Janet Sheridan: Do your spouse a favor
September 17, 2015
I'm neither Oprah nor Dr. Phil; but, based on novels and personal ponderings, I've developed a blueprint for staying married long enough to finish the leftover wedding cake.
You might want to approach my suggestions cautiously. They come from someone who'd rather pull her husband to Kentucky Fried Chicken in a little red wagon than drive him there while he yelps, flinches and critiques her driving. That said, please read on for my suggestions for achieving marital bliss.
1) Stop talking. After saying, "I don't think we should talk about this any more right now. Let's get back to it later," take a walk, eat some bacon, or go to bed mad. Think of it as an adult time out.
When you are tired, hungry, or frustrated, arguing over where to store a blow-up bed is like trying to play peek-a-boo with a baby intent on eating crayons. It's better to review your grievances and lick your wounds in silence; then, when you're prepared to renew the discussion without bringing up your spouse's lineage or hair, have another go at it.
2) Choose your moment. If you know something you plan to suggest will be contentious or stressful, don't barge in, enthusiastic and insistent, while your partner is cleaning the litter box or repairing the weed eater. We routinely consider when and how to approach coworkers and friends from whom we need a concession; but we launch thoughtlessly into our bright and possibly touchy ideas as soon as we're in shouting range of loved ones.
It's better to not tell your husband about a faulty door handle you want him to fix when, wet, muddy and frustrated, he's trying to repair a broken sprinkler head. Never suggest having a large garden party when your wife is stressing because she burned the garlic bread.
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3) Abandon your efforts to improve your spouse. You'd be better off trying to ban snowplows and Subarus from the Yampa Valley. Your partner acquired the habits that annoy you and practiced them for many years before running into your disapproval. So what if your husband prefers chicken dry, watermelon salted and the remote in his hands? Is your wife's inability to keep the car spotless and the garden hose untangled truly a tragedy?
We need to forgive one another for having been raised in different families with different traditions, habits and interests. I don't bother closing lids tightly enough to please Joel, and I don't want to chase a little ball I can't see around a golf course. On the other hand, his eyes glaze over when I talk about books, and he saves shoeboxes to add to his twenty-year supply. Hardly deal breakers.
As we work and socialize with others, we overlook their irritating behaviors. We forgive friend Dotty for pronouncing every sentence like it's a question and coworker Stu for constantly snuffling and clearing his throat; but we fail to extend the same courtesy to our partners — as though tolerance and tact don't matter at home. We begin by marrying someone who is everything we ever wanted and end up saying, "The way you load the dishwasher drives me crazy."
4) Consider your own imperfections. When I examine my feet of clay, I see they look much like my husband's: no better, no worse, both riddled with faults. So when I wonder why Joel can't wipe up puddles of water around the sink, I keep my thoughts to myself; and he reins in his impatience when I take my time collecting my belongings and gathering my thoughts before I exit the car.
Because in the long run of a marriage, such behaviors are of little consequence.
Sheridan's book, "A Seasoned Life Lived in Small Towns," is available in Craig at Downtown Books and Steamboat Springs at Off the Beaten Path Bookstore. She also blogs at http://www.auntbeulah.com on Tuesdays.