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”.