I asked Dave if he would like to do plumbing work when he retires from Raytheon in a couple of years. He is so good at Mr. Fix-It types of projects. His reply was, "I wouldn't mind. It is pretty simple, really. There aren't that many parts to a sink, after all. In other words, there are only so many things that need to be fixed."
This conversation was instigated yesterday morning when Dave glanced into my sink as I brushed my teeth. "Why is your sink filling up?" he asked. "Hmmmm...." I replied, having just realized it was doing that. "It has not been draining completely for a few days." He gave me the same look he gives me when I put a dish in the dishwasher "backwards" or forget to put the cap on the milk, completely. "Really?" is what he wants to say, but he loves me and is a patient man (incredibly, angel-halo patient).
He got under the sink and began to unscrew the pipes, remembering (as I would NOT remember) to put a pan underneath to catch the water. I would hesitate to call what came out of those pipes "water". Let me preface this to say I have done some pretty dirty jobs in my life---I've laid sod, I've camped for two days without a shower, I've cleaned the campout equipment after said camping trip, I pick up dog poop and vomit. None of these jobs, even if done at the same time, could prepare me for the nastiness that was under my sink and in the pipes. Dave cleared all that out and put everything back together (which baffled me and prompted me to ask, "How do you know how to put it back together?" to which he just gave me the "good grief" eye roll). He directed me to turn on the water but still......the sink began to fill up.
I thought I saw a little something under the drain in the sink (which is one of those kind that doesn't pull all the way out, making it difficult to clean), so I took a Q-tip and swiped it under there. Oh my....... This seemed to be a uniquely disgusting combination of hair and hair products. SINK JUNK! I gagged a little bit, and Dave did the eye roll again. "You used to change diapers for young and old folks with disabilities, right? This cannot be that bad", he chastised. "I just have a really good gag reflex," I added.
I took three more Q-tips and cleared out all the junk from the drain, ran more water, and VOILA! the sink drained completely.
Dave high-fived me and made an observation: "I guess I didn't need to take apart the entire plumbing system. I should have started with the simple fix like you did."
I started laughing, and not because it might be a first for him to admit I had the answer to a household problem. I laughed because all I could think was: this is the way it is with a miscommunication or relationship conflict.
Stick with me:
Over time, stuff builds up. Whether it is frustration, little irritations, misunderstandings, they build up like the hair product in the sink. Throw in some hairy mess --- a good conflict, perhaps--- and you have a situation that brings the flow of the relationship to a standstill.
But, just like Dave realized, sometimes we don't need to do a massive overhaul or huge fix. Maybe we don't need couples counseling, medication, or hard-core therapy. Maybe the answer is as simple as finessing the fix with a Q-tip. Maybe we just need to air things out.
Here are some of my favorite starters to a cleansing such as this:
*Tell me more about what you are thinking about __________________
*I'm sensing some frustration. Let's talk more about that.
*What are your thoughts about ______________
Just a little airing out can go a long way to getting the "flow" going again, without having to jump to the assumption that the world as we know it is over.
Just for today, maybe it is time to clear the air with someone you love or care about. Perhaps it is time to start with a Q-tip sized fix rather than a full-blown "open up the pipes" repair.