Thursday, April 21, 2011

Now for something...

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...completely different.

I like Dr. Phil because he has a decent, practical approach to life. Nothing is ever rocket science, its all down to earth and my husband is known as the "Dr. Phil" of his company (he's not a doctor, but a therapist). I imagine they subscribe to same school of psychology. The husband doesn't care for the format in which Dr. Phil conducts his therapy, but he respects the underlying philosophy.

Today, while browsing my facebook news feed, I came across this:

It really made me think. Ongoing feud? Why? Why on earth would you let your marriage have an ongoing feud? In fourty-one minutes, the questioned garnered almost 400 answers, most them of stating the particular feud in their marriage. Thank goodness some people answer that life is simply too short to get your knickers in a twist over hair in the sink, the toothpaste cap and not putting the toilet seat down. I agree with the minority.

I think that when you are truly in love, in real love, you find those idiosyncrasies endearing. You understand that your spouses sole purpose on earth is not to annoy you with a barrage of disgusting or different habits. You love their flaws because its what makes them different from you, what makes them uniquely human. My husband's hair in the sink doesn't bother me in the least. Sometimes I wonder how he does it, but instead of getting intensely frustrated that 6 years into our relationship we can't overcome that problem (because it clogs the sink), I actually think about him, the person, with warm, fuzzy thoughts.

I wonder about sink design-- why hasn't anyone developed a man-proof sink yet? That makes me think about how impractical men are when designing the nuts and bolts of household appliances and fixtures. If they don't clean it and unclog it, how do they know its a design flaw?

That's the thing about these feuds. What happens is that you think your partner is purposely doing something to annoy you. Then the offending partner gets caught off guard with you unloading this rather small, but intimate complaint in a big way. The offending partner feels bad for offending and what's worse is the culprit is an ingrained habit of which a second thought is never given. The offending partner feels personally attacked for being themselves (which no one likes!). They find themselves arguing that the behavior wasn't to punish you for X, Y and Z or because they wanted to stick it to you for the sake of mean-ness. Then it gets ugly, quickly.

Words fly, feelings get hurt, and one day you may even find yourself with irreconcilable differences because he's got to trim the beard he grew in order to minimize the hair clogs in the sink. Or maybe he never altered the behavior and the offended partner feels like she isn't important enough to accommodate. In whatever case, its easy to let facial hair, a tube of toothpaste, a toilet seat, or household duty sharing spiral out of control.

Yet, nobody gets divorced because of toothpaste. They get divorced because they feel unloved, they feel their needs weren't being met and the marriage became a very negative circumstance with hurt feelings.  You get divorced because these feuds have the underlying message that "He doesn't love me enough to consider how his actions make me feel". Or "She didn't love me enough to consider how her judgment feels to me".

We have this idea that we should just *know* how to have a relationship, how to exist in a marriage, how to navigate all the rocky seas of coupling instinctively. The problem is we don't have these instincts. As mom of an autistic kid, let me say that no one has a freaking clue. These things are learned and not all relationship education is created equal. We have this funny habit of assuming the other half of our marital unit should know how we feel, how to make us feel better or worse, and how fix their irritating habits for us to feel better. Rarely do we take the time to educate ourselves on how this actually works. Let me tell you, your partner doesn't know-- sometimes they just make good guesses based on history. Sometimes not. And changing habits? In marriage, it doesn't work so well solo. Marriage is about a team effort.

Part of the problem is our inability to choose the correct partners. We settle, we rush into relationships, we think we change our mates after the wedding, we don't realize that what our deal-breakers are, we are too lazy to work at it and think a healthy, happy relationship just happens.

We fail to realize that we have the super-power in our lives that has been known to save marriages: We get to choose how act and re-act. Should our partners change their annoying habits or should we change our reaction to those habits? I think the answer is somewhere in between. Combining appropriate action with appropriate re-action is freaking awesome.

Duh-da-da-duh: Super Wife and Super Husband with their uncanny abilities to put things in perspective!! A dynamic duo, indeed!

If there is something that really irritates me, I discuss it with my husband. I make it a point to make sure he knows that I know it is not something he intentionally does to hurt me. I make sure he knows that I love him. I explain rationally, calmly and without judgment (no way it ever helpful to say "you are nasty human being because you left the toilet seat up!) the problem *I* am having. After all, it is my issue and its something I need his help to resolve. In turn, he is willing to make me feel more comfortable by either obliging, working to a reasonable compromise, or allowing me to sort through why it bothers me in a supportive way. This is a great strategy for the big things-- parenting, money, work, intimacy, family-- not just the little. We communicate our needs pretty well so that there is no feuding.

Sometimes, I will exclaim something completely random when I am frazzled and encounter all my pre-rinsed, dishwasher ready dishes  covered in ranch dressing. I normally throw up my hands, saying "Argh! You people drive me crazy!" in an exaggerated tone. Just doing that makes me laugh out loud, but if it doesn't, my husband's deer in the headlight look does. I can't help but love the fact that he doesn't want to test my sanity with ranch dressing or other condiments. So, I apologize, explain that I'm just frazzled (or have PMS) and melt into his arms. I also make it a point to follow up my post-hug apology with a stunning compliment and a "I love you more than anything". He has his own ritual for changing asshole behavior to loving husband behavior. It works.

There isn't much that bothers me and it isn't often. I can't help but marvel at our capacity to love when I am unclogging a drain. It's is marvelously amazing that as his wife, I am the only person who knows his most intimate habits and flaws. He knows my strange habits and accept them as part of what makes me, me. On top of all this, we love each other. I think he's funny, brilliant, a great father and husband and sexy ass man (and vice-versa). I still get butterflies when walks in the room, despite the knowledge of those intimate habits (that many people find annoying).

I think about how sad it would be if those little, pesky facial hairs no longer graced my sink. How awful it would be if I didn't find empty protein bar containers in cupboard. If his cups no longer needed my assistance getting to the dishwasher. If he never, ever picked up a new toy instead of paying a bill. That would mean he was not with me. That is a very real possibility for us, so I cannot fathom why anyone would choose to argue and feud over such trivial things that when approached in a positive manner could actually further your martial bond.

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