Annoyances in Marriage, Pt. 3 (and a free book!)

Managing Marital Irritations.cover

Glynn Wolfe might win the prize for history’s most irritable husband. According to his daughter in law, Vikki Wolfe, Glynn left his wife because she ate sunflower seeds in bed. But wait, there’s more. Wolfe divorced another wife for using his toothbrush. But wait, there’s still more. Wolfe is famous for being a wife collector. All counted, he married and divorced a total of 29 wives. Click here for his bizarre story. I’m not sure who needed counseling more, him or his 29 wives!

If you’ve asked your partner to quit eating sunflower seeds in bed or using your toothbrush and they refuse you can do like Wolfe did and file for divorce.

Or, you can become more tolerant of your partner’s irritating mannerisms. If you can’t change your partner, change yourself. Here are some tips.

1. List the things your partner does that irritate you.

2. Ask them to list the things you do that irritate them.

3. Compare lists and negotiate. “I’ll put down the toilet seat if you stay within our budget.”

4. Don’t give your partner negative labels. If you’re convinced your partner is a “self absorbed, cheating, immature, lying, slob” you’ll look for evidence to back up the label…and of course you’ll find it.

5. Re-examine the stories you tell yourself about your partner’s bad habits. Our interpretations play a bigger role in our frustrations than our partner’s behaviors. “As a man or woman thinks, so are they.” Here are some common stories that deserve challenging.

  • “My partner irritates me on purpose.” This might not be true. They could be mindless, automatic behaviors. Don’t you ever do things without thinking? Give grace and the benefit of the doubt.
  • “I take this personally!” If we treat their actions as a sign they don’t care about us, isn’t prioritizing us, or doesn’t love us, we’ve turned a benign action (like how to load a dishwasher) into a moral issue.
  • “If you really loved me you’d stop driving me crazy with all your irritating habits.” To which your partner could answer, “If you really loved me you’d let me do what I do without nagging.”
  • “They should know what I like. I don’t need to tell them.” Maybe it never occurred to your partner that it bothers you. They aren’t mind readers.
  • “My partner is one big irritation.” Is that their only redeeming trait? Won’t you miss that irritating habit once they’re gone? If the marriage is that dysfunctional there are bigger problems than crumbs on the counter or leaving wet towels on the floor.
  • “They don’t respect me.” Maybe they do respect you but just don’t have the same passion for when dishes get washed, bills get paid, or floors get vacuumed. They could just as easily say you don’t respect their way of doing things.
  • “If they don’t load the dishwasher right I’ll leave!” That’s why divorce attorneys call marriage a three ring circus–engagement ring, wedding ring, and suffering.
  • “Reasoning hasn’t worked. Time to explode!” Two wrongs don’t make a right.
  • “I’ll fight fire with fire! If they don’t take out the trash, I won’t talk!” Welcome to the walled off marriage. Hard to be close to someone you punish with silence.
  • “Any request my partner makes is an attempt to control me.” Really? Where did you learn that? From a demanding parent, grandparent, or ex?
  • “Differences are not allowed in this relationship!” Um, oneness does not mean sameness.

Click here Managing Marital Irritations.1 for a free book, Managing Marital Irritations. (This book contains Bible references).


When Optimists and Pessimists Marry

glass half full

“The glass is half empty AND half full!”

Some people are genetically endowed with an optimistic bias. Either by training or temperament they:

  • Walk around feeling lucky, blessed, cheerful.
  • Don’t need to be told they are lucky. They already feel it.
  • Look on the bright side of everything.
  • Are resilient when things go awry.
  • Dodge depression, illness, and anxiety.
  • Live longer, take better care of their health, adapt to hardship more readily than pessimists.
  • Take greater risks in business, invention, and investments.
  • Think failure happens to others, not them.
  • Inspire morale in employees, loan officers, family, and friends.
  • Are persistent in the face of obstacles.

But not all is rosy in optimistic land. Optimists also tend to:

  • View the world more benign than it actually is.
  • View their attributes more favorably than they actually are.
  • Think goals are more achievable than they actually are.
  • Exaggerate their ability to forecast the future and predict outcomes.
  • Think they are being prudent and cautious when they are not.
  • Gamble more than most.
  • Throw good money after bad.
  • Confuse optimism with delusions.

