checker. In mine, I’m the story teller (a tale has a better rhythm if i say it is about my friend rather than my cousin’s acquaintance, e.g.) and my husband is the fact checker. (My mom and mother-in-laws are both fact-checkers as well, both with inspiring,long marriages to great story tellers). Rather than get upset with interruptions of “that’s not trues” and “she didn’t say thats”, we’ve turned it into a sort of story telling pattern. Eye-rolling and good-natured jabbing on both sides.

    • Julie says...

      Lizzie, you have captured the dynamic of my marriage perfectly. With me and my husband it’s not so much storytelling, but there is definitely a shift when we socialize in a group that causes tension: I ask others a lot of questions and try to make them feel interesting, and he tends to relate everything someone else says back to himself and be the center of attention (which is his way of trying to connect, but it makes me CRAZY). I am trying to learn to just let him be, as he is quite good at doing that with his socially anxious wife. :)

    • Susan says...

      I’m so happy to hear that someone else has this dynamic. I am pretty sensitive about appearing to have a great relationship with my husband, in part because no one in my extended family is divorced, a lot of people in my husband’s extended family are divorced, and I’ve gotten several comments from my family about how he has “no models for a good relationship” so I worry about them judging our relationship and want it to appear perfect, even when we’re not around my family. My husband, on the other hand, doesn’t worry about that at all, so he’ll bring up arguments or topics that we have been bickering about lately in front of people all the time, which just further puts me on alert about it. It’s not even that we end up bickering in front of other people, but he makes a lot of comments like “Susan was mad at me for x” or “We’re always arguing about y” and I feel like it leaves the impression that we argue a lot more than we actually do.

    • Annie says...

      My husband and I have the same dynamic. He is the “story teller” and I am the “fact checker.” When he tells a story he likes to “sex it up” (his words) and it drives me bonkers. I don’t think I will ever find it endearing, but reading through all of these other comments, it makes me aware that perhaps I should keep my “fact checking” to a minimum as it can come across as bickering. He is often the life of the party with his story telling and I know it is just his way of trying to connect with people.

  50. Darcy says...

    Quick refresh on what the question was: “Do you bicker with your partner in front of others? Or keep it together in front of friends?”

  51. Heather says...

    We had our second child earlier this year, and there’s something about having a baby (and the resulting sleep deprivation) that leads to more relationship scorekeeping than usual. One day, as I was mentally rehashing an argument I’d had with my husband, I thought, “Well, I can either be right or have a happy marriage. Which do I want?” (I’m not talking about consequential moral dilemmas, I mean arguing over who has taken the garbage out more often this week. And by “be right,” I mean argue my point to death until he concedes. )

    We’re partners, we both try hard, sometimes we screw up. Letting that stuff go has made me happier.

    • Emily says...

      This is good thinking. When our son was born, my husband and I had some hard times. I had serious PPD and I am the emotional barometer of our home (it took me going through a rough time to really understand this). There was a lot of arguing both privately and in front of people. My mother was visiting at one point and said to me privately, She who keeps score loses.

      It completely changed how I approach my emotional scorekeeping–I try to NOT do it.

    • C. says...

      You are very wise, I think, to come to this conclusion and to implement this approach! A parent friend once shared with me that she and her husband came to realize that “Nobody wins at misery poker.”
      They agreed between them to acknowledge and respect the reality of that phase of life- the days were long and hectic, they were both tired, always busy, and stretched thin. If one of them needed to vent they did so, knowing that the other parent gave them the benefit of understanding, and they resolved to have respect, patience and kindness for each other.

    • Anneka says...

      Thank you for this! Need to keep this in mind as my husband and I navigate our relationship with a 14-month old. I find it so easy to get into the who did what mentality.

  52. Heather D says...

    After nearly 12 years of marriage and togetherness, I’m slowly starting to realize that a lot of our bickering stems from my insistence on controlling everything. Yikes. I’m really trying to let the little things go! We’re well-matched, though. I’m a bit high strung and he’s super laid back.

    • Rachel says...

      Have you heard the bucket analogy? I have a controlling personality, but it really helped me to have this mental image. Basically, picture a bucket that you can fill with all of the things that you control 100%. The answer is, the only thing is your control bucket is YOU. So, when your spouse (or anyone else in your life) is doing something that you would do differently, remind yourself that it’s not in your bucket. Anyway, I hope this is helpful instead of preachy

    • Marcella says...

      I like this analogy! I’ll try to remember this when my very late/night owl boyfriend is soooo slow on the weekends when I want to be somewhere on time, haha.

