Saturday, November 13, 2010

"'Element X': The Irreconcilable Difference"

Sometimes “this thing we do” makes me feel like we’re mad scientists in a laboratory of marriage. One day Sugar put a smidgen of her submission into a test tube laced with trust (the butt of which is placed over a Bunsen burner) – and both grew exponentially. I stirred a monocotyledonous portion of my dominance into a Petri dish smeared with respect – and both went into “Breck mitosis”. We poured both containers in to a dormant cauldron of stale communication and the thing began to bubble up with effervescence that continues to emit a wonderful fragrance that fills the entire laboratory.

But it ain’t always all pretty. Sometimes our laboratory is on high alert; the situation becomes volatile; bad chemistry can have the whole shebang on the verge of blowing up. I was reminded of that recently when “Element X” reared its ugly head again.

“Element X” is not like wondering: “Why does the male of the species even lift up the toilet seat if all he’s going to do is piss all over the bathroom floor?! (Hey! At least he puts the seat back down). “Element X” is not like being grossed out by the sight of used “feminine products” in the trash can or irritated about all that cosmetic crap that’s left all over the bathroom counter. And it’s not whether the toothpaste tube is being squeezed at the bottom, the middle or the top. As irritating as all of these things can be, when you drop ‘em into a bubbling cauldron of communication you still get a sweet fragrance in the lab.

What is “Element X” you ask? Well, when a reasonable expectation that an emotional and/or physical need will be met within a relationship is faced with a bona fide reason that that need cannot be met, you have “Element X”. It is not preference. It is 100 per cent pure unadulterated irreconcilable difference.

When “Element X” is not dealt with, it smells like an elephant fired off a “missile” onto the floor of the marital laboratory. You can’t help but smell it but you act like you don’t. You might even step in the shit and have it contaminate every other experiment being conducted in the laboratory. Some couples, after stomping around for a while with turned up noses, actually let the laboratory blow up just to get away from the stench. This is marital suicide.

I’m reminded of that episode of Seinfeld when Elaine, who is staunchly pro-choice, walks out of a restaurant mid-meal because the owner is pro-life. Later, she falls in love with a handsome moving man – the apparent man of her dreams. Jerry, ever the instigator (oh that Jerry!), casually asks her what her new fella’s stance is on abortion. When Elaine finds out the guy is pro-life she breaks down in tears and is forced to break up with him. For Elaine the man’s stance on abortion is an irreconcilable difference – “Element X”.

“Element X” is a recurring menace in our relationship (it’s not always all well and good over here people!). It robs one of emotional fulfillment, closeness and physical satisfaction, while burdening the other with emotional dissatisfaction, distance and physical discomfort. The accompanying stink of resentment and guilt tends to invade the other experiments, everything comes to a stop and there’s about as much people activity in the laboratory as there is at Madam Tussads’ wax museum.

Like all good scientists Sugar and I continue to hypothesize and theorize about what will work to resolve – or even dissolve – “Element X”. We continue to experiment (which doesn’t always go well) and examine the results (which are sometimes disastrous).

Here’s what we’ve learned so far: “Element X” can’t be negotiated, traded for, or met by compromise. It can’t be “Dom’d” in or “Dom’d” out; “sub’d out or “sub’d” in”; spanked up or spanked down. And it can’t be set aside forever or it will start to stink like month old ground beef cooking over coals of sulphur. It is not preference. And there is not a lack of desire to reconcile it. It is just 100 per cent pure unadulterated irreconcilable difference.

It used to come up twice a month and the smell would linger for two weeks. But it’s only come up twice this year and didn’t linger at all. Yeah, it stank. The feelings are real. The pain is real. The guilt is real. And all unavoidable. There is great wisdom in recognizing that a problem within your relationship cannot be solved. But, unfortunately, that doesn’t make the situation any less frustrating.

Do you have an “Element X”? Maybe it has something to do with political worldviews, religious beliefs, sexual needs, moral standards or philosophical positions. And, more importantly, how do you handle it? Do you over engage it? Under engage it? Or act like it doesn't exist? As a scientist, I'm truly curious.

Sugar and I know that when “Element X” comes up (and it will) we will go from harmony, to horror, to hell on earth as quick as a hiccup. But as mad scientists in the marital laboratory we have found out that, when it does come up, we can go back to honky dory in lickety split, smelling sweet as a rose, if we just drop that shit into that bubbling cauldron of communication that is fueled and inspired by that other wonderful concoction: “this thing we do”.


