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What On Earth Are We Arguing About?

September 5, 2021 | by Emuna Braverman

Have you ever made plans to go out to dinner only to have something set you off or irritate you as you drove there?

My husband and I have a first world problem. We are very fortunate and grateful to have a study/office in our new home. It’s particularly necessary given the restrictions of Covid and some of the challenges of doing business in this new, not-quite-post-pandemic environment. There are two chairs, a small table and one rather large desk – for sharing.

Have you guessed our challenge?

Turns out I’m not as good at sharing as I thought (or maybe he’s the one who isn’t!). I like to spread out lots of books to prepare classes. I like to have my calendar open (yes the old-fashion not-on-your-phone kind) so I can see what the day holds and I can easily schedule new appointments.

He would like me to put everything away every time I leave the study. I get it (I think I’m the one that made him into a neat freak so like Dr. Frankenstein said…) and I sympathize, but it’s extremely inconvenient to do that a few times a day as we continuously switch places. I argue for a once a day clean-up.

Yesterday we hit crisis mode on this issue and minor tremors reverberated throughout the neighborhood. When we calmed down and cooled heads prevailed, I was able to reflect on the absurdity of the situation. For what purpose do I need my office space? To learn and teach Torah, to help myself and others grow and connect to the Almighty. Is this end being served by squabbling with my husband? There is something ironic in fighting with my husband to ensure I have the space I need to create a relationship with God for myself and others.

Luckily for us, the argument didn’t last. We both recognized the foolishness of it and pulled back from the brink. But how often does this happen – in our marriage and that of others? How often do we miss that proverbial forest for the trees?

My husband is fond of pointing out the paradox of the well-known and oft-used “silent treatment”. It is frequently employed when we’re frustrated with our spouse for not spending enough time with us. How do we punish them? By spending even less time with them!

Have you ever made plans to go out to dinner only to have something set you off or irritate you as you drove there? You spend the whole meal ostentatiously ignoring your spouse or responding monosyllabically. You waste the money for the babysitter, for the meal and the opportunity of quality time together over a trivial issue.

Or we fight over furniture for the home we’re trying to create together. Over parenting for the children we are trying to raise together. Over the many differing ways in which we try to achieve our shared goals.

But perhaps the worst of all is the situation my husband and I encountered – struggling over space that we both use to work on our relationship with the Almighty! I don’t think it’s giving Him nachas! At least we recognize that and understand the foolish of his – I mean our – positions. While this insight may not prevent all future quarrels, at least when we recognize the stakes it should stop us in our tracks.

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