I don't much like baked cod. It's dreary and unexciting and frankly, I think my taste buds deserve better. I compare eating baked cod to a lover of art staring at the label on a supermarket value chicken; an unfulfilling experience. Naturally, if you're a fan, or Rick Stein, you'll probably think I'm some kind of piscine heathen and that's okay because it puts you in the same culinary camp as my wife who believes the subtle, fresh flavours of this flaky fish are an inspired delight. So, why on earth should any of this matter? Well, when she suggested we serve cod for some dinner guests, I was unable to hide my distain after which she remarked, albeit jovially, "I don't think we have anything in common."
And that got me thinking.
After almost ten years of marriage, why did our differing opinions over this dreary white fish actually matter? Why was it a catalyst to bring in to question our commonality? After discussing the matter further with friends I was relieved to discover that we were in no way alone. Food, music, hair style, underwear, bath temperature; banal topics that all have the power to provoke mildly acrimonious divisions in most couples.
Why? Well, I think these differences have always been there; personally I can't ever remember liking cod. But on our first ever romantic encounter that piece of information was utterly inconsequential. What mattered were the big questions; the stuff of life, beliefs, values, the Universe. So what happened in ten years to allow cod to become such an antagonist? Why, when our core beliefs are so harmonious, should it become such a point of contention?
It seems we all accumulate marital garbage; mountains of the stuff. Every cross word, disagreement and look of disdain finds its way on to a festering pile of negativity. Of course, one small and negative experience in its own right wields little power. Driving habits, choice of music, drunken conversation; all potentially flammable situations but generally dowsed and put to one side within hours. However, I don't think they're ever actually erased. Each and every incident plunges to the bottom of the mind where they begin to amass a collective power. Day after day, year after year, this mound of pointlessness increases to such an extent that it begins to obscure what lies behind; the treasure trove of reasons that attracted us to that person in the first place. It's all still there; the big questions, the stuff of life, beliefs, values, the Universe. But it becomes increasingly harder to see.
And eventually, we forget it was there at all.
So, there comes a time when we've got to work a bit harder to break this stuff down, climb over it or dig through it. In fact, we'd all be better off if we could send in a team of emotional bin men once in a while because no matter how inane the point of irritation, any response influenced by this rotting mound of powerful negative baggage will be disproportionally tainted. For example, on the first night of a relationship when you've accidentally jettisoned the contents of your wine glass up the new curtains, it really doesn't matter; you're too busy focussing on the primordial passions that flung you together in the first place. But by day 3000, this same act of spillage renders you a careless, clumsy idiot, always ruining the evening and possibly ruining your partners life. Ok, that's an exaggeration, or at least I hope it's an exaggeration, but you see what I'm getting at.
In those situations, I wonder what would happen if we remembered to make an effort to reach beyond that putrid collection of life nonsense and let the glittering array of good stuff that lies behind dictate our reactions instead?
Interestingly, baked cod has ceased creating indifference in our household. I still find it insipid and my wife continues to enjoy it's delicate favours. But it's no longer a catalyst for confrontation; it serves as a reminder of one of our first meals out. And back then, the taste of cold water fish was the last thing on our minds.