Everybody thinks they know how to argue. And then they move in with somebody and find out that they don't.
I thought he and I were different. We don't like confrontation, I thought, so we'll just sort everything out like reasonable human beings, forgetting that I am not a reasonable human being.
And although it's true that we don't like confrontation (who does?), I do like a clean house, a tidy bedroom and to live with a human being who realises that if you're not in a room, you should TURN THE FLAMING LIGHT OFF. He, on the other hand, likes the precise opposite, so we had no choice but to exchange just a few cross words to ensure we'd both survive cohabitation.
And I know now that I did it all wrong. Although we survived the process, sometimes I wonder how. So to save everybody else the trouble, I thought I'd share what I learnt: here's how not to have an argument. Let this be a lesson to you.
Lots and lots and lots of sighing
Next time I update the 'Other interests' section of my CV, I'm going to add 'passive aggression'. My first tactic for addressing my frustration when I found that he had failed to change a toilet roll/not emptied the bin/left yet another pair of boxer shorts on the bathroom floor (is it intended as a gift? You know, like when a cat brings you a dead mouse or something?) was to sigh over and over again in the hope that the increase in condensation in the flat would alert him to his errors. It didn't work.
When asked what's wrong, say "Nothing"
When the sighing got so excessive that I was at risk of hyperventilating, he would give in and ask what was wrong. And instead of just explaining "Your inability to grate cheese on the kitchen worktops without it look like a bale of hay has just exploded in the house," I just said 'Nothing' and assumed that he would know that what I really meant was LOADS. Yeah, that didn't work either.
Start talking to yourself
This is probably the most absurd stage in the passive aggression journey. At the end of my ridiculous tether after he'd refused to decipher the precise meaning of my sighs and clearly coded 'Nothing', I resolved to just start talking to myself in the hope that he would finally catch on. It's very easy, all you do is stomp about whilst tidying the house muttering the following under your breath:
"Well hello there pair of pants, how very nice of you to come and sit right there in the middle of the bathroom floor! I guess I'll just pick you up myself, shall I? Hmmm?!"
or, for the ultimate in being a complete twerp, start thanking yourself:
"Oh thank you, Charlotte! How kind of you to clean up all my sh*t! Yes you do have MUPPET tattooed on your forehead and may I say how well it goes with your eyes. Your big muppet eyes."
He didn't bite. He just sat and watched, baffled as to why he had ever agreed to move in with such a complete lunatic.
When forced to explain what is the matter, completely lose your sh*t and all perspective about what you were originally cross about
Eventually after one to two hours of the aforementioned arsing about, he would finally ask me to just say what the matter was. And I'd have wound myself up SO much by that point that I would just start blurting out expletives whilst pointing at the fridge or the bin like a mad person. I'd be apoplectic with rage and yet I wouldn't really be sure why. His original crime - for example, eating all of the chocolate orange my grandma had bought for me, or talking during Coronation Street - had escalated to such an extent that I'd lost all ability to articulate myself. We'd both just have to retire to different rooms for a bit whilst I gathered myself, and he played X-Box until I was ready to start behaving like a normal human. What a bloody palaver.
Just calmly mentioned that something was bothering me, explained why and, as is the rule for everything in life, tried not to behave like a total dick. Who knew?
Well, now you do and thankfully so do I. Otherwise there's no way we'd have made it this far. If only somebody had told me all this before we'd moved in together, I'd have spent a lot less time being severely out of breath.
Oh well. *sighs*