Once you’re settled into a relationship, it can be surprising how
many petty little arguments you find yourselves having. In some
cases you have the same arguments again and again. What’s the
point of that? Well I’ll tell you very often the point is that you
may think you resolved it last time, but actually you’re not
having the argument you think you are. You’re having a com-
pletely different argument but neither of you has realized it.
If this Rule reminds you somewhat of the last one, that’s because it’s
an extension of it. In order to work out what the real argument is
about, you have to apply Rule 54 and listen to what isn’t being said.
Let me give you an example and I think you’ll get the idea. Lots of
couples argue about whose turn it is to do the washing up. They
get hung up on who did it last Friday, and who did it at the week-
end when there were extra people so there was more of it, and
who had to do it even when they were late home from work on
Tuesday. Honestly, it’s only washing up. Does it really matter who
does it? Don’t you love your partner enough not to fuss over the
last detail of who’s washed up more forks this week?
Aha, but that’s not the real issue, is it? The real problem here is
that one of you feels taken for granted, and thinks their good
nature is being exploited. And that’s not what they expect
quite rightly from someone who loves them. So that’s what you
need to discuss if you’re going to get to the bottom of this. You
can discuss it in code, using words like ‘kitchen sink’ to signify
the balance of effort in the relationship, or you can come clean
17
RULE 55
116
T H E R U L E S O F L O V E
Most everyday
arguments are about
something else
17
Quite easily, I should imagine, with all that hot soapy water.
RULE 55
117
R E L A T I O N S H I P R U L E S
and talk about the real problem. It doesn’t really matter which
you do, so long as you both know what’s at the heart of it.
If you find yourselves repeating the same argument over and
over again, the odds are you have one of these phantom topics
to deal with, and the arguments won’t stop until you’ve identi-
fied the real problem. Suppose you argue about one of you
spending money on something the other one considers unneces-
sary. Either they’re worried about there not being enough money
for essentials, or they’re jealous that their partner has more
spending money than they do, or they feel it could have been
spent on something they would have benefited from too. You’ll
have to work out which is the case, but don’t be fooled into
thinking that its just about wasting money. Especially not if it
crops up frequently.
YOU MAY THINK YOU
RESOLVED THINGS LAST
TIME, BUT ACTUALLY
YOURE NOT HAVING THE
ARGUMENT YOU THINK
YOU ARE

Get The Rules of Love now with O’Reilly online learning.

O’Reilly members experience live online training, plus books, videos, and digital content from 200+ publishers.