Rosslea Hall hotel’s ‘groom academy’ won’t solve the cause of most arguments among cohabiting couples: poor communication
When I heard that a hotel was offering “groom courses” for fiances – with classes on making breakfast in bed and doing the laundry – I immediately assumed it was in Japan, where themed accommodation is commonplace. But the training is actually being offered at Rosslea Hall in Argyll and Bute.
“We are calling all lovely brides-to-be before they say ‘I do’ so they can whip their men into shape and cut the mothers’ apron strings,” said a spokeswoman for the establishment, although it read like a Russian troll-bot, programmed to inflame men’s rights activists. And boy, did they bite. “Are these women looking for a husband or a servant?” asked one Twitter user, amid more generalised griping about how this was 2019, and how do people think men manage before they get married.
Look, I hate gender essentialism as much as anyone, but there is a deeper inconvenient truth here, which is that most single men smell of mould because they know how to put clothes in the machine, but there is a collective cognitive lacuna around getting them out again. I can happily live with the smell in order not to have an 80s-era conversation about equality.
Training people for marriage is actually not the worst idea in the world. It’s just that small-scale domestic and culinary matters are more of a sub-module, something to get round to when you’ve squared off any major differences.
Technically, this isn’t about marriage, but cohabitation. People annoy each other when they live in the same house. Or, to be precise, if they’re not annoying you, you’re probably annoying them. One way to get round this is to get even more annoyed with them, to remove the possibility that the pendulum has swung your way. You can achieve this with a long list of behaviour – whistling, putting shoes in random places, leaving cash in a bottle for the milkman as if it’s the 50s, when you can perfectly easily do it by PayPal – that they simply cannot abide.
The key issue is vocabulary: words that will trigger arguments in any scenario. Some of this is idiosyncratic and can’t be taught. My mister is cool with any amount of abuse consisting of original compound swearwords, but hates being called a star; absolutely loathes it. He says it makes him feel like the 11-year-old pupil of a person who has more or less given up on them, achievement-wise, but wants to reward their sunny nature.
But there are universals. “Always/never” is a terrible formulation, as in: “You never take the dog out,” or “You always put crisp packets in the recycling, even though we listened to that You and Yours episode about thin plastics together.” It must, on some level, be unfair – nobody never walks a dog – plus the very absolutism suggests a hidden well of resentment. But now try not saying it. You might as well give up arguing.
“Can you …?” is apparently the most inflammatory way to start any sentence, which makes sense as it sounds a bit high-handed. Yet as soon as you try to substitute it with “Would you mind …?”, “Do you think you could possibly …?” Well, now you sound sarcastic. You might as well give up asking someone to do stuff.
Non-negotiable positions including “I absolutely will not …”, “No way am I …” are divisive and read as contempt. If you’re unsure, picture yourself in the workplace. Think: “Would I say that to a peer? Or could I only say that to an underling?”
That’s basically it for marital training: never argue, never instruct, never fix your position. And then you can worry about the laundry.