I want to give up! I don’t think I can squeeze any more toothpaste out of the tube. I try anyway, because I know my wife Diann wants me to do so. I squeeze with all my might and a small amount oozes out, but as soon as I release my two-handed grip to pick up my toothbrush, the toothpaste oozes back into the tube like some timid albino worm.
I know Diann can miraculously get another week’s worth of toothpaste out of it. Fine, she can have at it; I’ll start a new tube!
In our 47 years of marriage we’ve made peace about where to squeeze the toothpaste tube. I would squeeze it wherever, she insisted it be squeezed from the end. I’ve yielded to her way, though I still backslide and squeeze the middle on occasion. However, when it comes to finishing off a tube of toothpaste, I stand my ground! Why she insists on getting another few days use out of it is beyond me.
By our 50th wedding anniversary I calculate she will have saved us maybe one tube’s worth of toothpaste by attacking the crinkled tubes like a boa constrictor. Perhaps on our 50th wedding anniversary I’ll give her a gift certificate for the one tube of toothpaste we’ve saved. Or maybe not. It could dampen the celebratory nature of the anniversary, you think?
I’m convinced marriage attracts opposites. I suspect that in many marriages there’s one who is a bottom toothpaste tube squeezer and the other is a wherever-I-can-grasp-it-best squeezer. This is why marriage is all about compromise. We’ve compromised; I now squeeze the toothpaste tube from the bottom and she’s willing to finish off each tube while I start another. It works for us.
How we deal with tubes of toothpaste is just the beginning of how to have a good marriage, or how to make good any other relationship. Many of the conflicts in relationships aren’t really big deals. Our differences are often simply a difference of personalities or of preferences. One person sees details and the other sees the big picture. One likes to relax by reading a book and the other by watching TV. One is a people person and the other likes time away from people. It’s not a matter of being right or wrong but of simply being different.
We blow things out of proportion when we turn a personality characteristic or a preference into a principle. Principles help us see something as either right or wrong, whereas with personalities and preferences there is no right or wrong, just differences.
God’s made us each unique. We acknowledge, accept and celebrate what God has done in making each of us different when we cut each other some slack, show some grace, laugh over our differences, and come to appreciate those differences!
“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-4