Alan Chartock | I, Publius: From toilet to `ice box,' domestic strife runs the gamut

So what are the little things that can lead to marital disharmony or divorce?

I mean, we all know about the big things like money, sex and politics. Those are givens but then there are the hundreds of minor things that contribute to the war of the spouses, right?

For example, there are age old and epic arguments involving toilet paper and the all important question of "under" or "over." It doesn't stop there. In our house, I am constantly being reminded that when the toilet paper roll is coming to the end of its useful life, there should be another roll nearby ready to go.

That doesn't even meet the standard of when the replacement should occur. My view is that as long as anything is left on the old roll it doesn't have to be replaced. That of course, can lead to a certain amount of gamesmanship between partners.

Then too, there is that battle between the sexes over the courtesy of the male returning the toilet seat to the down position and doing it in such a way that it won't wake everyone in the house. As my boy Jonas said, almost thirty years ago, "Every time you put the seat down it sounds like an atomic bomb going off."

Roselle insists this is still happening.

Since almost every house has a place for magazines and other reading material in the bathroom, there is the question of exactly what should be there. As we grow older, we find The Smithsonian Magazine and National Geographic encourage us to read up on subjects that we might not otherwise have known about.

Next door in the bedroom comes the question of who makes the bed.

My partner, Roselle, set the standard years ago. The rule is that whoever gets up last should make the bed. I hate to do it so on the rare occasions that I am still in bed when she says, "I guess I'll get up now," I jump up and get my feet on the floor so she has to do the job.

Since we have been married for a very long time she has developed still more exacting standards how the bed should look including where the accursed throw pillows should be placed. We've also got an issue with the closet. She doesn't like the way I pile up my T-shirts.

We now move downstairs to the kitchen where the war rages on. Roselle and my kids claim that my dishwashing technique is unsatisfactory; they claim that I don't get everything off the plates. I insist that no dishes be left in the sink. The war in our house has always been that it is better to accumulate dishes in the sink than to improperly wash them. I insist, however that I do wash them beautifully.

Then there is the question as to whether the television is too loud. This is a central marital issue. I spent a ton of money on hearing aids but they really don't work so Roselle will tactfully close the door to the TV room and get as far away from me as possible. What's a little noise between partners?

The contents of the refrigerator can also create problems. On a regular basis, Roselle cleans out the refrigerator and makes faces about what she finds in there.

This, of course, has to do with my putting stuff in the thing, knowing full well that I am never going to eat what I have placed in the far recesses of what we once called the "ice box." I've explained to her a thousand times that even if I have no intention of eating something, it has to be properly aged out.

So there it is. I am sure that all of these problems are unique to my house although maybe, just maybe, you have similar issues in yours.

Alan Chartock, a Great Barrington resident, is president and CEO of WAMC Northeast Public Radio and a professor emeritus of communications at SUNY-DomAlbany. The opinions expressed by columnists do not necessarily reflect the views of The Berkshire Eagle.


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