  53. Olivia says...

    We disagree on occasion in front of family or close friends, but in general keep it limited to good-hearted teasing. As much as it might sound sanctimonious, it’s really important to me and my husband to build each other up in front of others (and privately, of course), not the other way around. We have a few friends/family members, wives in particular, who constantly complain about their spouse directly in front of them. It’s said in this sort of classic anti-men/husband/Dad way that seems unfortunately common, especially on TV, if that makes sense. It always makes us cringe. I can’t help but feel that showing a total lack of respect for your spouse in front of others is a pretty easy way to pave the road to divorce.

    There was one time after my husband had surgery that he was totally miserable, I was stressed, and we more or less let it fly in front of my mother-in-law. I just couldn’t help it. It was pretty awkward. Lol

    • NatalieDU says...

      Your first paragraph Olivia! I think this is so important too. I have also observed couples constantly putting each other down. Needless to say, they are not happily married. It’s great not to bottle up our irritations, but they should be dealt with sensitively and mostly privately, because as you say, the best thing spouses can do for each other is building them up, and making them feel confident and valid.

  54. Kate says...

    I mean, sometimes we’ll start yammering about some fringe interest of ours (usually food, we’re obsessed with food) and you can see our friends go, “well, that was weird.”
    But bickering? I actually really hate when people bicker in front of me. So awkward! What do I do, pull out my phone while they pull themselves together?
    And here’s the thing, I think being around others is also a great time to reinforce your SO. Bring up their latest fun project, compliment the meal they cooked. (I learned this after my last boyfriend used company as an opportunity to make little digs at me that no one else would get. Wow.) But receiving compliments in front of others feel so good, and it puts everyone in a better mood. Bickering often just leads to more bickering.

    • Megan says...

      Yes! Complimenting your partner when in company is HUGE. Likewise, some of the best relationship advice I ever read was (and this was aimed at hetero couples but I’m sure is good for us all), “The worst thing you can do to your man is to disrespect him in front of other men.” I try my hardest not to make fun of my husband in front of others.

  55. Sarah says...

    It makes me very, very uncomfortable when other couples bicker around me. My former roommate/friend (yes, she’s a former of both) would berate her boyfriend in front of us and I would just squirm because she was being so mean to him and he was just taking it.

    It could have something to do with me being a child of divorce, the fact that this bothers me so much, but I just feel that if you can’t treat your partner with respect IN FRONT OF YOUR FRIENDS then you should probably take a closer look at your relationship. I shudder to think how she acted towards him when they were alone.

    My husband and I don’t really bicker, but we also are still newlyweds at 9 months married, and no kids yet – few triggers to be annoyed by! We did premarital counseling and have worked on our communication so we try to talk to each other when we’re feeling hurt and fix the problem together. My instinct is to bottle it up but he’s really good at telling when I’m upset about something and asking me what’s going on. I am quite sensitive to criticism so it can take me a while to process when he tells me I’ve done something that he didn’t like! But I’m working on it :)

  56. Diana says...

    I remember how enlightening it was when I finally started dating someone who fought well. He never got upset. After the start of a fight, he would acknowledge my feelings, while admonishing how I expressed them (I’m mean). He would apologize for his part and then I’d immediately back down and start talking honestly about how I felt instead of being defensive.

    Before then I had been fighting with boyfriends to the death like a crazy person.

    • Amber J says...

      This is beautiful. I need to learn how to fight like him!

    • Lulu says...

      Can he write a guest post on how to argue? Please. Thank you!

    • Kerri says...

      Yes! My husband taught me this too. Life changing.

    • Anna says...

      yaaaas. The first time I was upset with my husband (then boyfriend) and he just listened and expressed his opinion while remaining respectful and open to my point of view… I was like, wait… what? no escalation? no arguing? no mean remarks? Just patience and generosity? Who is this kind alien?

      11 years later he still teaches me about kindness and respect everyday.

  57. Lynea says...

    I can’t imagine ever pretending to be perfect with my husband, I think he’d laugh at the thought of it! We don’t intentionally fight in public (or anywhere, fighting is the worst) but it is part of life, it can be done in a healthy way, and in an age where so many of us are trying to be more authentic I’m okay with people seeing it.

    Most of our friends have heard our regular banter: “Oh he orders that beer so he won’t have to share with me! The same reason she ordered the anchovies!” Some close friends have even heard real fights, and I don’t feel any sense of embarrassment over that. In fact, we’ve become closer to them and have grown because of it.

    Many summers ago, a sweet friend saw my husband and I on the cusp of an argument. She sent us both into the air conditioning with a snack and a water bottle, and it was wildly effective! Because we’re all basically toddlers! She later told me half the fights in Florida can be blamed on the weather, which I still think about when normal human crankiness starts to escalate. That is a lesson we might not have learned as a young couple if we were putting on a front of perfection.

