How did you do with yesterday’s challenge to solve a toothpaste cap disagreement?
A Third Alternative is a solution to your disagreement that will make both of you feel respected, loved, and in control of what matters to you.
You create shared specs for your Third Alternative. They include the outcomes each of you values from your initial alternatives. They protect both of you from anything you dislike or fear about the other’s alternatives. And they are not as hard to find as most expect.
To help get you there, here are some questions designed to get you free of the conventions, customs, and rules-of-thumb that normally make life easier but make brainstorming harder.
- How many of something a couple should have
Two toothpaste tubes? Two sinks in one bathroom? Two drawers to toss the toothpaste into so the other doesn’t see whether yours is open or closed?
- When something should be done
Remove the cap once and store the tube in something that does the work of the cap without the effort of the cap? (no laughing at your mate’s idea of effort, please)
- Where something should be done
Store your open toothpaste tube in the refrigerator and brush in the kitchen sink?
- Who should do it
One of you opens and closes the toothpaste tube for both of you?
- How something should be done
Toothpaste in a pump bottle or a jar? Baking soda for brushing? Preloaded travel toothbrushes that let you squeeze the handle for toothpaste?
- Whether both of you need to get your benefits at the same time
Leave the cap off in oyster months only, because there are more bugs in May through August?
- Whether both of you need to get your benefits from the same thing
Two tubes? Or worth it to handle the cap your spouse’s way in exchange for having the dish towel hung your way?
- Whether both of you need to get your benefits in the same place
A second bathroom where one of you could brush? An open tube on the sink and a close one put away neatly?
- Whether a product and its packaging are inseparable
A clean tennis ball in place of a cap? Toothpaste in a pastry bag? Toothpaste in a salt shaker?
- How long you would continue to feel silly doing something odd if it made both of you happy
Shared happy secrets strengthen the bond between you. If houseguests notice your method, just grin and say, “It makes us happy.” You might even want to stick a photo of the two of you sharing a happy moment right next to your solution.
- Whether any of the things you two didn’t list are slipping back into your specs just because you haven’t yet heard of an option that doesn’t include this feature
A flip-top tube that lets you flip the cap open or unscrew it? Liquid toothpaste? Powdered toothpaste? A toothpaste tube sterilizer? A hands-free toothpaste dispenser? They all exist.
- Whether expense is really a limitation, when you consider the possibility of this one issue becoming the thorn that pushes you over the edge into paying for a divorce lawyer, two homes, and all those extra accommodations for your kids
Most toothpaste solutions don’t cost a lot, but few couples ever try to figure out how they could get an extra room, an apartment in the city, or space for an annoying hobby until they get to the point where separate homes and a divorce is the only thing they can think of. That’s sad.
If these questions give you even more ideas for a toothpaste conflict, or perhaps a bigger disagreement in your marriage, please share them with us. You might save someone’s marriage.