According to a new survey, the average British couple rows 312 times a year. I know, it’s the kind of stat you need to take a while to consider. Go ahead – I’ll wait.
Hello! You’re back. How did you fare? Did you divide 312 by 365 and turn to your beloved, who was holding your hand next to you on the sofa, and cry “Darling – can you beLIEVE?
Apparently most people row nearly every day! Six times a week! Let us kiss devotedly and promise never to become like them!”
Or did you, like most of us, do the maths then turn to your nearest girl friend and cry “Shit – this claims there are people in the world who don’t argue with their partners at least 18 times a day before breakfast and fall into bed in the evening exhausted by the intractable inadequacies of the human race and praying to an unbenevolent god to release them from this torture by morning? Waiter, a bottle of your cheapest sorrow-drowner if you would!”
At the risk of exposing too much, less than once a day seems low to me.
Come into the kitchen with me for a moment where my husband of two years is making himself lunch. There are, at a rough estimate, 806 things wrong here and none of them are my fault. The windows aren’t open to let the steam out. There are three pans on the hob, each with the gas flames running up the sides as if heating the air around water is the best way to get it to boil. None of the pans contain vegetables because he doesn’t eat vegetables.
And the worst thing is, he’s not even here. He’s on the loo or checking his email – probably both, and I can tell you for certain that he won’t be looking for the car logbook or his tax receipts as I’ve been urging him to do for the last three months – serenely untouched by the thought of the pans boiling over, leaving the contents to burn, me to clean the hob and the house to catch fire.
“I’m disgustingly messy and I baffle and annoy my husband by worrying about things beyond my control”
That’s one snapshot of one room. Multiply by seven billion and you’ll see why I spend every evening marvelling that I have survived another day without having a stroke.
Women, of course, get most of the bad press when it comes to rowing. Men, in the stereotypical formation, occasionally explode with towering furies over large and important matters. Women (in the ditto) are more frequently annoyed by so-called minutiae. We are the ones who niggle and poke and prod and whine and berate all day… We are the ones, in short, who nag. We are the ones responsible for the bulk of those 312 annual arguments.
But why do we nag? It’s because we can see further into a brick wall than the average man. It’s because we see not just A Single Thing but all the consequences that flow from that thing. If the windows are never opened, we will get damp and mould in our tiny kitchen. If pans and hobs are left to burn repeatedly, we will have to replace them. This is boring, expensive and completely avoidable.
So is burning down the house. So is being fined by the DVLA and the Inland Revenue. So is finding those sodding papers. Never eating vegetables will encourage particularly horrible cancers to take up residence in your body and you might die. Which, although it might not seem like it as I advance upon you with endless lists of daily complaints, I really do not want you to do.
Of course, he has his complaints about me. I’m disgustingly messy and I baffle and annoy him by worrying about things beyond my control. (I’m trying to improve the former, I can do nothing about the latter.)
But these things don’t wound him like the things I nag about (or ‘repeatedly request in an admirably reasonable tone of voice in the circumstances’, as I prefer to think of it) do me. Because when people refuse to change their behaviours, it can only be interpreted negatively. Either they don’t care that they are upsetting you, or they are congenitally thoughtless or too stubborn to be swayed by legitimate argument even when you back it up with evidence printed off the web (as I once did re: the boiling water/air issue). Those 312 moments are the tip of the iceberg. The real question is how long your relationship has before it founders on the seveneighths that lurk beneath the surface.
Waiter, another bottle of sorrowdrowner, if you would…
Contact Lucy Mangan at firstname.lastname@example.org and on twitter.com/lucymangan
Picture credit: Rex Features