    • Emily says...

      I love that strategy your friend employed! Years ago my therapist helped me think of my husband in a new light. When he was one his sister was born breech w two broken hips and had to be in a body cast for a long time. They loved w his grandmother and he spent a lot of time in a crib in the corner of her kitchen where he would shoot, “ME ME ME ME!” His grandma got the nickname Meme bc of this. My mother in law likes to recount this story laughing devilishly.

      My therapist told me when we argue to think of him as that one year old alone in the crib telling “ME ME!” It has helped me have so much more compassion for him when we argue.

    • Emily says...

      eep-lived, not loved/ shout not shoot!

  58. Kathryn says...

    The best relationship advice I have received came from business school, and it is to focus on the outcome you want. By focusing on the outcome you can take the ego out of the moment. Just because we approach things in different ways does not make one way wrong, I know my husband is a capable human being, and it can be freeing not to worry about every tiny detail. And a lovely side effect is way less bickering.

  59. Emmie says...

    My husband and I discovered that we tend to bicker more on trips. Something about the constant coming and going and adjusting plans can make us anxious and want to take it out on one another. After a particularly awful bickering match that resulted in tears, we created a ritual. At the start of each trip, we verbally commit to trying our best to get along. We even created a “safe word” to use whenever we sense an argument arising. When the safe word is used, we both have to say something nice about the other person. It sounds ridiculous, but it always works! We have even started using the same strategy for other stressful situations like picking out furniture or apartment hunting.

    • Sandra says...

      This is brilliant! We are the same way, and I’m totally going to try this. Thanks!

    • Emily says...

      I love this! I try to be really aware of bickering and this is such a sweet strategy (and sounds really effective). My fellow and I (married 10 years this year) have “no bickering” days to kind of reset our habits. The idea of a bickering safe word is genius because one problem with no bickering days is how do you point out that the other person is starting to bicker, without sounding nit picky and critical?

  60. Hanna says...

    My husband and I have been married 16 years, we dated 5 years before that, and were good friends 4 years before that. We talk constantly, and we feel like we know all of each other’s stories. But every now and then, out of the blue, one of us will tell a story that the other has never heard, or reveal something about ourselves that the other never knew. It’s a delightful reminder that you can never know someone completely and there is always more to discover.

  61. Lindsey says...

    We’ve been friends for eight years, together five, and married almost four. We have two young children. We do occasionally bicker about the same old things—I wouldn’t be afraid to do it in front of those friends closest to us but I think anyone else would feel awkward. Although there’s a fair amount of stolen kisses and butt pinches to even things out.

    We try our very best to make sure that bickering doesn’t point to a larger problem that deserves a true and gracious conversation. When it does, we go for a long walk and try to keep it together—but I have been known to throw up my hands on the sidewalk (no yelling, though.) I’m sure anyone passing by could figure out what’s going on, but I love those walks, because we cover miles, literally and figuratively. And we always return home together.

    • gabby says...

      What a beautiful last line! “And we always return home together.”

  62. We’re coming up on five years of marriage, and I don’t think we are bicker-ers. My parents bickered all. the. time growing up, and it drove me crazy. I thought I was angry person until I moved away to college and realized that I was only angry in reaction to *them*! Once the noise of their bickering was gone, I was so much calmer, and that’s translated to the rest of my life. My husband is a very calm person, so sometimes I am still the one who picks, but neither of us think these little things are worth getting in arguments over. Sometimes, in front of guests, we’ll tease each other about habits or quirks, but it’s always playful (though I’m sure I’ve crossed the line into mean at some point). We both hate bickering so much (we both have to emotionally gear up to spend time with my parents–who are still married, despite the back-and-forth!), that it’s just not a part of our lives. I think I remember a commenter on a post a while back talked about bringing up bothersome things their partner does by saying, “I have a roommate request”, and I just loved that. It’s how we operate too. I just think bickering and mean comments serve no good purpose, when you could just state what’s bothering you and talk about it. Please don’t read this as though we never get in arguments–we do. But they’re usually on the “big” subjects, like money, or the subtext of a movie. ;)

  63. shannon says...

    My husband recently pointed out that to him, arguing/bickering is a form of intimacy. He’ll only say something if he disagrees with you if he feels close to you. Otherwise he keeps his differing opinions to himself. We definitely argue, and I love that he cares enough for me/us to tell me what he really thinks even when he knows it might be a disagreement.

