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.

Cohabitation: Marital Test-Drive or Highway to Divorce?

In today's society cohabitation is seen by many as a just another step in the dating process.  You meet someone, date for a while, move in together, get married, have kids...
While others hold to religious, moral, or personal views of cohabitation as sinful or an alternative to traditional marriage.  

Is choosing to live together before or instead of getting married better?  With most other major life decisions there is a trial run.  We get to test drive a car, inspect a house, visit a college all before making major decisions.  Can it be possible to do the same with a partner without living together?  First, let's look at some interesting facts about cohabitation.   

Researchers have conducted numerous studies and many statistics abound on the prevalence, success and length of cohabitating relationships:  

  • First marriages last longer than cohabiting relationships 
  • 65% of cohabiting couples transition to marriage within 5 years
  • 52% of non-marital births occur in cohabiting unions
  • Cohabiting couples report lower levels of relationship quality and lower income
  • Cohabitation increases risk for divorce
  • Age is also factor
    • People 18-19 are more likely to live together
    • People 25-44 are more likely to marry

Cohabitation appears to have negative outcomes in comparison to marriage.  But, there are other ways to "test drive" living with a partner without actually living with them.
Taking an extended vacation (especially a cruise) can reveal a partner's living habits.  Rotating "sleep-overs" throughout the week gives an opportunity to see one another in their natural habitat.  Also, premarital counseling can identify possible areas of future concern that could surface when two people reside in the same household.      

In light of the statistics, is it a good idea to take your partner for a "test drive" before making a lifelong commitment?  

Source: (CDC) Marriage and Cohabitation in the U.S.