My wife insists on washing all fresh food, including pre packed meat before she eats it, or uses it to cook. Even after washing, she is suspicious of skin and will peel it off: even grapes. All traces of soap must be rinsed off the dishes before they are considered clean. Frequent handwashing is normal, and was normal before COVID. Now before you insensitively start labelling her a clean freak, let me tell you there's good reason for all that. She comes from a place where the standards of personal cleanliness are higher because they must be. Unsafe food handling and preparation by businesses from markets to groceries to restaurants put customers at risk. The detergent used to wash dishes isn't safe, dangerous chemicals are used in food production, and you can't drink water from the tap. As I said, she has good reason to be careful.
I've spent most of my life not giving a toss about these things. In Australia, which is one of the most heavily regulated nations in the world, we take it for granted that we can drink water straight from the tap. If the bag of veggies in the supermarket has a label saying 'pre washed and ready to serve', we accept that.
Since marrying my Top End Angel, I take more care. I wash apples before I eat them, I rinse all (most) of the detergent off the dishes, and I wash my hands...often. I don't do these things because I think they are necessary. They are not. However, my wife thinks they are necessary. She wants to keep herself and her loved ones safe. I could argue the point every time she tells me to wash my hands after I already washed my hands or get upset at her for getting upset with me for not washing the chicken breast before I used it to make the tacos she won't eat. I could contest everything, attempt to change her mind, and try to win every argument, but why would I do that?
We've had very few arguments in our short marriage and while that's partly due to our complementary personalities, it's also due to the fact that over the years I've learned something about arguments.
- Nobody wins arguments.
- Arguments don't get the expected results.
- Arguments expose character flaws.
- Pride is the chief cause of arguments.
- Arguments don't build strong relationships.
As a result of these lessons, I avoid arguments. Don't get me wrong though. It happens to almost everyone. None of us are perfect and there are times when we either start arguments or needlessly get involved in them, even ones which have nothing to do with us. But, what is the point?
I could argue with my wife about her over the top cleanliness, but I know she's coming from a good place. She loves me and wants to look after me. Why would I resist that? I could argue with my children, but I know they are not interested in truth or in doing what is right or sensible, so I tell them what to do. If they don't do what they're told, they know the consequences. There's no point arguing about it.
Perhaps the most dangerous thing about arguments is they cause division. This is equally true in your home as it is in the COVID world. People are arguing about the vaccinations, the lockdowns, the restrictions, but I don't get involved in those arguments. The government is coming from a good place, not trying to ruin my life or control me, but trying to keep me safe...just like my wife is trying to keep me safe at home. Some of us respond to the government, to our bosses, even to our family and friends like rebellious teenagers do to their parents.
There are and always will be people with whom I disagree, but I am not interested in having arguments with them. I'm not going to expend energy trying to change people's minds. I have friends who fervently believe COVID is a conspiracy, and that the vaccination passport is a sign of the end of the world. I've been double vaccinated, but I have friends who are refusing vaccinations on the grounds that they are potentially harmful and/or part of some sinister government plot against freedom. We can stay friends because I am not interested in having an argument. I disagree with them, but I'm not going to start a fight about it.
Whether it's a global pandemic or a family meal, I don't argue. Of course, many things need to be discussed, some of which are important, some not, but if you aren't sure of the difference between a discussion and an argument, consider the list above. Ask yourself a few questions before, during, and after the conversation. You'll figure it out.
The most important question is this: Do you want to have good, healthy relationships or do you want to be right all the time?