I just learned about the concept of couple convergence. It means that partners become more alike the longer they are together, specifically their eating and health habits. This made me smile, because after eight years as a couple, my husband and I seem to have picked up more of each other’s good habits than bad habits. Some of this convergence happens naturally, by osmosis, and some of it happens the old-fashioned way, by debating and nagging.
Pet peeves are impossible to keep secret when you live with someone long enough. I’ve had over 30 roommates over the years, not including shared hotel rooms, and a spouse is kinda like Roommate to the Third Power. (You live together and share housekeeping, bills, and pets, but you also share your extended family, future destiny, luggage, Naked Stuff, and everything else). Avoid triggering someone’s pet peeve – or share one – and discover a new level of gratitude.
‘Idiot’ is my biggest pet peeve. I’m a Mensan, so I think it’s uncouth to insult someone’s intelligence level. When I hear someone call someone else an idiot, I think, “What are your credentials?” ‘Jerk’ is a different story – as far as I know, there is no organization for the upper 2% of nice people, although maybe there should be. In general, I won’t associate with anyone who shouts or slams doors, and that’s something I would always make clear at the beginning of any romantic relationship. My husband agrees, and temper tantrums have not been a problem for us. That is a huge help in tiptoeing through the minefield of scutwork negotiations. Nothing suggests door slamming quite like a stalemate over a sinkful of dirty dishes.
One of my husband’s pet peeves is seeing drinking glasses or teacups on the floor, because they might get kicked over or broken. I always used to do that. I’d be reading and set down my empty glass to carry into the kitchen next time I got up. I quit doing it because I love him, it’s a really minor thing to ask, and of course… [drumroll]… he had a point. The two major household issues he cares about are having a clean kitchen and being able to save as much as he wants toward retirement. I endorse both those things. That was a natural convergence that we both found reassuring and comforting.
It’s not so much that we learned to compromise and communicate during the course of our relationship, though we did. The way we were able to communicate was what drew us together, first as work buddies, then as friends, and very gradually as love interests. We have both been divorced, and we know the risks. We have a weekly status meeting and an official grievance procedure. We entered formal negotiations when we started talking about living in the same zip code. By the time we got married, we had spent over four years getting to know each other, complete with the pet peeves, bad habits, health issues, emotional baggage, clutter, and everything else that is part of the human condition.
We agreed on how we want our house to look. We agreed on how to divide responsibilities. We agreed on how to conduct our finances. We agreed on how to make major decisions, and minor ones. Most of the time, we can stay out of each other’s hair and pursue our own projects. It’s a form of respect. If I see him taking a nap or reading or aimlessly messing around with something, I feel a mixture of tenderness and amusement. It would be appalling if we spent our precious leisure hours bickering over something like taking out the trash or unloading the dishwasher. It’s about maximum enjoyment, and squalid conditions don’t really factor into most people’s dream lives.
Since we’ve been together, we’ve lost a combined total of 70 pounds (lifetime total: 105 and counting). We’ve paid off something like $30,000 of debt. He’s a lark and I’m a night owl, but sleeping in the same bed has shifted my schedule about 3 hours earlier, and we both sleep better and more than when we were single. We traded in our Cokes, frozen Oreos, and root beer floats for about triple the vegetables we used to eat. He turned me into an athlete. We’re both probably at the healthiest and most organized and productive we’ve ever been. Couple convergence has been great for us, partly because we’ve both lived the alternative.
I've been working with chronic disorganization, squalor, and hoarding for over 20 years. I'm also a marathon runner who was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and thyroid disease 17 years ago.