    I grew up in a family with no arguing allowed, and it led to so many repressed feelings and distance in our adult child to parent relationships. His family was the opposite. It was an adjustment to seeing his parents disagree in front of us, and allowing them to see us argue, but now it feels so much better than pretending everything is always fine.

  64. Angella says...

    A couple of years ago, my husband and I decided to convert all of his family videotape recordings to DVD to give to his mom as a Mothers Day gift. I was given the task of converting each tape to a digital file. Instead of sending them off to a photo service company, I hid a VCR under my desk at work, hooked it up to a computer and played each one to convert to a digital file using a program I found online. During my work day, I’d look over at the other computer monitor to and see my husband as a child playing baseball from one tape, to a couple of days later seeing him take the field in the marching band in high school in another. His mom loved the gift, but now when he tries to tell me a story from his childhood, I end up correcting him.
    Him: “…we were wearing these blue uniforms.”
    Me: “No, honey. They were green.”

    • Jessica says...

      haha this made me laugh :)

    • Ellen says...

      I would love to know what program you used for this! My husband’s family has a ton of tapes and I can’t afford to send them all off to be converted to digital.

  65. jen says...

    No bickering here. When I got married (31 yrs) I decided I didnt want one of those bickering/arguing marriages. My husband was very bossy at first and I just basically let him have his way. My family couldnt believe all the ‘whatever you say, baby’ that came out of my mouth. After two years of that, my hubby, stopped being bossy and started asking me what I thought, all the time. I think he decided he didnt really like the doormat thing he thought he did . Still no arguing tho, cause we agree mostly. When I say ‘whatever you say, baby’ now, he just says ok, ok.

  66. JO says...

    The best advice my mom ever gave me growing up was, “Know your audience.” Need to let out a good curse word? Let it out with friends, hold it with grandparents. In the mood to complain about schoolwork? Let it out with mom, hold it with teachers. It’s served me well in my adult and married life, too. Have a bone to pick with my husband? Fine in front of his brother, not his parents. Need to roll my eyes at him? Fine with old friends, not with new. I could go on and on :).

    • I love this. Seems so obvious, but in practice it’s a real challenge and test of self-awareness and thought. I need this reminder on the daily!

    • Grace says...

      This is a great philosophy.

  67. Amy says...

    I’ve cut off many a couple friend due to bickering. There’s nothing worse than trying to go on a couple date and then listening to the other couple bicker the entire time. We’re going out to have fun, to relax, to laugh and catch-up….I don’t need to know that you hate the way your husband does something, or that his mom drives you nuts. Keep it at home and let’s just have fun. Life’s too short.

  68. zeezee says...

    after 10 years and 2 kids, i have no more fight in me. if i’m bothered to raise my voice about something, it probably means I had sufficient sleep and feel feisty enough. not a day goes by where I don’t regret being married (to him or in general, i dunno, first marriage ?) i’ve heard of married couples who are no longer in love love but stay married because they still respect and like each other enough to be together. i don’t even like him in general. i love my kids so much though. they are the only things that keep me going day after day.

    • ZEEZEE, I obviously don’t know your situation, but I am curious how old your kids are. My husband and I have been together for 15 years, together for 10, and have three kids. Honestly, when we have a baby in the house I don’t really like him. When I had my first baby a friend came over and told me to reach out if my husband and I started having problems because life with a baby is hard on a marriage. Now my sister and I have a hard and fast rule that we share with everyone when they have a baby…don’t contemplate divorce until the baby turns one (but depending on the kid the age should maybe be two). If your kids are older, or if your situation is scary or unhealthy or unbearable please disregard my comment and move on from your marriage, but if you have tiny kids I suggest you wait it out a bit. When things calm down do something that makes you feel sexy and go do something fun with your husband. You might come back around. I always do.

    • Anon says...

      omg! this is refreshing to hear ZeeZee. after 20 years together and 2 kids I too have no fight left in me. I’m annoyed daily with my hubby (I have to leave the room when he drinks water, LOL, and no, we don’t bicker in public, nor do I roll my eyes at him) and I too, love my kids too much. But I so deeply question the idea of marriage. People change! How can we be made to be with one person! While I agree with the sentiment to wait out any divorce thoughts until after babies are no longer babies, there’s isn’t enough wine/sexy underwear/role play or anything really to change my mind. Chemically, hormonally, I am a different person – but also, I am a different adult then when I was when I was 20! I can go through the motions, act pretty well to deserve a damn Oscar b/c he’s happy and still loves me deeply, but holly cow am I’m checked out some days! I talked to my OB, my PCP, they all suggested anti-depressants-NOT because I’m depressed, I truly love life, have a rich life otherwise, career, friends, family, but they think it’s all simply due to the pre-menopausal changes (i’m only in my 40s). Anyways, I haven’t tried the drugs yet. to be continued, I suppose. I would like for more conversations around this topic though. I know I’m not the only one. I have 3 separate mom groups and within each majority of us struggle in marriages-for various reasons-but a lot of it is the same.

