Status anxiety

My wife and I have become Mr and Mrs Twit

I annoy her so much I fear she may poison me

5 September 2015

9:00 AM

5 September 2015

9:00 AM

This is a cautionary tale for any young couples out there thinking of tying the knot. Be wary of what you have in common — it may end up dividing you.

When I first got together with Caroline, one of the things that made me think we were well suited was her slightly curmudgeonly nature. She wasn’t a full-blown misanthrope like me, but she was fond of a good grumble, particularly about other people. That’s a character trait that can leave you feeling quite isolated — it’s borderline socially unacceptable — so it was quite bonding to discover we both suffered from the same vice. Caroline reminded me of the slogan on a novelty cushion I once saw: ‘If you can’t think of anything nice to say… come and sit next to me.’

I’m not talking about horrible, mean stuff — we didn’t stand in the corner at parties, sniggering about people being fat or having bad teeth. It was more idiosyncratic than that, as if we were aware of certain unspoken rules of social etiquette and found it unspeakably irritating when others ignored them, even though no one else knew anything about them. Our life together was like one continuous episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm, except instead of me being Larry and Caroline being his long-suffering wife, we were both Larry.

For instance, we found it intensely annoying when other people talked while you were trying to watch television. Didn’t they realise that that ruined the whole experience? And what’s with these people who simply carry on a conversation with you when they’re on the lavatory, as if it’s just another room they’ve gone into momentarily? That’s just gross. And is there anything worse than people who drive too slowly? They should be arrested.

OK, so we shared certain views about how things should be done and were equally annoyed by people who didn’t comply with those rules. I daresay a common sense of propriety is a feature of most romantic relationships, but we were probably more mean-spirited than most — there was something almost gleeful in our denunciation of those who offended us. We exaggerated how shocked and appalled we were to make each other laugh.

Fast forward 18 years and it’s finally dawned on me that being intolerant of other people’s foibles isn’t an ideal quality in a partner. D’oh! I am now one of those people that Caroline and I used to find irksome, except all traces of humour have been expunged from her expressions of displeasure. Any signs of age or infirmity irritate her — letting out an involuntary groan when I get up from the sofa, for instance — as do my table manners, which she claims have deteriorated since we married. Apparently, I make far too much noise when I chew, even with my mouth closed.

In fairness, some of her habits drive me up the wall, too. The top three are probably leaving wet towels on the bathroom floor, failing to switch off the light when she leaves the room and nodding off while watching a television programme — only marginally less annoying than sparking up a conversation. Turns out, two curmudgeons in a relationship doesn’t make for an ideal partnership. We’ve become Mr and Mrs Twit.

The awful thing is, it’s just going to get worse. If Caroline finds the occasional groan irritating now, how is she going to react when I need help getting in and out of the bath? And if I’ve already started to follow her around the house, switching off all the lights she leaves on in her wake, how penny-pinching will I be in 25 years’ time when we’re both living on a state pension? I’ve just read a thriller in which the protagonist’s wife tries to poison him and it rings horribly true.

So what’s the solution? I’ve studied older couples with similar temperaments, and our options are limited. One is to try and rekindle that original spark by focusing on just how annoying your children are. Plenty of scope for that in our household, but that’s just a temporary fix because eventually they’ll leave home. Another is to lead increasingly separate lives — and we’ve already started to do that. I hope it works, because the third option is to get divorced and I don’t fancy that at all. No one else would put up with me. Perhaps there’s another option, which is to change some of my filthy habits in the hope that Mrs Twit won’t kill me. I will have to try.

Got something to add? Join the discussion and comment below.

Toby Young is associate editor of The Spectator.

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Show comments
  • ladyofshalot

    You poor thing – I can tell you there’s certainly a lot more of this to come and you’ll very likely end up saying to each other: I’m sticking with you because I can’t think of any one else who’d put up with me!!

    • porcelaincheekbones

      Marriage is choosing someone to share your issues with.

      • We could start a whole ‘marriage is’ chain.
        Here’s mine:
        ‘Marriage is getting annoyed and knowing that when push comes to shove, he’ll make the tea in the morning — and later on, you’ll unstack the dishwasher’.

        • blandings

          Marriage as a disappointment theme:
          Why won’t wife make me toast at 4.00AM?
          Maybe one day I’ll find the perfect lover – sex and toast on demand.
          Must go – toaster pinged.

          • You need my toaster: it virtually anticipates my needs. But then again, I can take care of all of them these days. I’m really, genuinely, hourly, happy. I am the gods’ target, now, of course: they can’t stand too much happiness in a human being. You are a darling, by the way.

          • bombaybadboy

            Thoughts of impending mortality does that – expunging guilt before meet-the-maker type of thing

        • Velo

          Is that a euphemism? Phwoar!

      • berosos_bubos

        What about their syrians?

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  • ardenjm

    Ashley Madison?

  • davidofkent

    My personal hate is people who steal supermarket trollies and leave them in the middle of our street. My wife hates them too!

  • paulthorgan

    This does come across as a migration over time from Jerry Seinfeld to George Pooter. I get the feeling it happens to us all…

  • porcelaincheekbones

    Smug people who have no reason to be smug.

  • Teacher

    It sounds like a marriage made in heaven to me and just like my own. I fall asleep on the sofa which annoys him and my other half is obsessed with trains and transport which drives me bonkers. We are both curmudgeonly and derive a huge amount of enjoyment from our follies and those of others. I particularly dislike the driving habits of those selfish people who leave huge gaps in front of them when in traffic queues and others who do not move off smartly as the traffic lights turn green so those behind them are trapped by the next red light.

  • fox holes

    I’d start backpedalling harder, Tobes
    You’re not getting anywhere with your pathetic Children in Need fabianisms


    • Sharon Fruitcake

      +1 for the ‘liberalist’ Fabian bit.

  • ArtieHarris

    “Any signs of age or infirmity irritate her”


  • Dominic Stockford

    “For better, for worse, ’til death us do part.”

  • ohforheavensake

    Toby- you’re not very nice. We knew that.

  • trace9

    I expect domesticity for the Corbyns is just like this. It’s why he’s so vindictive. & A Twit.

  • To be fair, slow drivers and people who talk over the television should indeed be arrested.

    • Ivan Ewan

      I don’t know, is it good television? Is there good television going on anywhere at the moment?

      • Kennie

        My television is very good at the moment. It’s switched off.
        My wife & I have become Mr & Mrs Twit. Are you sure you have spelled that correctly?

  • Velo

    You’re as self-effacing as ever, Toby. That works well in comedy and often helps in marriage as well. Keep up your good work.

    • berosos_bubos

      Ive certainly found his articles comedic

  • Gebhard Von Blucher

    Cut your losses and divorce now. It will be more painful the longer you delay it.

  • DennisHorne

    If she didn’t have something to moan about she’d make something up…

    Just tell her there’s only room for one boss in any organisation. And do what she says.

    And remember, many a true word spoken in jest.

  • nigelvr

    ” we didn’t stand in the corner at parties, sniggering about people being fat or having bad teeth”

    Very good. I hate people who do that.

  • Partner

    not really very funny. Painful.

  • Ernie Shore

    I saw Toby Young being interviewed the day after the election stood outside the Houses of Parliament with Will Self. Will made him look very small.

  • James Corbett

    Murder? Have you considered a pre-emptive strike?

  • Innit Bruv

    You certainly look the part.

  • Velo

    Take solace, Toby. I went to an antiques shops last Saturday with the wife. She wanted to buy some “distressed” French furniture. The only thing that was distressed was my wallet afterwards. I wish I was making this up.