Accepting Those Annoying Differences

“She leaves a mess by the sink, never putting the cap back on the toothpaste!” 

“He drops his socks and underwear on the floor instead of putting them in the hamper!”

“She’s always leaving cabinets open, never closing them as she walks away!”

“He opens the refrigerator then stands there forever trying to decide what to eat!”

These are the complaints of a happily married couple. Though they have a loving relationship, these annoying habits (though they may seem petty to some) are a major source of tension. 

“I love my wife dearly,” says Jack, a 36-year-old systems analyst, “But I can’t stand how messy she is. I’m not a neat freak, but I need some order in my life. When I come home from work, I don’t want to have to trip over toys or search all over the house for my mail or pick up papers before I can sit down at the dining room table. I don’t see why it’s so hard to do those things. I’ve told my wife how annoying these things are to me. She says she’ll try to change, but nothing changes. What should I do?”

His wife, Joy, responds: “Jack has plenty of annoying habits that bother me and he doesn’t do anything about them either. If he’s looking for something he can’t find, he asks me in this irritated voice ‘where is it?’ as though I’m the one who misplaced it. And why are the kids’ toys my responsibility? Why can’t he pick them up or get the kids to do it? He acts as though everything that isn’t right in the house is my fault. That’s not fair!”

Living with someone, even the best someone in the whole world, always has its wearisome moments. Unless you choose to live alone, you’ve got to take the person you live with basically “as is.” This doesn’t mean that your spouse shouldn’t change any of his/her habits to please you, but it does mean that even if your hubby picks up his underwear right away, something else will probably get on your nerves — if you let it.

It’s hard to change our habits, even when we ourselves would like to. Typically our habits are executed without conscious awareness. Joy doesn’t leave the cap off the toothpaste to annoy Jack. She’s just got a million and one things on her mind. Putting the cap back on doesn’t even come close to making her A-list. If it’s so annoying to Jack, he’d be better off simply putting the cap on himself rather than harboring resentment or taking offense.

So, next time your loved one does something annoying, remember that some things you do are surely annoying to your loved one. 

  • Do you want to be berated for your careless habits? 
  • Do you want to be bawled out for what you forget to do? 
  • Do you want to spend your time arguing about petty differences that in the larger scheme of things mean absolutely nothing? 

If your answer is no, no, no, it’s time to establish a new family pattern. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if you and your partner could admire and appreciate each other’s strengths while disregarding all those petty annoyances? Umm, let me elaborate on that a bit. 

Right now, make a pledge to take time out of your busy day to notice some of the things your partner does right. Then, tell that lovely person how thankful you are for those actions. How much you value them. Maybe, even cherish them. And while you’re at it, wave goodbye to those petty annoyances that do nothing but ruin your day!


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