Some famous optimists: Pollyanna “Let’s play the glad game,” Winnie the Pooh, “Oh joy, oh rapture” and Baloo, “Accentuate the positive.” Some famous pessimists: Eeyore and Puddleglum.

When optimists marry optimists both are happy. When pessimists marry pessimists both are happy.

But in a mixed marriage the pessimist says to the optimist, “You’re so unrealistic!”

And the optimist says to the pessimist, “You’re such a downer!”

Solution? Mutual influence. Optimists do well to let the realism of the pessimist temper their over confidence, and pessimists do well to let the hope of the optimists temper their doom and gloom.

When optimists and pessimists work together they see a half empty glass as full and a full glass as half empty.

When Making You Happy Makes Me Unhappy

It may be hard for you to believe this, but I genuinely do not like doing ___. I know you like it, but I’m not you. This puts me in a huge quandary. I want you to be happy. I love you and want living with me to be a joy for you. But if your happiness depends on my doing ___ we’ve got a problem. I’ve tried to stifle my gag reflex and do the thing you’ve asked me to do. But it’s hard. I’ve tried to explain this to you many times but I’m not sure I’ve successfully explained why it’s so hard for me to do ___. I simply find doing ____ repellant, difficult, unnatural, and unpleasant. Which do you want: me do ___ , or me be happy? You can’t have both.

You’ve told me that if I really loved you I’d do ___ with consistency and joy. As hard as it may be for you to grasp this, both facts are true: 1) I do love you and 2) I do not love doing ___. We are at an impasse in this relationship. Dilemmas don’t get any more basic than this. If I make you happy I’ll be making myself unhappy. If I make myself happy I’ll be making you unhappy. So what do we do? We’ve got the following options.

  1. I bite the bullet and do ____ for you.  Doing ___ for you will be hard, difficult, and nauseating for me NOT because I don’t love you or don’t want you to be happy. It’s just that doing _____ is really hard for me. I can try but there’s no guarantee that I’ll be able to sustain it. I may develop resentment and anger. I may eventually tire of doing ____. To set me up for success could you please express appreciation once in a while for my sacrifices to make you happy? I find it highly de-motivating when I finally get around to doing ____ and hear, “It took you long enough. What do you want, a parade?” Well, not a parade, but at least a sincere thank you. And could you please withhold the anger and scorn when I do ___ imperfectly or when I forget? Could you even the score once in a while by doing something that you maybe find unpleasant but that you know makes me happy?
  2. I bite the bullet and refuse to do ___ for you. This means me learning to inure myself to your anger and disdain. It means me getting thicker skin when you criticize me. It means I stick to my convictions, principles, and preferences and learn to live with the emotional and relational ramifications. I become Teflon so your emotional manipulation doesn’t stick. I don’t chose this out of spite or hate. It’s just that I really don’t like doing ___. I resign myself to living with an unhappy, hard to please spouse.
  3. You bite the bullet and relinquish your desire for me to do ____. I know this isn’t what you want. For some inexplicable reason(s) you like ___. But I’m asking you to stop asking, wanting, or expecting me to do ____. Or you do ___ yourself. Or you find someone to do ____ for you. If you accept my inability/unwillingness to do ___ this means you’ll have to learn to live with unmet needs/wants. This may require coaching, counseling, therapy, behavioral modification, spiritual growth, or plain old-fashioned self-control. It’s probably as hard for you to understand why I find ___ so unpleasant as it is for me to understand why you find ___ so pleasant. I guess we’re just two different individuals with different preferences.
  4. You bite the bullet and continue to pressure me to do ____. If living with an unhappy spouse is more important than living without _____ then this is the option for you. Warning: if I do finally succumb to your pressure and do ____ please don’t whine, “You’re not sincere! You don’t mean it! You’re just doing that because I made you.” Of course I’m not sincere. I’m just doing this to get you off my back.
  5. We learn to live with this impasse. If I refuse to do ___ and you refuse to stop wanting me to do ____ we’re stuck. One option is for us to accept this stuck-ness like some people learn to accept aging, bad knees or unpredictable weather. Some couples do learn to live with unmet desires/demands/requests. If the price of options 1 – 4 is too great, option 5 is the our only option. It’s “agree to disagree” time. This means you quit saying, “If you really loved me you’d do____” and I quit saying, “If you really loved me you’d quit asking me to do ____.” Let’s call a truce. I won’t do ___ and you’ll stop asking me to do ___.  I’ll continue to show my love and care for you by doing other things that are within my capabilities and desires. But ____ is out of the question.
  6. We split up. If doing ___ is a non-negotiable for you, and if my not doing ____ is non-negotiable, our only option is to go our separate ways. This will of course be painful and tragic on many levels. But if options 1-5 don’t work we could try option 6 at least temporarily. If we choose option 6 let’s be very clear on both the timetable and ground rules for spending, dating, parenting, living, etc. while living separately.
  7. We take turns. I may be willing to do ____ on occasion if you lower your expectation that I do it 24/7. In return for my occasional capitulation I’ll want you to do things for me that I find pleasant and enjoyable. If I feel I’m making all the sacrifices I may burn out or get resentful.

