2 Classic Marriage Stories: Grapefruit and Toothpaste

There are two classic marriage stories from the Ensign that every newlywed should hear, and every married couple should remember!

 1. The Grapefruit Story

“The Grapefruit Syndrome” originally appeared in the April 1993 Ensign. Then it was used in the Marriage and Family Relations Participant Study Guide, the Eternal Marriage Student Manual, The Sept 1999 Liahona, and made another appearance in the January 2011 Ensign. It has been retold in countless lessons and talks. This story by Lola B. Walters is definitely an LDS Classic.

My husband and I had been married about two years—just long enough for me to realize that he was a normal man rather than a knight on a white charger—when I read a magazine article recommending that married couples schedule regular talks to discuss, truthfully and candidly, the habits or mannerisms they find annoying in each other. The theory was that if the partners knew of such annoyances, they could correct them before resentful feelings developed.

It made sense to me. I talked with my husband about the idea. After some hesitation, he agreed to give it a try.

As I recall, we were to name five things we found annoying, and I started off. After more than 50 years, I remember only my first complaint: grapefruit. I told him that I didn’t like the way he ate grapefruit. He peeled it and ate it like an orange! Nobody else I knew ate grapefruit like that. Could a girl be expected to spend a lifetime, and even eternity, watching her husband eat grapefruit like an orange? Although I have forgotten them, I’m sure the rest of my complaints were similar.

After I finished, it was his turn to tell the things he disliked about me. Though it has been more than half a century, I still carry a mental image of my husband’s handsome young face as he gathered his brows together in a thoughtful, puzzled frown and then looked at me with his large blue-gray eyes and said, “Well, to tell the truth, I can’t think of anything I don’t like about you, Honey.”

Gasp.

I quickly turned my back, because I didn’t know how to explain the tears that had filled my eyes and were running down my face. I had found fault with him over such trivial things as the way he ate grapefruit, while he hadn’t even noticed any of my peculiar, and no doubt annoying, ways.

I wish I could say that this experience completely cured me of fault finding. It didn’t. But it did make me aware early in my marriage that husbands and wives need to keep in perspective, and usually ignore, the small differences in their habits and personalities. Whenever I hear of married couples being incompatible, I always wonder if they are suffering from what I now call the Grapefruit Syndrome.”

 2. The Toothpaste Story

“Toothpaste on the Mirror” first appeared in the Sept. 2008 Ensign, by Bryce R. Petersen. I didn’t see a lot of other times it has been used on lds.org, but I know I’ve heard in many talks and lessons since 2008.

I learned some very good lessons from Mom and Dad, but the best one I ever learned was about six months after Dad died.

Toward the end of my parents’ lives, there were times they really didn’t get along very well. Dad was not active in the Church, and Mom was impatient with him. They seemed to wear on each other’s nerves some of the time. The arguments weren’t really serious, but I always felt pressured to take sides, a position I didn’t like.

Small offenses have a way of growing large when we dwell on them. One of Mom’s common complaints was that Dad splashed toothpaste on the mirror when he brushed his teeth and would never clean it off. It drove her crazy, and she couldn’t let it go. I tried to explain that in the grand scheme of life, toothpaste on the mirror wasn’t a very big thing. She wasn’t mollified. I wished they could get along better, that they could overlook small things and not be so critical of each other and be more forgiving, but that didn’t happen very often.

Dad died in the spring of 1991. It was a time of grief, especially for Mom. She realized after he was gone that she missed him more than she had anticipated. It was lonesome living alone in that big house; her partner of 62 years was gone. She started talking about him more frequently.

As the days turned to weeks and then to months, I visited Mom daily. During one visit her eyes turned watery as she told me of a mistake that she regretted. She reminded me of the toothpaste and how adamant she had been that he was slothful in neglecting to clean up his mess. She had been so angry over such a small thing.

Mom admitted that on the first cleaning day after Dad died, there was toothpaste on the mirror. She cleaned the mirror, but on the second cleaning day, there was more toothpaste on the mirror. The same thing happened on the third and fourth cleaning days as well.

Mom realized that she had blamed Dad for the toothpaste on the mirror for many years, but it had been both of them splashing toothpaste. She felt terrible that for years she had been so upset about such a small thing. She freely admitted that her anger had hurt her much worse than it had affected Dad.

I learned from this experience the need for forgiveness and tolerance in our relationships, and I honestly try to be more forgiving in my own. It seems such a waste of time to fret about small offenses. There are more important things to worry about than toothpaste on the mirror.

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