Wanted: Independent Marriage Arbitrator


Marriage has its awkward moments, right?  Recently my husband and I launched into a playful airing of mild grievances.  I don't know what possessed us to start this, as even playful arguing often goes awry.  And, as was inevitable, we soon struck upon a certain matter of household neglect in which we each thought the other was at fault.  Admittedly, I was the one who escalated the discussion from playful to just-shy-of-hysterical as I could not fathom how my husband could possibly blame me.  So then it looked like there was an ocean between us...

We lightened the mood by creatively pondering how we could solve such a dispute.

And it came to us- (Jeff came up with the title actually)- that what we really needed was an IMA: an Independent Marriage Arbitrator.

An IMA would be someone hired as a neutral third party to resolve matters of minor marital disputes.  He/she could objectively choose the guilty party in contested areas of domestic responsibility, as well as arbitrate in more trivial matters, such as deciding whose turn it is to pick the TV show on a given night.  Was it my turn to take the trash out?  In what condition should the toilet seat have been left?  Am I to blame for neglecting to take out the recycle bin, or is my excuse about having no brain because of potty training a valid one?  Can the rot in the bathroom floor even be blamed on one of us in particular?  Was it fair of me to ask to run an errand and come back two hours later?  How many coffee purchases in a week should elicit valid concern?  Did it count as "watching the kids" if a video game is being played simultaneously?  Who should have called which relative to remind them about the birthday party?  Is one spouse guilty of forcing the other into uncomfortable social settings, or is the other spouse guilty of being a stick-in-the-mud?  Etc.  

Once the IMA should come to a decision, both parties would have to accept the verdict (with the exception listed below).

 The Independent Marriage Arbitrator would be charged, above all, with maintaining neutrality; if either spouse suspected gender bias, a second IMA would be called in.  If this second IMA was in agreement with the first, the judgement could stand.  If not, a third IMA would be called in to be the deciding vote in the matter.  As you can imagine, hiring additional IMA's would be a costly process, and that cost alone would prevent most spouses from calling "foul" every time they might disagree with an IMA's decision.  Additionally, each IMA would require specific paperwork to be filed, including complete documentation of the debated incident and often a history of the ten most recently arbitrated cases as well as marriage history, personality tests, and references for each spouse's general character.  

The comprehensive background information requirements and the nature of the relationship with an Independent Marriage Arbitrator would prompt most couples to extensively research candidates, using referrals from close friends and family, and creating custom interview questions in their search for one trusted, long-term IMA.

An IMA would probably find a ludicrous amount of money to be made, although it would not be a job for the faint of heart, as invariably each client would direct their anger at the IMA if a verdict was against them.  I also suspect that the occupation would soon be riddled with corruption, with IMA's taking bribes to sway their decision and eventually forming of unethical alliances with other IMA's.  Frankly, I'm not sure an IMA would have a terrific life expectancy between stress and the potential for being frequently punched.

But I digress.

It seemed a good idea at first.  At least I could have proved that I was right in this instance.  Clearly.