Guest Post from Author Jon Cohen
Last night I decided to be a hero and load the dishwasher. It was late, and I was tired, but I felt I owed something extra to my partner. After all, she’d cooked dinner, and before that picked up my suit at the cleaners on her way home from work.
So even though it was late, and I was tired, I set to work scraping the gunk off the dishes and silverware, scouring the bottoms of coffee cups, making everything fit.
“Come here, sweetheart, look what I did,” I said when I was finished. I was expecting a beaming look of admiration, or some sort of special commendation, maybe a merit badge.
Instead, all I got was a grimace. “I told you, I like the forks pointing up,” she said.
Now, as I sit at my desk, remembering last night, I think of that exact moment, and how I handled it, as the turning point in what became a lovely evening.
I could have said, “You’re welcome!” in a loud, sarcastic voice. Or “Who cares which way the forks are pointing,” or “Do you know what kind of petty, piddly stupidity I had to endure today to earn a living and pay your bills, and now you stand there and bitch me out over some forking forks?”
Years ago, when I was unhappily married, those are the kinds of things I’d say. And then we’d go to bed angry and sometimes not even talk to each other for days.
But now I’m grownup, wiser, and living with someone I love. So what I said was, “Sure thing, sweetheart. Any way you like it.” And I spent thirty more seconds to turn the forks pointing up.
Not such a big deal, you might think. And you’d be right. But the way that we manage situations like this, no matter how silly and small they might seem, can be huge in determining if we go to bed angry or happy.
As I remember last night, I think I have arrived at a new rule for relationships: if it doesn’t matter to you, but it does matter to your partner, then by all means pay attention and extend some grace. This will cost you nothing, and just might get you that merit badge.