A few weeks ago, I was dining with some friends, a couple, who ended up arguing in front of me. The fight lasted all night. What started as an innocent albeit profoundly stupid comment by the fella opened a Pandora's box of pent-up issues. Each of them tried to bring me over to their respective side, but I wisely issued several "no comments," and stayed out of it.
Since I got to witness the whole thing, I was able to pinpoint where it all went wrong. I thought this whole debacle would be a good learning exercise for you, the reader. So, I present the first ever Choose Your Own Adventure column: Avoiding the Argument edition.
Here's a little background (names have been omitted to protect the columnist): The couple, who have been married for four years, are trying to get pregnant, and are having difficulty. Our conversation was about her having to stop drinking alcohol because of the kiddo. The wife jokingly suggested that the husband should have to quit drinking, too. That's when the fun started.
Here is the comment that spawned the whole sordid ordeal:
Wife: "If I can't have any fun, he shouldn't be able to either."
Choose your response from the options below:
A.) "I'll be drunk from conception to college graduation."
B.) "We'll have plenty of fun together without alcohol."
C.) "It's not my fault God cursed women with having to carry around a baby."
Here are the repercussions of your choices:
If you chose A: (This is a risky choice, because you're counting on your wife to have a sense of humor about a sensitive issue.) Your wife gives you a good-hearted jab to the shoulder, and pretends to find the comment funny. She also acts as if it's no big deal, but stores it in the part of her memory she accesses whenever she's trying to guilt you or win a fight. The next time you make her mad, she brings it up and starts crying, leading to a prolonged argument and a week of apologizing. That comment will haunt you forever.
If you chose B: She'll lean over and kiss you on the cheek. You'll get to try and make a baby later that night.
If you chose C: She'll boil over like a tea kettle, and lash out. Your dinner will be ruined, and your dinner guest mortified and humiliated on your behalf. Every subsequent thing you say, including "Why can't you take a joke?," will just turn the knife. You're a total jackass, and you know it. But you keep fighting just to win the argument. The longer the fight lasts, the more unrelated issues are dragged out into the open. You'll be fighting for the next several days, and sleeping on the couch that evening.
My friend chose C, because, well, he's an idiot. I think his wife overreacted, but I also recognize that I don't fully understand the stress of failing to conceive a child. So she gets a pass.
The lesson here: Don't try and be funny about something that matters to the person you love. If my buddy were trying to impress me with his rapier-sharp wit, he failed. The best thing to do is always go with the safe answer, and preserve the peace.
I'd like to hear your thought on this. What would you choose? Did the wife overreact?
E-mail your thoughts to Y Me? at firstname.lastname@example.org, or post a comment on his Facebook page.