Maintaining a happy marriage requires communication, team work, flexibility…in the bedroom and in the world outside of it. This post is about none of that. It is about the little things. The tiny transgressions that work so slowly to undermine the foundation of your marriage that you don’t even know that they are eroding things. If you look out for these little things you might just avoid the way the upset can upset your relationship.
When you choose share your life, bed, car, and dishwasher with someone else there are four eyes, four hands and two ways to do everything. Here are the steps to take to make sure the most irritating irritants don’t derail you.
- Figure out what is happening most frequently, let go of the outliers. The list of things that we do that irritate each other is pretty long. When things are going well we let almost all of them drift away. Here is a sampling of what we do to annoy each other. How we load the dishwasher, which screen is displayed on the car dashboard, where we put our keys on the counter, whether we yell for each other’s attention, how many tabs are open on my laptop, how long we take at the grocery store, how much crap is on our bedside table, which way to fold the shirts, which beer glasses can be on the open shelf, how we load the car for travel, which route we drive to the airport, whether we buy scented trash bags, leaving lights on, where the mail goes…and so many more. The first step we took it cease our squabbling was to ignore the things that aren’t regular problems. The route to the airport, the beer glasses, and loading the car for travel got shelved (along with the beer glasses with black font only.) What’s left on the list? How we load the dishwasher, which screen is displayed on the car dashboard, where we put our keys on the counter, whether we yell for each other’s attention, how many tabs are open on my laptop, how long we take at the grocery store, how much crap is on our bedside table, which way to fold the shirts,
which beer glasses can be on the open shelf, how we load the car for travel, which route we drive to the airport, whether we buy scented trash bags, leaving lights on, where the mail goes.
- Back off the other person’s territory. In our case my laptop (Steve hates the tabs) and his bedside table (it really is his space) get cut from the list. In a co-joined life we really need to be able to carve out and control some things. Laptops and bedside tables are two of them. What’s left on the list? How we load the dishwasher, which screen is displayed on the car dashboard, where we put our keys on the counter, whether we yell for each other’s attention,
how many tabs are open on my laptop, how long we take at the grocery store, how much crap is on our bedside table, which way to fold the shirts, whether we buy scented trash bags, leaving lights on, where the mail goes.
- Use the toilet seat test. At first glance it seems anti-feminist that the default toilet seat position is the one that favors the woman. Why should the ladies have all the love in the lav? A deeper dive reveals the toilet seat test…the cost to one party (sitting in cold pee) is much greater than the other (lifting the seat with a single finger). In the case of yelling for each other’s attention (or the kids’) it is Steve that suffers more. I sit on my butt and scream. If he is closer than I think I hurt his already damaged hearing. In this case a blow to his health seriously trumps the cost of me standing up and finding my family.
- Understand where the other person is coming from. Celebrate the way the quirks improve your life. The fact that he wanders the aisles of the grocery store as if he is seeing each item for the first time drives me batty. I am impatient. He is fastidious. Yet, since Steve does 70% of the shopping and 90% of the cooking in our house I have decided to let him camp out in the grocery store as long as he likes. It may mean I have to bide my time, but at least I have great food to eat while I am waiting. Steve likes to drop his sunglasses and keys on the end of the kitchen counter as he walks in. It is simple. I spend a lot of time making our kitchen look good (after all I manage the beer glasses carefully). After 200 or so times I asked him if he would drop his stuff somewhere else because a clean counter is particularly important to my mental health. Because he loves me, and secretly loves a clean counter, his keys land on the shelf near the side door.
- What works for the world, or the household. Sometimes a greater issue can break a stalemate. I like it light at night. Steve likes it dark. Our feelings on the issue are about equal. So the planet wins. As for the mail…I like to stash it in the office out of sight (remember the clean counters…) However, the bills sometimes went unpaid and the piles began to look like Pisa. So the mail stays out and gets dealt with… As for the dishes it is a case of fast versus fastidious again. I like to cram things in and run it. Steve likes to solve the dishwasher like a puzzle. After having to handwash plates post wash cycle I have pretty much seen the benefit of Steve’s method. Plus I like puzzles.
- Give in to the passion. If one person cares a whole hell of a lot for no reason and the other person cares only a little bit the crazy person should win. There will be NO scented trash bags in our house. They make me sick.
- Listen to reason. Steve folds the shirts in half…then deals with the arms then in half again. I deal with both arms then make a square shape. After years of arguing for the aesthetics of my way…and both of us folding his shirts one way and mine the other I finally admitted that his way was faster. Don’t tell.
