1. You can’t agree on what to have for dinner
No sentence is more ripe with the potential to derail even the most relaxed and stress-free evening with your significant other than, “So, what do you want for dinner?” Often both parties have the best of intentions, to fulfill their own cravings for food while at the same time wanting their partner to feel equally satisfied. Problems naturally arise, however, when hunger isn’t strong enough to make any mealtime option an obvious answer. Suggestions are vetoed, frustrations steadily mount, and before you know it, it’s midnight and the only places open are pizza and that weird twenty-four hour souvlaki stand.
So how do you get out this most basic of relationship traps? There’s no easy answer, but I’ve found a few tricks that occasionally help defuse the more extreme aspects of the what-to-eat couples’ standoff. Like if you veto a suggestion, it’s then your turn to offer an alternative. Obviously you can game this system by just throwing out impossible suggestions, like you say “Mexican” and I say no, and then I throw out a wildcard like “That sandwich place on Long Island that I used to go to with my friends when I was in high school.” I’m just causing more problems, and dinner’s going to be least of my worries in the long run. I know it sounds hard, but the longer you deliberate, the more difficult it’s going to be to reach consensus. Any meal is inevitably going to be a letdown after five hours of negotiation, so just pick something. Anything. Get sushi. Everybody loves sushi.
2. You’re shopping for furniture at IKEA
I have a pretty solid relationship with my wife, but whenever we have to go to IKEA, the threat of an ugly divorce gets brought up a minimum of five times. And that’s just for those little after-the-showroom purchases like bathroom mats and ice cube trays. If you need something big? Like a couch? It’s gotten to the point where neither one of us is allowed within fifty feet of the warehouse without several third-party chaperones.
The answer to this perennial dilemma is so easy. You know the IKEA food court? Go there. Buy everything. Eat it all. There’s a reason IKEA basically subsidizes a free lunch for its shoppers. It’s because if your system is busy digesting French fries and Swedish meatballs and lingonberry soda and chocolate cake, you’re both less likely to start throwing sofa cushions at each when it comes time to make a purchase. Just take it all in stride and try not to let tempers flare. There’s plenty of time to tear each other’s throats out when you’re at home poring over those illustrated assembly instructions, wondering why your new TV doesn’t remotely resemble the piece as pictured in the glossy catalog.
3. You can’t figure out what to watch on TV
You’ve only got a couple of hours of free time to watch something together, but as you settle in on the couch, the paradox of modern TV choice rears its ugly head to interrupt the scarce time you’ve set aside to veg. Aside from watching an actual channel, there’s Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, HBO Go. That’s like five choices right there. And then actually picking out something to watch? Together? It must have been so easy fifty years ago, when there were only three or four channels, and everything was boring and not funny.
So what are you supposed to do? If you let the situation devolve, eventually you’re going to wind up spending most of your time throwing out suggestions before finally settling on another episode of the increasingly unwatchable Parks and Recreation. Years ago the two of you used to love this show, but somewhere along its six-year run, the magic wore off, you found yourselves sitting through those half-hour stretches barely cracking a smile the entire time. The solution here is to just give up. Why don’t you find some other way to spend quality time together? Why not play Scrabble?
4. You’re playing Scrabble
I love Scrabble, but playing America’s favorite crossword game with your significant other is usually a bad idea. Maybe you play online a lot, maybe you’re really good. Trust me, unless your both on the exact same page when it comes to Scrabble, it’s just going to bring out the worst in the both of you.
Like, do you really feel like getting into a fight over whether “qi” is actually a word? Yeah, you both agreed on using that random paperback dictionary you found lying in the bookshelf, and unfortunately, qi isn’t anywhere to be found in this particular addition. But you just know it’s a word, it works when you’re playing Scrabble on the computer, and really, when are you going to get another opportunity to use a Q on a triple-letter score again? This is a classic relationship impasse. However this particular issue gets resolved, the game is going to be forever tainted for one of you. So maybe just forget about the Scrabble. Parks and Recreation isn’t really that bad, is it?