“Can I get you something to eat? I’ve got chips and salsa, cereal, leftovers…or I could make you an omelet.”
“Sure, that sounds great,” I replied from the couch where I was watching TV.
“Oh, really?” He sounded disappointed and scrunched his face up a bit. “You want an omelet?”
Confused, I answered affirmatively. “Yes, I’ll take an omelet.”
He gave me this annoyed, please-don’t-make-me-do-it kind of look. I flashed him my best “You think I’m adorable and we both know you’re going to make me an omelet so get cracking!” smile.
He begrudgingly set to work, a quiet anger his companion. He presented me with a beautiful omelet a short while later. I ate on the couch and eyed him as he silently channel-surfed. Finally I just asked him.
“Why are you mad at me?”
Simon started half-laughing, “I thought you would pick one of the easy things! I didn’t think you were actually going to say YES to an omelet…I just wanted to be nice!” I raised my eyebrows and chuckled a little, irritated but also amused (everything is cute when you’re dating). “Well, you offered and I accepted. It wasn’t wrong of me to say yes. No one made you offer.”
Simon eventually conceded that that was true and decided my wanting an omelet wasn’t so horrible. We made up (was that even a fight?) and life went on.
Lest anyone think that I don’t “offer omelets” myself, let me tell you about a situation that played out in our home recently. I made plans with a girlfriend to get our rambunctious toddler together for a play date. I would enjoy spending time with my friend, the boys would run around together, and it would give Simon a chance to relax with only our 2-month-old to manage. Simon was quite tired from working late and losing sleep, and I thought it would be nice to give him some down time.
We had agreed that I would take Gabe out of the house but leave Phoebe with him. But as we were getting ready to go I could tell that he was really beat. I offered to bring Phoebe along with me as well. I figured he would appreciate my amazing selflessness and desire to serve him, and, out of his deep love for me, decline my generous offer. Guess again.
“Oh babe, that would be awesome. I just need some rest, thank you.”
What?! YOU need rest?! Who’s the one who’s been up nursing the baby two or three times every night? Who’s the one who’s up even after the baby returns to sleep because YOU never stop snoring?!?!
I just gritted my teeth and put Phoebe in her car seat, grabbed the diaper bag, and ushered Gabe out the front door, toddler Crocs in hand. I gave Simon a kiss goodbye, with an air of superiority, wanting to rub it in that *I* was the amazing spouse. This was lost on him, he just looked into my eyes and said “Thank you so much sweetie.” Gag me.
I drove off to my friend’s house fuming and self-righteous as all get out.
Then it hit me: I offered. And Simon only did what I gave him the opportunity to do: say yes. And I much as I desired in the moment to savor fury and breathe contempt, I recognized the situation for what it was before parking the car: it was an omelet. I didn’t actually want to be kind to my husband; I just wanted him to think I was awesome. And when an omelet is offered, is perfectly legitimate for the recipient to say, “Yes, thank you!” The fault lies with the person making the phony offer, the one seeking to pad his/her ego rather than to give sincerely.
We want credit for being a good spouse more than we actually want to be a good spouse.
And that’s why omelet fights happen. Because we don’t really want to chop up mushrooms and dice a tomato. We don’t want to leave the house alone with both (or all) of the children. We want to do what’s easy. We want to give the appearance of going above and beyond, of being as loving and selfless as our partner believes we are, but a fair amount of the time we don’t genuinely want to put in the effort.
Relationships take work, marriage more than any other variant. The day-in, day-out of life — the laundry, the kids, the cooking, the jobs — takes its toll. As tired people that makes us tired spouses. And if you’re anything like me, sometimes you don’t want to think of your spouse; you just want to think of yourself. So you feign care; you offer counterfeit sacrifices. Sometimes you get away with it too. But thankfully, sometimes, your lover figures out what you’re up too (I’m learning this happens more frequently the longer you’re married). Even better, you realize it yourself and can own up to it.
I came home from my play date that day and confessed to Simon that the play date offer was an omelet sham. He smiled, implying understanding and forgiveness, and thanked me for giving him the afternoon off all the same.
Marriage is such a vessel for redemption. For remaking. It exposes the darkest parts of us, parts we didn’t even know were there, and provides opportunities for us to grow, and change, and let some light in. I’ve found that I’m a lot more selfish than I thought I was, much more ready to serve my pride than my partner, more apt to be a poser than a lover. When I offer something I don’t intend to give, I am not being nice; I am being a con artist. I am making myself look good under the guise of caring about you.
I wouldn’t have known that I do this if it wasn’t for my marriage. I likely wouldn’t be aware that it’s done to me either. Simon and I, we expose each other’s yuck. (As time goes by, we learn to do it gently). Its so humbling but it’s good. Because it’s a healthy and beautiful thing to go from, “You jerk! You ‘made me’ use a frying pan/schlep two children/fill in the blank! I give and give, and you just TAKE!” to… “OH. You don’t make me do anything. I get to decide what I offer to you. I need to examine my own motives. And, oh yeah, I actually love you.”