- Make it a win-win. Steve likes to drive with the tire pressure displayed on the dashboard. Perhaps it is because he has run over the same cub three times and had to replace six tires as a result. There is just no saying. I prefer just about any other display. So we just split it. When I drive I look at something quirky…like mileage. Steve can spend as much time on PSI as the NFL and I keep my mouth shut. Mostly. I’m calling this a win-win. On off days it might feel like a lose lose. But isn’t it easier to push a button to switch the display than push each other’s button?
Guess what I am getting him for his stocking this Christmas?
What are your triggers? Which ones can you ditch?
27 thoughts on “Tiny transgressions that erode an excellent marriage”
Oh my god. I was so worried you were going to say you like scented trash bags and we weren’t going to be able to be friends anymore.
No f’ing way. Vomit.
Those and scented TP and tampons. Hell to the no.
Particularly the tampons. No chemicals in vaginas.
Hence the coconut oil.
My significant other likes to start a sentence and never finish it, until I start yelling ‘words! I need words. I like words. You know I like words because I use them to write stuff.’
He’s good with his hands though.
So not everything takes words…
I love this, Anna. Not only because it’s engaging, well written, but also, because so much thought has gone into it. I’ve a mind to sit down with my better-half (in his opinion 😉 ) and make a list of our own.
I’m sure he’d fill a page in no time… as for me, one thing springs immediately to mind… His infuriating habit of hijacking my story telling. Every. Time. … If I start relaying something that’s happened recently I’m lucky if I get three words in before he takes over the telling o_O
Often I’ll just shut up and let him have his moment (whilst secretly thinking I’d tell it better’ 😉 ) But every now and then it REALLY bugs me, and I shut him down.
Thanks so much! I think I might be on the other end of the story telling problem. My motivation is to show how much I share and relate to what he is saying. I’m going to watch out for it now. I have already trained myself not to talk over my kids…
Thank you for making me laugh — I your comment on how Steve shops — as if seeing things in the store for the first time.
This list is great and I think a lot of it would match our own. I too would add talking. I sometimes cannot find words (which drives my husband crazy) but I also finish stories. Weird I get both pet peeves of two different people.
My dear husband is so accustomed to work discussions moving at a rapid pace that our nightly talks have turned into elevator conversations — only we are going from the first to the second floor and not to the 122nd floor. This causes my usual fast-talking pace to slow way down as I search for the most economical way to say something which causes the loss of words. Very frustrating for both of us; however my reminder that I am his spouse and “do not work for him” is often enough to get him to slow down too..
Thank you for your insightful list — it is always a great reminder to stop and think.
I can just picture your elevator talks. What a great image.
Funny…and so damn true. It really is the small stuff that’s so undermining. A good reminder that sometimes I should keep my mouth shut!
It is a struggle for me too as you might imagine. But less nagging leave more room for love.
Love , love , love it !!! Not much more to say than THANK YOU for that enjoyable great article . Absolutely sharing and letting my friends enjoying a good giggle ! Very entertaining style !
Thanks! It’s almost all true. And we didn’t even argue about whether or not to park in a parking garage tonight. It’s working!
I just love all of this! With my second marriage being almost three years old, I learned very quickly how my hubby got along as a single dad for years by doing things his way. He does certain things, so he can just DO them. When we shop at the grocery store, I run through and get everything while he contemplates the meat and liquor aisles. Marriage made in heaven! We also thank each other for making the coffee or other small, random tasks!
Thank you’d have a great roi
The dishwasher! Oh man I never load the dishwasher “correctly”!
If you did you would spend half of your life in front of the dishwasher.
Sounds like this was written by someone who has been married a long time! And lives in my house! 🙂 Lots of wisdom here!
I don’t think I live in your house…but my memory is not what it used to be 😉
Great article! I would have to say my trigger is when my husband doesn’t acknowledge something I’ve just said – it’s like he didn’t even hear me – no nod, no “uh huh”, no eye contact, nothing (although when I ask him, “what did I just say?” he is indeed able to repeat it). It drives me NUTS! I am trying to let it go and just accept that is him to avoid needless arguments.
Hmmmm. I’m not sure I would be able to get over that easily. I used to have the same situation with my husband and it turned out he had hearing loss. Now he has a hearing aid and he is much more responsive. Something that I thought was characteralogical was actually physical. Weird. Any chance your husband is suffering from literal and not selective hearing loss?
So much about it is about using your ears, isn’t it?
The toilet seat test…..if I have to sit all of the time and they have to sit some of the time, then the seat down wins.