The Grapefruit Syndrome


As a young wife, I learned that marriage could be sweeter if I didn’t focus on my husband’s faults.

My husband and I had been married about two years when I read an article recommending that married couples discuss truthfully and candidly the habits or mannerisms they find annoying in each other. The theory was that if 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. I started off. After more than 50 years, I remember only my first complaint: grapefruit. I told him I didn’t like the way he ate grapefruit. Instead of cutting it open and eating it with a spoon, he peeled it and ate it a section at a time. Nobody else I knew ate grapefruit like that. Could I be expected to spend a lifetime, and even eternity, watching my husband eat grapefruit like that? Although I have forgotten them, I’m sure my other complaints were of similar importance.

Then it was his turn. It has been more than half a century, but I still carry a mental image of my husband’s thoughtful, puzzled expression. He looked at me and said, “I can’t think of anything I don’t like about you.”

Gasp. I quickly turned my back, not knowing how to explain my tears. I had found fault with him over such trivial things, while he hadn’t even noticed any of my peculiar and no doubt annoying habits.

I wish I could say this experience completely cured me of faultfinding. It didn’t. But it did teach me early in my marriage that we need to keep in perspective, and usually ignore, the small differences in our spouse’s 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.