    • Carrie says...

      I would like to address your comment and I apologize if I am over-stepping. You and your husband both deserve to be with someone you love. Your kids deserve to enjoy their mama and watch her shine with happiness. Throughout my entire life I’ve had to watch helplessly as my dad just completely sucked the life out of my mom. I can honestly say that even after being married for 38 years- I don’t believe they were meant for each other, they simply stayed together because it was easy. They just divorced 3 months ago.

      Absolutely no judgement, just true heart felt concern from someone who’s seen this from the child’s point of view, it sounds like your heart knows what you need. I don’t know you, but I so want you to be happy.

    • anon says...

      in marriage #2. wont divorce again. the splitting of kids was harder on me. i know myself so while my 2nd divorce is a possibility ( for a variety of reasons ) I will hang in there to raise my last two 10 and 5. then I will see where i am at. Daily I wonder if I can hang in there another 13 years.

    • Karen says...

      I love this honesty. Thanks for keeping it real Zeezee and Anon. Best wishes to both of you and your kids ?

  69. TJP says...

    I’ve been with my husband longer than I haven’t, which is crazy (met at 20, 23 years together). I know all of the stories. I’m in a lot of them. I am better at telling the stories. We speak in code, usually some derivative of a movie/Friends reference. If we weren’t together, no one would understand what the heck I am talking about. He’s like my parachute.

  70. Jenny says...

    We recently had our second child and live far from family, so my mom came and stayed with us for a month. Feisty toddler + up-all-night newborn = significant bickering in front of her. It was actually pretty enlightening to see what annoyed me enough to keep me from just biting my tongue, and vice versa, which gave me a sense of what I need to work on to be a better partner and what I need to ask my husband to work on.

    • Alissa says...

      It’s like you spied on my mom’s stay this spring after we had baby #2. Same, same, same! Lol

  71. Neen says...

    My parents bicker all. the. time. It drove me insane as a kid and it bothers me even more now. They don’t care who’s around and always end up bickering about something in front of friends and guests, and I’ve seen it make many people visibly uncomfortable. Maybe it’s because I haven’t seen any overt sign of love (no hugs, kisses, or compliments) since I was a little kid, but it feels to me that the bickering has taken over their relationship. They’ve been together 40 years and they’ll never divorce, but it just makes me incredibly sad that when I think of them together, my first thought is of bickering.

    That being said, now that my husband and I have been together almost 9 years, I can see myself doing it sometimes when I’m tired. I don’t want to hide my emotions, but I don’t have good role models for being mindful about what’s healthy to say and what isn’t. I don’t NEED to ask my husband why he washes all but one dish in the sink, right?? It’s a work in progress and I hope to model better emotional balance for my toddler…

    • Sarah Mathes says...

      Neen, my parents are the exact same way. It’s been 35 years for them. I’m getting married this weekend (!) and sometimes it’s a little scary to think, wow, I don’t know who my relationship role models are! COJ, I would love a post on that!

    • L says...

      Goodness you just described my parents. Married 40 years, it doesn’t seem like they will divorce. But I’ve never seen any physical affection between them, ever. And they bicker all the time, in front of anyone.

    • Linds says...

      My parent’s divorced, but I had a similar experience growing up. I’ll never forget this moment in my 20s – I was riding in the car with my friend’s parents, and her mom rested her hand on her dad’s hand. On purpose. It actually blew my mind. I didn’t realize people could be married for a significant amount of time and still be affectionate.

    • Robin says...

      My parents were terrible marriage role models and ended up getting divorced. So I picked new role models, my aunt and uncle, who are affectionate and obviously like and love each other, after 30 years of marriage. My husbands parents were the same, sadly they are both gone now, but I think about them when I envision my future.

    • OH BOY can I relate to this. My parents always seemed like great friends growing up, but absolutely NOT like lovers or life partners. They have exchanged kisses, like “Goodbye! *peck*” but it was never truly affectionate. No cuddling, no flirting, no open admissions of obvious love or devotion. They were always bickering about little things: my mom nit-picking every little thing my dad did, and my dad being overly defensive or deflective about every little comment (legitimate or not) that my mom made. It’s literally my “life lesson” in partnership… Now that my husband and I have been together for 8 1/2 years (married for 4), I see so much similarity between us and my parents in terms of bickering. The affection isn’t an issue (I’ve worked SO HARD to not emulate that part of my parents’ relationship, where you would hardly have known they were married by how they behaved physically), but I have started to remind myself so much of my mom…

      The good news is, we’re young and we recognize this. So much of it is about self-awareness, right? I can only work to better my own behavior so I don’t model those bad habits to my daughter.