  1. B'Man,
    There haven't been many things like this in our marriage and after 27 years now I don't expect any more. The only thing I can think would have put us in this place was if Nick had not wanted to have kids. For me having children was as strong a need as breathing and as much as I love my husband I could not allow him to stop me from breathing. Thank God he did or the marriage would not have lasted. For me everything else we've dealt with was negotiable.

    Have you discussed this issue with anyone else - like someone you both really trust and respect and willing to listen and talk with you guys about it. Even with all your talk about it someone else may be about to point out something each of you is saying that the other is just not hearing.

    In any case I don't know of two other people who have lovingly worked so hard on their marriage and as much as you love one another I think even this can be resolved.

    Good luck and big hugs,

  2. WOW...That post came from the belly!
    So far, Jake and I have not crossed that bridge... yet.
    We have had some minor issues in regards to faith...mostly due to upbringing. Those issues have been resolved.
    It is my belief that you can't change the "who in who you are." Some things are just there and can't be altered. Some things are there for the long haul- they're unmovable. I guess that's what makes us individuals...thats's what makes us-US.
    Here is what is apparent...
    B'Man and SugarAnne are two peas in a pod.
    Sometimes we all just have to agree to disagree
    Marriage takes three (God center)
    Hang in there!
    You two will be fine!

  3. Yeah, we have an "element X" in our marriage - and it hasn't been easy. I have learned to let it go, and he has learned not to push my buttons. It has been hard, and I have struggled with remaining sweet and submissive when it comes up, but for us, ignoring something like this is actually the best way to minimize its impact on our relationship.
    Take care,

  4. Hey B'Man - Yes, we most certainly have an "Element X" in our relationship - a few, in fact. The biggest one at the moment is the feature of my most recent post. We have irreconcilable differences in who we are, and while I wish I had an answer to give you, we sure haven't found ours yet.

    PK's hypothetical problem of kids vs. no kids is another "Element X" for us (he wants them, I don't), but for now we've resolved it by not resolving it. That is, we aren't ready to have kids yet, and my health may or may not allow us to do so in the future, so we're waiting to tackle that issue again if and when the time comes to make a decision.

    I think every couple has their Element X, because every "couple" consists of two individuals. Most couples either ignore the issue, refusing to face it and choosing to live with the consequences, or they fight it constantly, refusing to give in and killing their marriage in the process. I'm not sure if TTWD has the answers to this problem or not. TTWD can certainly change outward behavior and, to an extent, inward personality, but just how far can that change go? Can it change who we are? Should it change who we are?

    You've raised some really good questions here. I hope you find the solution that will dissolve your particular Element X. When you do, be sure to pass it around. Maybe it will cure the rest of us, too!


  5. PK:
    Thanks for answering! Fortunate is the marriage that doesn't have an "Element X". You and Nick are blessed indeed!

    We're pretty upfront and honest with each other about it and that's been critical. We have both found the disclosure refreshing. Even without resolution we're in a good spot and the lab has a great fragrance.

    Thanks for the hope, the well wishes AND the hugs.

    I'm glad you and Jake are running on smooth where "Element X" is concerned. Thanks for answering.

    There is a great deal of wisdom in realizing that "some things are just there and can't be altered". And that's okay.

    Thanks to our faith in Jesus, we've closed the back door called "irreconcilable differences" when we opened the front door and tied the knot. So we will be fine. btw: the whole bathroom floor thing got to ya huh? "peas in a pod". Some kind of veiled reference wasn't it? ;)

    Thanks for chiming in. I'm glad you too have a way of dealing with it that minimizes negative impact.

    RW: seems you guys hit the mother lode of "Element X's"! An unenviable circumstance. But with all those options you'll probably find an answer BEFORE we do. You'd better pass it along too!

    It's easy to kill the marriage either way - ignoring or addressing. That's why the answer is different for each couple I suppose. It looks like you and TC are managing "X to the -nth" just fine. Thanks for answering.

  6. We have had a few element xs' things that if I had known of before it might have been different. We have fought through a couple, one resolved itself on its' own (motorcycle ownership) I dont' agree on violent video games and too much alchohol consumption. Those have came up every once awhile.