When Making Me Happy Makes You Unhappy

I must admit, I’m totally shocked that you’re unwilling to make me happy. I thought this is what marriage is all about! How dare you say making me happy by doing ____ will make you unhappy! If you really loved me you’d find the oomph to do ___ and quit being so selfish.  If I knew you didn’t want to make me happy I’d not have married you! You are cruel and unloving. This is borderline abuse. But since I’m willing to negotiate here are our options.

  1. I give up my desire for you to do ____. This is both counter intuitive and crazy but because I’m willing to take the high road I’ll explore this. It’ll mean me NOT expecting my happiness to come from you. It’ll mean me learning to live with an un-supportive and negligent spouse. It’ll maybe mean therapy and counseling for me to overcome anxiety, anger, resentment, and hatred. Now that I think of it, I’ve made so many compromises and concessions already that I’m not sure I can lower my expectations any more. I’m at rock bottom already. Either you do ____ or resign yourself to living with an unhappy spouse. You can’t not do ___ and have a happy spouse at the same time. The choice is yours.
  2. I do not give up my desire for you to do ___. If this makes you mad or unhappy that merely proves how selfish you are. I’ll just inure myself to your narcissism and thoughtlessness. If you complain about me pushing you to do ____ I’ll learn to live with your complaints. That’ll be my cross to bear. If you get angry and call me controlling, manipulative, or demanding, oh well. I’ll be like Teflon so your unkind remarks don’t stick.
  3. You give up your stubbornness and do ____. This of course is my preference. I don’t see why doing ___ is so hard. I love ____. Most people I know love ____. I can only conclude that your unwillingness to do ___ is motivated by selfishness, a dysfunctional family of origin, sin, or worst of all—lack of love and caring. To prove that you do love me just do this one simple thing: _____. I’m not asking you to walk on water. Just do ____ and make me feel loved.
  4. We learn to live with the impasse. I’m not sure I can do this. Your unwillingness to do ___ is so fraught with negative meaning for me that this may be a deal breaker. If I were you I suggest you go back and consider option 3 again.
  5. We split up. It’d be much easier not seeing you refuse to do ___ to make me happy than seeing you every day NOT doing ____. I’d be more unhappy living with a partner who refuses to comply with my one tiny request than living alone. Either way, I don’t get ____. But if I’m not going to get ___ I’d rather you not be around to remind me you’re not giving me ____.
  6. We take turns. I can’t believe I’m even mentioning this. This is a marriage; we’re not supposed to be keeping score. You’re saying you’ll scratch my back if I scratch yours? Why should I scratch your back since you’re so unwilling to scratch mine? My desire that you do ____ is logical, sane, normal, healthy, and not asking that much. Your reasons for not doing ___ don’t even make sense. Since you’re not willing to give up your stubbornness and do ___ I’m not sure I can stay in this relationship. I may need to go back and consider option 5 again.