  72. Carrie says...

    My husband and I bicker sometimes but I’m so okay with it. We are awesome, it’s all good. We both apologize quickly and sincerely. He also has this special (and annoying when I want to be mad) way of cracking me and making me smile!!

  73. k says...

    Bicker is just the yang of banter and couples who don’t banter always worry me!!! k

    • Laurenk says...

      Agree! My husband and I banter in front of friends mostly jokingly but will also jab each other, because we know the other can take it. I find it weird when couples don’t engage/spar/flirt like that, especially when we are drinking and eating and having a good time. My husband cracks me up, and sometimes I want to kill him. Totally normal, I think. 11 years this October. ?

  74. Mouse says...

    12 years together, 3 years married, plus we’re old. (58 and 66) Mostly we don’t bicker, but we do have consistent arguments about a few things: driving, dish-washing, and general tidiness. It’s so predictable that we no longer care; actually it makes us laugh. We know how valuable the time we have left is, and we know where we came from (marriages with serious issues) so we are grateful to be arguing about how he tailgates like crazy and how I obsessively wipe down the counters. We hope to have at least 20 more such years of bickering…..:)

  75. Sonja says...

    I love this! My husband and I are celebrating nine years together and seven married this June. At 29 and 30 this makes us something of an anomaly but I feel so lucky to have grown up with him! I find the comfort of our relationship to be incredibly freeing – I know I have someone rooting for me at all times. And…when someone knows you that well the sex is really, really good. This all balances out that despite strategically placed laundry baskets (in our 1000 sq ft home – you can see them all at all times) he still leaves his dirty laundry on the floor.

  76. Kate says...

    You know, sometimes I love it when I get to see that couples are real and have disagreements. Marriage is messy. My husband snapped at me the other day — we were with another couple and four small children on a hot day at the zoo. It was human. Part of me cringed but the bigger part knew that the couple we were with totally understood us. Also with two kids and two careers and just barely holding it together most days. In the end it was nice to feel like we could be ourselves, warts and all, in hanging out with some friends. Of course there is a line here, and I do think most of the time we save our grievances until we can air them in the privacy of our union.

    • Stella Blackmon says...

      Yes, such a wonderful point, Kate! Thank you for sharing this :)

  77. L says...

    I’m so lucky that we don’t argue a lot. He has a calm personality and doesn’t do drama. I came from parents who fought a lot and then I was in an abusive relationship, so I tried to start drama sometimes at the beginning, but he didn’t take the bait. That made me respect him a lot. At the end of the day he has been the most respectful man I’ve ever known and meets all my criteria for a good relationship. Therefore I usually tell myself even if I’m upset about something, if it’s something small it’s not worth it. I do try to explain why I’m upset though to prevent something similar happening again. Also we have neighbors, and we don’t really want them knowing every detail of our life so it’s not worth fighting loud. Last night I almost said something mean that could’ve started an argument but realized “why” and didn’t and moved on. And yes when company comes over I think we both realize it’s not the time or place to argue. One time his friend was there when I got home from work. His friend was in my space so he ran out to move his car so I could park. That meant I had to back up in the street for a second. Well a car started coming up behind me and I freaked out and drove onto the very edge my neighbor’s yard. This is a neighbor we respect a lot so my boyfriend yelled at me a tiny bit (he was afraid it left a tire track). So I got mad that he yelled at me in front of his friend so I sat in the other room til the friend left. After the friend left he admitted his friend had told him something that made him angry right before I got home and it was misdirected. And the next morning he looked and it didn’t even leave a tire track :) But his friend is in a bad relationship, his wife is always getting mad about unreasonable things. At first my boyfriend was upset that I didn’t sit with them and pretend to not be mad. But then we thought that it was actually a good example, as I had an actual reason to get mad.

  78. Marcella says...

    Ha, my boyfriend and I have been together for 4 years and sometimes when my friend and I would be hanging out waiting on him (because he’s a literal sloth sometimes and we are both early birds on time people!) he would show up and we would start bickering since he was late and my friend would say “CHILDREN!!” to make us stop, lol.

