Monday, 15 December 2014

The Small Miracle of a Good Marriage--It's all about the Toilet Paper

"Who would pay extra just for something to wipe your bum?"

We were walking the aisled of the grocery story for a weekly shopping trip. When we were first married almost three years ago, I was charmed when my new husband would come shopping with me. How sweet. He even carried in the groceries and helped put them away.

I quickly learned shopping trips with him along cost a lot more. Items I would never buy, mysteriously appeared in the cart when I left it to search for my favourite brand of yogurt. My issue wasn't unfamiliar products, but generally unhealthy ones. We began to play a same of "sneak." Sneak it in the cart (him) and sneak it back on the shelf (me.) Sometimes there would be good natured negotiations in the aisle. Shopping definitely took longer. In spite of everything, it was still fun to have him along.

He doesn't come every time these days (although he still carries in the groceries and helps put them away if he's home) but the comment about the toilet paper was expressed on a recent trip. I was comparing prices of dish detergent, so not entirely concentrating, but a little voice in my head said, "I would." The voice stayed in my head.

Through the struggling years when Bill and I were bringing up children and trying to get beyond the poverty line, we made many concessions. Not much meat (no steak or roasts, lots of hamburger, which was .50 a pound) no paper towels, only one three-litre package of milk for two weeks, and cheap toilet paper. We even went to one-ply for a while, but decided cheap two-ply was the better deal. I hated it. It's funny the little things which spell luxury, but for me, it was the toilet paper. It was nice to be able to have an occasional steak, but the day we could buy soft toilet paper, I felt rich.

So here we were many years down the road, and my new husband, who knew none of the background, was buying cheap toilet paper. And I said nothing. I blame it on my distraction with the rest of the groceries, but the deep-down truth was I didn't want conflict. It wasn't a big deal to him, and he wouldn't have cared, but I kept quiet, and we went home with 24 rolls of really crappy (pardon the terrible pun) toilet paper.

Here's what I learned. Crappy toilet paper lasts a long time. Months. And is annoying every time it is used.

In every marriage, there is the "what matters" list. This may change over the years. When I was married at 23, my "what matters" list was much longer than when I was married at 57. I learned flexibility over the years, and the valuable lesson of priorities. But I discovered that good toilet paper still mattered. After weeks and weeks and weeks (would this stuff never run out?) I finally had the "toilet paper" discussion, explaining why I would like to pay more for something used to, well, you know. He laughed and said he missed the better toilet paper we used to buy, too. Not a big deal.

When we were finally down to a few rolls, we celebrated by buying the softest, most luxurious brand available. I was tempted to throw out the last roll of the other stuff, but my Scottish soul wouldn't let me. Neither would my Scottish husband.

One of the secrets to a good marriage is the know each others "what matters" list. Not opening his mail, even junk mail, matters to my husband. To his credit, he told me that from the beginning, so it's never been an issue. An important way to express love to each other is to share what matters on a regular basis, and be flexible about what doesn't. My "what matters" list is shorter than it used to be, as I have matured and learned to be flexible.

Sometimes "what matters" requires compromise on both our parts. I love to cook dinner for him and sit down to a meal together. His job means his hours are erratic. Often he gets home late, and he's already eaten. I've learned to live with that. However, he used to often have lunch late, so that even when he was home, he wasn't hungry for dinner. He's learned not to do that if possible. It matters to me.

Communication and flexibility are the building blocks to a strong marriage.

And really good toilet paper.

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