Like every couple who have been together for a significant amount of time, my parents are prone to the occasional argument.
I don’t think that this is particularly their fault. They have been together for thirty years now and being with same person for three decades has its challenges.
In addition, two years ago, my mum joined my dad in the realms of retirement and, as a result, the two of them have been spending more time at home together than they did previously.
Before they both retired, they spent long hours apart working shifts which provided them with a healthy break from each other. As the saying goes, absence makes the heart grow fonder but presence does a frictionless relationship squander (not sure that this is an actual saying, not even sure that frictionless is a word tbh..)
Like most people, my parent’s never fight about the actual emotional tensions in their relationship.
Instead, they tend to use everyday items and mundane issues as proxies for the underlying problems that they are attempting to address. For example, they recently had an argument over a jar of jam which they insisted was ‘about the jam and nothing but the jam’. However, I personally think it was about my Dad’s percieved lack of emotional transparency.
Like most couples who have enjoyed many years of marriage, my parents have an unparalleled ability to create an argument out of just about anything, including the process of arguing itself. One of their favourite arguments is the ‘We’re Not Having an Argument’ argument in which each of them tries to convince the other that they are not pissed off whilst progressively becoming increasingly pissed off.
This argument, which sometimes feels like an infinite loop of disagreement, can basically be summed up as the following.
The pandemic has also put a lot of additional tension on my parent’s relationship.
Being together for thirty years is challenging.
Being together for thirty years and then retiring and living together in the same house is even more challenging.
Being together for thirty years, retiring and living together in the same house WITH NO FORM OF ESCAPE is another thing altogether.
I first realised that my parent’s relationship was suffering from pandemic pressure a few months ago when they had a full-on meltdown argument over a towel.
The argument started when my dad made the grave mistake of disrupting a towel washing system that my mum had put into place during the first lockdown.
I’m not totally clear on the intricate details of my mum’s towel washing system (something to do with keeping light and dark towels separate) but I assume she made it in an attempt to create some sort of order for herself in the middle of the coronavirus chaos.
Therefore, when my dad tampered with the system, he was messing with one of the things that was helping my mum cling to some semblance of control; this is the only thing I can think of to explain the ferocity of her reaction.
My dad bore the brunt of my mum’s towel-fuelled wrath for around fifteen minutes, making several further impassioned comparisons between her domestic activities and Orwell’s 1984 in the meantime.
The argument eventually climaxed when my dad stormed out of the house in order to get some ‘freedom from oppression’ time and threatened that he might not come back. However, his rebellious resolve didn’t last long as, ten minutes later, he returned home because he needed a wee.
Now, I don’t want you to get the impression that my parents have an awful relationship; they don’t. Obviously, things have been very stressful and uncertain over the last year and a half and this manifests itself in tension and outbursts of rage over insignificant things.
I’ve heard that it is important to look for small blessings in times of hardship and, as far as my parent’s relationship is concerned, I guess one of the small blessings is they haven’t been going on as many car journeys together as they would have done in the before times.
The car is probably one of the worst places to have a squabbling match as it physically impossible to take a time out unless you do a Ladybird and lob yourself into the road. Therefore, any argument that my parents enter into the car tends to escalate and become quite heated.
Obviously having an impassioned argument isn’t one of the things that driving instructors tend to focus on when teaching people to drive safely.
Maybe then, it is a small solace that my parents have been stuck in the house together because at least then I don’t have to worry about them inadvertently crashing because they’ve been fighting about towels.