Leave it to California mice to talk through domestic issues in a thoughtful way and move forward as a family.
In fact, the level-headed conversations they have about infidelity may be a model for all of us.
And just in case you keep going back to the start of this story to make sure you read that right — it's mouse couples we're talking about.
Sure, we can't actually understand what they're saying. Not even Dr. Phil would be able to parse their ultrasonic banter, which takes place at a frequency inaudible to the human ear.
But researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison managed to slow down mouse-speak to about 5 percent of its original speed, making it at least comprehensible in tone, if not words.
Their findings, published in the journal Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution, suggest a wide range of dialogue among mouse couples — from barks to roars to gentle cooing.
"They're making a lot of what we call simple sweeps — which are like quick, one-syllable bird chirps — and more sustained vocalizations, which sound almost like whale noises when they're slowed down enough for a human ear," Josh Pultorak, one of the study authors, noted in a release. "The aggressive vocalizations, the barks, go way down after they know each other."
The scientists paired 55 male and female California mice — which, unlike most rodents, are steadfast in their monogamy. From their body language and vocalizations, the research team could track how each pair bonded.
Like many a relationship, the bonds began with discomfort, awkwardness and a lot of yelling.
"The barks are just nasty." Pultorak explained. "It's like a combination of a dog bark and a lion's roar."
But eventually the aggressiveness subsided and the mice cooed their way into couplehood.
That's when researchers introduced a twist: cheating. Male mice were packed off and sent to live with other women. The female partners were also matched with new men. A third group of test subjects were separated, and left to live alone. And a fourth group, the control batch, was left to carry on in their little love nest.
After a time, the cheating groups were reunited with their original partners. And things got downright nasty.
Many of those mice barked and hollered at their two-timing mates — a raucous contrast from the mice that were simply separated, minus the hanky-panky.
It was almost as if the mice could smell their partners' cheating ways.
But the yelling eased up and the mouse vocalizations became unified again. Cooing ensued. The couples even settled down and produced a fine litter of children.
"Do they not bark at their partner because they have a stronger bond that's able to withstand the infidelity?" Pultorak mused. "Or is it instead a weaker bond, and they don't really care so much about what this other mouse has been doing?"
"Maybe they'd be a better match with a different partner anyway, and that's playing into it. We don't yet know that."
But we may be able to see a lesson for us all in these reconciling rodents. Hell may have no fury like a mouse scorned, but lasting relationships are built on communication. And that includes an occasional bark to set a wandering partner straight.