Monday, July 5, 2010

Women and The Toilet Seat

It amazes me how many married couples argue about the position of the toilet seat. During my years as a marriage and family therapist, I worked with couples on a wide variety of relationship issues.  Regardless of what brought them into therapy, I would consistently hear complaints that began with a late night in a dark bathroom, ending with an angry wife who had a cold, wet bottom.  

Wives would become irate and wanted to understand how their intelligent, well-read husbands could not grasp a concept so simple as putting the toilet seat down.  Arguments would go on and on about this trivial (yes, I said trivial) issue often resulting in someone calling names and insulting someone else's intelligence.  

I have always thought that conversations like these are a huge waste of time because they:
     1. Do not get at the real issue causing the conflict (lack of communication,        
         feelings disrespected, etc.)
     2. Only encourage the behavior.  Constantly complaining to your spouse  
         gets similar results as doing the same to children - disregard and 

Any of you who know me, know that I am a big fan of the work of Dr. John Gottman.  In his 35+ years of studying the interactions of couples, he has found that marital problems fall into one of two categories: solvable and perpetual.

Solvable problems
As the name implies, these problems have a solution, they can be fixed.  Although these problems are quite simple in nature, they tend to cause a good bit of conflict in the relationship.  
Examples: household chores, toilet seat positioning, childcare duties, finances, etc.

Perpetual problems
The overwhelming majority of marital problems (70%) do not have a quick fix.  They are based on personality characteristics, personal beliefs, and those things about us that are not easily changed.  Couples will remain in conflict about these issues for years.
Examples: sex, childrearing tactics, religion, politics, in-laws 

Perpetual problems require more work, understanding, and compromise than solvable problems.  Yet, couples choose to argue about the solvable problems instead of trying to fix them.  It was my job as a therapist to encourage them to fix the solvable ones which allowed more time and energy for us to focus on the perpetual ones in therapy. 

So, back to the toilet seat.  Ladies, let it go!  I mean, how hard it is to look before you sit? Not to let the guys off the hook here, but you must pick your battles.  I would much rather have a husband who consistently leaves the toilet seat up than a Tiger Woods, Jesse James, Ike Turner, or Bernie Madoff wannabe.  

The bottom line (pun intended) here - Isn't a cold, wet bottom worth the valuable time spent working on perpetual issues in your relationship?  If your answer is no, you may need to seek the help of a divorce attorney...once you dry off.

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