  79. Alyssa says...

    My husband and I have been together for 7 years, married for almost 2. I feel weird saying this, but we don’t bicker a whole lot in general. I feel like we generally keep it together in front of friends, but we’re also really ourselves and still joke with each other mostly the same. Maybe we just keep the dirty jokes out. ;)

  80. Blythe says...

    I had subconsciously (now consciously) put our friends into tiers. Allow me to explain:

    Tier 1 (BFF category) – I don’t clean a thing for this tier. They see my house at its worst and best. We can/will squibble in front of Tier 1, but we’ve all known each other so long it doesn’t ruffle many feathers. No fancy plates or glasses needed. Tier 1 friends are also the ones that I don’t feel obliged to close the bathroom door. More like family actually.

    Tier 2 – The house is lightly cleaned before this tier comes over, just enough to look like we care during the week. (We are serial only-clean-when-company-comes-over-people). A little squibbling may happen but for the most part we’re just ourselves +. Tend to dine on actual plates though so we seem civilized.

    Tier 3 – This tier is primarily made up of parents and other notables (grandparents). The house is spotless or near spotless (we have a husky) and we are on our best behavior when this tier is over. Nice china or our normal plates with chargers and we drink out of my antique bar ware collection. Like the stepford version of us. It doesn’t happen very often but it is tiring!

    29. Married for 5 years. Living my best life in the Midwest. No kiddos. I old dog.

    • kim says...

      I love this ?

  81. Di McCullough says...

    I don’t want to bicker in a way that makes people uncomfortable, but I don’t want normal people to think that we’re not normal, too. Sometimes keeping up appearances makes it harder to have deep friendships, and I don’t want that.

    I came across great advice about arguing in front of kids a while back: it’s not stressful to kids when we argue in front of them, it’s stressful when we don’t resolve it in front of them. As with so much advice about parenting, I think it applies more broadly.

    • Kara says...

      I love this parenting advice! My husband and I are bickerers because of our temperaments, which is so hard to change, so I ALWAYS think about the impact it will have on my kids. Thanks for this comment.

    • Nora says...

      This is great advice! My parents never (I mean never) argued in front of us, but we could still tell when they were upset with each other. Kids are so perceptive that trying to hide all evidence of conflict from them is futile. In hindsight I wish they had exposed us to at least a little bickering, as we never got to learn how they resolved their differences (they must have some kind of trade secret, since they’ve been together for nearly 45 years). I think letting kids witness civil arguments, in which compromise and compassion lead to resolution, is actually a huge parenting WIN!

  82. My husband and I bicker all the time. We try to do it mostly after the bickering trigger has passed if we are around people. But a lot of the time it boils over and try to bring him to the side so it’s known we are not perfect but we don’t want to cause a scene. =)

  83. Robin says...

    We don’t bicker much but we have embarrassing banter. We sing random sentences forgetting that normal people don’t do that. Our most common song is “the ginger is next to the butter”, since that’s where the ginger is in our fridge. We also have super embarrassing voices for when we are pretending to be our dog talking out loud, and mortify each other when we use them in front of guests or in public!

    • Katie says...

      hahahaha. we have a super weird/annoying/crazy voice for our dog too, and it’s totally embarrassing when we real that to guests, too.
      we also quote the office and parks and rec more than i’d like to admit, and people are always SO confused when we quote it; my husband and i die laughing every time.

    • CB says...

      This!!

    • shannon says...

      LOL Robin! We’ve had our pupper for six years (since he was a baby), so we know everything about his little personality and use his “voice” daily. Just the other day we were talking about how embarrassing it would be for others to overhear our “Hoover voice.” ?

      I love this dog Instagram account! Their captions are ?
      https://www.instagram.com/itsbruceontheloose/

  84. Heidi says...

    I’m sure George leaves the toilet seat up and and Amal leaves toothpaste blobs in the sink. I’m all for keeping it real. Respectful, yes. But real.

    • Colleen says...

      Yup. And twins.

  85. Denise says...

    I’m not in a long term relationship at the moment but most of my friends are. As the guest, I’m torn between prefering the bickering-on-the-inside-passive-aggressive-in-front-of-company fakeness and the full on public bicker. As a friend I understand what’s happening and I wish couples would just be real – but not too real.

  86. Laura says...

    We have been together so long that my husband has started to insert himself into my stories and doesn’t actually remember that he was never there! It’s as if our pasts have comingled for so long that they are one and the same.

    • Stella Blackmon says...

      Really laughing at this, Laura. So sweet.

    • Nina says...

      Haha same! I have had to disappoint my boyfriend plenty of times telling him that no we never watched this movie together and we also didn’t go on this holiday together.

    • michaela says...

      Ha ha, this is so sweet. My husband often invents me into his memories of the past, e.g. “Remember that time when we saw X movie and got gelato after? Where was that gelato place?” I don’t know, babe, I’ve never seen that movie; you must have been with someone else. Then he will insist that no, it was me, and *maybe* someone else was there too, but I was definitely there. I always tell him thanks for the back-invitation. :)

  87. Nicole says...

    Or how about this one: we’ve been married just about ten years and have each accidentally told (stolen) the other’s childhood story!

