The Agree Game, How to Argue Successfully as a Couple (Yes, it can be done)

“Well, then, what’s YOUR solution?” I seethed at my boyfriend, scrubbing an imaginary stain on the kitchen countertop so I wouldn’t have to look at him. If I looked at him, I would bite his head off like a female praying mantis.

“I don’t have a solution, but I know that we need one.” He answered in his calm attorney tone, refusing to raise his voice, infuriating me even further.

“Please look at me” It was his standard entreaty. One that I often chose to ignore, preferring the view of the floor or the window instead of connecting on an inter-personal level. For the longest time in our relationship, I was unable to make eye contact. I avoided looking at him or at anyone. Avoidance at all costs. Avoidance always worked before. Ignore him and the problem will go away.

“Can we play the agree game?” He would ask eagerly.

“Fine!” I would scoff. And so it would begin….

Most couples have a few differences; We are complete opposites.

He’s a left over hippie who still hasn’t realized that the 60’s are over. I’m a preppy fashionista who uses disposable water bottles and doesn’t rinse before recycling. Most times it hits the trash instead of the bin.

He’s Jewish. I’m Roman Catholic. He’s near retirement and I’m on the cusp of my sexual prime. He’s politically liberal. If he were any further left, he would fall off the end of the earth. I consider myself a radical republican which is a contradiction in terms but most of me is a contradiction so it works. Later, he would urge me to tell people I’m a Libertarian, as “republican “ ruffles more than a few feathers.

That’s one of the things we argue about, how I’m supposed to accept and welcome his “liberal” views, but his divine mandate is to facilitate my conversion to his versions of belief.

We also argue about corporal punishment as a possible deterrent, opioids, Syrian refugees, cults, doctors, breed specific legislation, low carb diets, the loss of adult accountability in society and marijuana usage.

He is a diehard sports fans. I don’t even know when the Super Bowl is. Nor do I want to know, nor do I especially care. He still moans about the Hank Aaron baseball card that his mother threw out while she was cleaning and he was in college.

In the early spring, he will ask me expectantly, “ Do you know what season begins this weekend?” .

“Duck season” I will reply dryly.

He is of course referring to Lacrosse, men chasing other men, carrying their balls in baskets on a stick. This activity mesmerizes him for some reason. I fall asleep on the bleachers.

By now, a sane person would have thrown in the proverbial relationship towel.

“We have nothing in common”

Except for one very strong thing in common, neither one of us has ever had a relationship with another individual like each other.

I think we are drawn to the challenge of our differences, which brings us back to the argument, and the “agree game.”

He created the game as a way to settle differences and arguments; I like to think that he created the game especially for us to use as a communication and relationship tool, but I know better.

The game is simple. Both parties contribute and comment. The object is to take the argument at hand, and find as many agreements between the two parties.

It allows both parties to listen and hear what the other party is saying. Even blatant opposites such as us, can find a common foundation of agreements. The objective, again, is to find as many agreements as possible before commencing the disagreement.

Today’s argument was about the upcoming Passover menu and my tendency to “overcook” which causes him to “overeat” which has progressively caused him to gain unwanted weight.

I don’t remember what was said, but I know what I “heard” and I heard,” you are making me fat “ in an accusing tone which made me the sole culprit.

He doesn’t remember what was said either, but he will swear that he “heard” me say, “ I will continue to demonstrate my exemplary culinary skills, despite your complaints, deal with it “.

He begins the agree game:

“Can we agree that the main objective of the holiday is family?”

“Yes”. I agree.

“Can we agree that whatever you prepare will be amazing”

“Yes”. I nod my head. Damn straight, I agree.

“Can we agree that it will be just as amazing, if you make less of it?”

“NO, I want to ensure people get enough to eat. No one goes home hungry from MY table “

“Okay, can we agree that we do not want a lot of left overs?”

“Yes.” We can agree; Last Thanksgiving we were eating turkey for a week.

“Can we agree that our guests do not eat large portions?”

“Mostly” I hissed. Part of me wanted to argue that good manners dictated that people refrain from second helpings if the pickings were slim which is why mountains of food were necessary to ensure everyone was comfortable.

“Can we agree that YOU barely eat at all?”

“Yes” I agreed. A lifetime of dieting and diet pills had permanently ruined my appetite.

“Can we agree that less food will mean less work for you? “

“Yes” I agreed.

He did have a point. A very good point, I was realizing, much to my chagrin.

“Can we agree that one brisket, one potato, one vegetable and one dessert is plenty of food?”

“Two vegetables” I countered.

“Can we agree that your boyfriend can have the dinner catered and spare you the work?”

“Yes.” He could. He would. He might. I’m losing the argument.

I interject at this point, “Can we agree that your girlfriend is Sicilian?”

“Yes. “ he replied.

“Can we agree that in her mind, food is love and love is food. Therefore the more food, the more love?”

“Can we agree that is a mistaken perception of love?” He asks.

“Can we agree that mistaken or not, it is MY perception, therefore MY reality?”

“Yes it is” He agrees.

He slips his arms around me, to give me a hug. He’s winning the argument. He knows it. I know it. We know it. Just like a lawyer, he goes in for his winning closing statement.

“Can we agree that I love you?” He asks, putting his head close to mine, holding me close wanting to kiss and make up, to bury the proverbial hatchet, but holding back until he hears my answer. Holding back, awaiting my agreement.

“If you loved me, you’d let me make two vegetables….”

Words…. my best friends…my worst enemies. The right words are kind . The wrong words hurt, except Italian words, words in Italian always sound good.

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