The Golden Rule


The other day, I was this close to picking a fight with my husband. You can’t see me but I’m holding my thumb and forefinger about ¼ of an inch apart. The fight was rattling around in my head for a few days along with an internal dialogue that ran the gamut from “he’s doing this to me,” to “he’s just being himself.” We were on vacation recently, I rationalized, everyone together for days on end. We are getting ready to leave again for a week, more stress. “We’re due for a fight,” I actually said to myself. At one point, I almost went to him with this in my back pocket “Is there something going on at work making you stressed, you seem disconnected lately.” But I didn’t. Because then I played the rest of it in my head and saw an unnecessary argument about non-issues. Just because. And who needs that?

It was borderline a few times, don’t think it was easy. A snappy comment here, a miscommunication there. We were both doing it to some extent, feeding off each other. Although I didn’t know what was going on in his head, I felt something. Unappreciated, a little on edge, off my usual game. And I tried to think about what might be going on for him. I replayed past conversations, disagreements, flat out fights in my head. More often than not, they were cases of Men are From Mars, Women are From Venus.  Miscommunication. He’s not a bad guy. If I was feeling unappreciated, overwhelmed, disconnected, or needing something I wasn’t getting, often so was he. Fighting wasn’t going to help.

And somehow, not through a great epiphany, and almost against my instinct, I tried something different. Remember when “Seinfeld’s” George Costanza had opposite day? Things aren’t going well for him—typical George—so he does the opposite of what comes naturally. He approaches a woman at the diner and says “My name is George. I’m unemployed and I live with my parents.” And, he gets a date.

I was feeling a little grumpy, needy, so my first thought was, well, I’ll just go up to bed after the kids go down, avoid a confrontation, take care of me. He’s probably pissed at me anyway, he’s certainly acting that way (he wasn’t pissed or acting that way, by the way). But, instead I said “Hey, after the kids go down, do you want to watch “Entourage” with me and hang out together upstairs?” “Sure.” OK, we’re off to a good start.  And, we watched our show, had a great chat, and at one point I admitted, “You know, I was feeling like I wanted to be closer to you, so I figured I’d take some initiative and suggest it.” And guess what he said. “Hey, I’m sorry if I’ve seemed distant, I haven’t meant to.” And that was all I needed. We saved a lot of time and energy and were able to spend it much more productively than fighting. Fighting erodes the quality of a relationship. Everyone argues sometimes, but it doesn’t have to be a given.

I’m a firm believer in trusting my instincts. But, sometimes, we fall in to patterns that feel natural, instinctual, but that aren’t always the best path. Sometimes, coming at a problem from a different angle reveals that there is no problem. There are two people who care about each other and are doing the best they can. So, I did what I tell my kids to do. I treated my husband the way I’d have wanted him to treat me. And we both won.


  1. Joel Skyzer says:



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