    “Oh, wait—that wasn’t my memory? Huh.”

    • Stella Blackmon says...

      LOL!!!!!!

  88. Laura C. says...

    Oooohhh.
    My husband LOVES to make fun of me in front of others, mainly my own family. He loves to tell others about my little flaws or something, like how chatty I am, or how disorganized I am… and I totally HATE it. I don’t know why he does this. I know he loves me and surely he says that he tells those things just as kidding, but I feel bad and mocked. Nope.

    • Nina says...

      You should definitely talk to him about this! My partner says I do it to him in front of my family (which is probably worse!), and he also hates it – understandably. I wasn’t even aware I was doing it, and am now making an effort not to. I think it’s probably like a deep echo of sibling rivalry or something – trying to prove he’s the best, and actually having the opposite effect…

    • Jeanne says...

      I’m so sorry Laura. I just want to reinforce that what you’re feeling is accurate and not a figment of your imagination. That kind of behavior isn’t funny, loving or an adoring trait of long term relationships. I think that’s really mean and cruel. And it makes others uncomfortable because they can see he’s putting you down publicly, particularly to those who love you like your family. xo

    • Laura C. says...

      Nina and Jeanne- thank you very much for your words! Jeanne I can assure you I don’t have a minimum doubt about how my husband loves me, and yes I have teold him many times, the thing is that he just doesn’t think of it as a thing to get upset by – I try to understand what’s lying beyond. Of course, he does not do it not always, but I’d rather hear some compliment instead of jokes or soft critics. Thank you so much for your words again.

    • A says...

      I am the same as your husband. We’ve been married 9 years, and while we’ve improved, I still have a ways to go. I admire those that can compliment each other in front of others; I feel like I mostly have a happy marriage but when I’m with other people I suddenly realize how rigid/strange/annoying my husband is compared to “normal” people (no seriously, I don’t want him to change, but he’s got very different opinions on money, life, etc than most people) and I feel like I need to have them see all of it so they can understand why we live the way we do. And I think I like to feel like a martyr, so making him seem tough to live with makes me feel better in some sick, twisted way.

      I’m definitely going to keep working on this. Partly because if I focus on the negatives, they’re all I’m going to see. He’s quirky alright, but I do love him and I want to enjoy my life more than I currently do.

  89. Emma says...

    Sometimes I wish that people didn’t keep it together in front of others. I wish that the messiness of life and love could be shown in their complexity. Our world of perfect fairy tale endings and also the non-bickering perfect couple makes modern day dating hard. Sometimes I think we reach for something that is completely unattainable and when we realize that it’s all an act, everything just ends up falling flat.

    Perhaps I’m just jaded and the dream of my own happily ever after is always too grandiose and real life never seems to meet my expectations.

    • Karen says...

      Emma, i loved this piece Stella wrote, but your comment resonated with me and put into words that “thing” i often feel. i, too, am jaded and feel disappointed in myself (life) when reality squashes my expectations.

      sending you virtual hugs.

    • Paula says...

      This! This is why I watch foreign movies. They are REAL! Messy. I am also deeply suspicious of couples who say they don’t bicker or fight. To me, that screams vanilla!

  90. Glamdoc says...

    I’m sure Amal and George have feisty and sexy little quarrels.

    But yeah, this rings true. 10 years, two kids, 7 years of marriage. I guess our arguments keep things from getting boring. One thing I’ve learnt though is that even when we argue to the extent we can’t meet in the middle asap there’s still love. I can go to bed thinking he’s an inconsiderate jerk and still be certain we care deeply about each other. Marriage/companionship is hard as F and lots of fun.

  91. Stephanie Moreno says...

    I love this. I have been with my boyfriend for as many years and I love how we know each other’s stories so much we even correct each other if we say something inaccurately. It’s so sweet when he starts to tell me something and I can’t tell if he doesn’t remember he’s told me or if he doesn’t care and continues with the same unabashed enthusiasm.

    • Stella Blackmon says...

      Stephanie, I love this comment so much.

    • Kathryn says...

      I find myself often getting annoyed when my husband tells me a story he’s already told me, multiple times even! But your comment Stephanie puts it in such a different light, I’m actually looking forward to the next time he repeats a story so I can stop and reflect on the significance of what it means – how long we’ve been together that he’s had time to repeat stories and like you said, that he’s so excited to share a part of himself with me that it doesn’t matter if he’s already told me. Thank you!