    I have compromised some, B.s' compromised some and we just keep keepin' on for the most part. I try to share my fears, he tries to avail them and wee usually meet in the middle. Church attendance is a big one right now; which I am trying to just let 'go' as so much of surrendering wife book states. The biggest issues 'children, religion, state of orgin' were dealt with before marriage. Some have come up since then that was not forseen. I have to trust B. to take care of us and put us foremost; I work on that everyday :)

  7. Well, you threw me on this one.....absoluuuutely no freakin idea where you were going with the monocottywhatjamacallits and stuff; I was beyond useless at science... and then I was so shocked, you said shi* and thats a swear!!!!!!!
    But, whatever it was, I am sure I agree in principle....Hugs, I am so tired, need to read this once my brain is awake, then I will comment again!!! xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

  8. Interesting way to describe it, B'Man. :) I agree with your reply to Tammy and Surrendering Slowly's response. We worked out most of our big issues before our marriage and we continue to compromise when necessary...sometimes him, sometimes me. The most recent disagreement stemmed from different philosophies on when to change the oil in my car. (See, it doesn't have to be something particularly profound, yet there you have it.) My father taught me to have my oil changed every 3,000 miles, while my husband believes it can wait until 5,000-7,000 miles. He is a fix-it himself kind of guy and won't allow anyone else to handle the maintenance of our vehicles. A warning light shows on the dash of my car everytime it's a half of a quart low, which led to arguments every time. I wanted the oil changed immediately (regardless of who did the work) because that is how I handled my auto maintenance when I was single. When I doubt him, however, he feels it's a form of disrespect...that I don't trust him to take care of me. In the end, I've learned to compromise and let (this one) go. Funny, I don't think of it as a science experiment...more like a relationship flow chart or a logical equation. ;). When it doesn't flow one way, we analyze the diagram and make adjustments until we're back on track again. We determine what is True and what is False. A Christian book, titled The God Empowered Wife, has helped me to see things from his perspective as well.


  9. B'Man -

    Hmm...In other words.."Shit happens?" Lol. :)) Thanks for the laugh. AND the neat, thought-provoking post. You rarely disappoint!


  10. Surrendering Slowly:
    Yes fighting through is probably the "a" part of the equation. And the "b" part is to "keep on keeping on". I'm glad you guys are able to work out your differences and that you trust B to take care of y'all (or at least try very hard to). Thanks for your offering.

    You're soooo fuzzy, haha, oh...uh, I mean FuNNy. ;) I'll get to you when you're more awake. : ))Thanks. Hugs to you!

    Welcome! As you can see from the comment above, I agree that an "equation" is a viable perspective. I'm glad that works for you. That oil thing can get very slippery "Element X". Do you believe the manufacturer and your father or your husband (and a bunch of other people who say the same thing)?

    Hopefully you were able to make the necessary adjustments. Good literature can help widen the perspective. Thank you for your visit.

    The elephant has to dump somewhere I suppose. :)) I'm glad you found it funny and thought-provoking. And thanks for the compliment!

  11. B'Man,

    Very creative way of describing difficult issues in marriage.

    JJ and I have had our share in about every category you mentioned. Some we just agree to disagree. Others, I just closed up, shut up, or gave up about. Some issues strongly affected our marriage, and flowed through to the point it was splitting our family. I finally went to the Lord in prayer and asked God to change JJ or me. God did what I would never have thought possible, he worked a miracle and opened my eyes to see and understand, even accept the other side of life's issues. Everything is better as a result. Our communication is improving, sex is better, the atmosphere of our home, etc.

    When you solve the mystery to resolving the unseemable, LMK. We still have a long way to go. Considering how far we have come, the cure to the Element XXXXXXX's in our marriage doesn't seem to be as frightening/necessary/horriffic. When your marriage has the proper Foundation, it can/will sustain all of the storms that Element X want's to divide. You both have what it takes...either agree to disagree, or kneel TOGETHER before the Throne of Grace. He does work MIRACLES.


  12. Kady: Thanks for your candor. Having a foundation of faith is probably the most critical and beneficial element in these situations. It does make dealing with the "Element X's less "frightening/necessary/horrific". Thanks for your encouragement and wise counsel - of course, your comment.


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