Lockdown Couple Quarrel

The situation is threatening the longevity of marriage


Like most couple quarrels, it started innocently enough, amiable even, with laughter from both sides, laughter that suddenly froze and the words came out sharp and flat and stinging. And so it was that last Friday a friend of mine when asked by his wife about the dish she had prepared for dinner that night, replied:

“It’s good.” “Really?”, quizzed his wife. “Yes, really,” he said. “C’mon, I know you like a book, spit it out,” said the wife.

He couldn’t tell what gave it away but they had watched together that afternoon a Bhutanese movie starring Tandin Bidha, her favorite Bhutanese actress, on BBS TV, and she was in a good mood.

So he said, “The kewa datsi is a bit soupy, actually.” “What, but you always liked soupy kewa datsi?”, said the wife. “Yeah well, but not that soupy,” said the husband. “And cheesy,” he added.

Suddenly the straight line of his wife’s lips began to curve up. She rolled her eyes and shook her head.

He hated it whenever she asked him about something and not liking the response she rolled her eyes and shook her head. He gritted his teeth and stared into his bowl, stirring the cheesy sludge around with his spoon.

There was a silence, but then he raised the bowl to his lips and the silence was broken by the loud hydraulic sounds of the last of the kewa datsi soup going up his mouth and down his throat. He got a big kick out of that. The wife hated it when he did that.

“You are such a disgraceful spoilt brat, you know that,” she hissed. “Would you rather that I waste this precious potato soup, in these trying times no less?” he asked with edgy, mock interest.

His innards rumbled, and a bubble of gas shifted in his belly. He didn’t know if it was because of the cheesy soup or his wife, who was by now looking at him with an expression of one who is viewing a small and horrible animal, such as a horned toad. Or maybe it was a sign.

He knew that in just a few quick moments, they’d have gone from a seemingly absurd topic to a sudden thirteen-foot drop-off into the wild rapids of a vicious argument about their marriage. He wanted to go for a drive.

The coronavirus lockdown was not helping. Earlier that week, he had told me that the lockdown had inflamed the marital challenges that he and his wife already were enduring, by forcing them to live in close quarters for days on end. Each day deepened the awareness and deepened the gloom. Each day his wife was getting more and more annoyed with him than usual, and he with her.

The good news was that their fights had not, not yet, descended into the kind of sordid blowups he could hear through the walls of their apartment. The couple next door to his actually threw crockery at each other.

The last time he threw crockery at was the kitchen wall, after an especially mind-bending episode with his wife. The tea pan bounced right off the wall and landed smack on his nose leaving him bloody and with a hideously deformed nose for a week. He told me his wife cackled behind his back the whole time.

The trouble at first always seemed like a minor problem as frost on a windowpane. Another day, a touch of sun, and it would be gone. He was even inclined to laugh it off. Like the time when it was his turn to mop the house and when he had finished mopping the house down to a tee, the wife said the floor was still dirty and that he needed to do it all over again.

If there’s one mind-numbing issue facing a man and a woman who are married, it is dirt. Men and women do not feel the same way about dirt at all. Men and women don’t even see the dirt the same way. Women, for some strange hormonal reason, can see individual dirt molecules, whereas men tend not to notice them until they join together into clumps large enough for their naked eye to see. Her insistence on making other people find things where there were none and her failure to see the irony proved conclusively to him that she was a woman entirely without brains or humor. And that’s exactly what he told her that day. Needless to say, it ended up with her slamming the bedroom door with fiery disdain and him sleeping on the sitting room sofa.

The entire episode heaved into view on the cold ocean of his memory. He remembered how long ago he had carved their initials in a heart on an oak tree by a babbling brook. It seemed so very long ago. Suddenly he heard his wife speak. Her harsh tones rumbled ominously through the silent house like claps of distant thunder, yanking him back to the present.

“Don’t think I didn’t see you ogling at our young neighbor as if she was packed into her slacks like two big scoops of vanilla ice cream, OK, you shameless creature?” the wife snarled. She rose and shoved her chair back with a force that sent it clattering to the floor behind her.

Seldom one to back down or zip his mouth, he laughed loudly at that as she left the dining room with her plate. (As a friend, I always found that laughter of his annoying.) “What’s that got to do with your soupy kewa datsi?” He snorted after her.

He heard a loud crash in the kitchen. “You know what?” the wife said emerging from the kitchen, her face darkening in mountainous wrath. “I realized I cannot communicate with you about our relationship anymore than I can meaningfully play tennis with a donkey.”

“Says the woman who expects to be praised every time she cooks as if she has developed, right there in the kitchen, a cure for heart disease,” countered the husband.

He realized he was getting quite good at this.

The writer is a former editor of Kuensel and can be reached at @bonzk on Instagram.

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