I heard someone say recently, “I am glad no one has a tape recorder on while my husband and I are arguing.” She wasn’t talking about what her husband was saying. She was talking about herself. She said that when she gets angry she starts yelling, accusing and even using foul language. “When I started paying attention to myself,” she said, “I hated what I was hearing. I don’t want to be that kind of person.”
Having said that, she added, “But what I was saying was the truth.” Another person said, “Just because we know something to be true doesn’t mean we have to speak it.”
This started me thinking about times when I felt compelled to mention to my husband one of his bad habits, like leaving the lights on or putting his papers on the kitchen counter when he walks in the door. I know it to be true that he does each of these things often because I find myself turning off the lights behind him or moving his stuff a couple of times a day. But is it so necessary that I constantly give word to it? In our early marriage, I believed it was. Then he would defend himself saying he may do it (whatever it was back then) sometimes, but not always. (He was right, of course. We have learned never to use the words always and never because then whatever you are saying is always untrue.) To make his case stronger, he would mention some habit for which I myself am guilty. I am afraid that these exchanges often led to a shouting match.
I suppose that there is some justification in the early years to mention habits of you partner that bother you. How else is he or she to know? But after a period of time and things don’t change, the chances are they never will. Early on, I used to take inconsideration such as the above personally, but now I believe they are less about meanness or selfishness as about absent-mindedness.
I wish I could tell this to young couples. “Accept the things you cannot change”, as the saying goes. Speak your desires in a kindly manner, but then let it go. “Don’t sweat the small stuff” as Richard Carlson says, “And it’s all small stuff.”