Monday, May 11, 2015

Marital Bliss & Avoiding Those Fights over Lame Stuff

I told a friend recently that my husband and I were going to burn our Monopoly game. She asked why? I answered, "Because we could not get through a game without ending in a major row!"

We should be able to play a fun loving game of good ol' Monopoly. But inevitably he starts to lose, and then he starts complaining about how it is a capitalist game that he cannot support. In reality he is just annoyed that I am winning, yet again, because he has really bad luck and keeps rolling a hit on my hotel on every. single. lap. It is uncanny how often he hits only my hotels each turn.

I offer to change the rules slightly, so that one can build when they own one land (rather than wait until they have all three). This would make it easier for... him. I find this pretty generous of myself (*pats self on back*) as he cannot seem to get all three lands (remember, it is pretty uncanny how bad his rolls are). But, no, he insists on playing by the rules - and then complains endlessly about them and about how capitalism brainwashes people. Ad nauseum.

Needless to say, I quit the game early to go paint my nails... or wash my hair... or dig my eyes out with grapefruit spoons. And we agreed to burn Monopoly and never play it again. Personally, I just don't see Monopoly as a wise choice in life if one has 'marital bliss' in mind.

Yesterday I came home from work, and my husband asked me in a very strange voice, "Was everything okay today when you left for work?"  I reply I was fine.  He responds that he was worried, because he came home and, somehow, I had managed to lock the cat in the basement, leave a bunch of lights on, left the kitchen faucet running a little, and (drum rolls please), had left the oven on... all. day. long.  Yes, I think he wanted to personally kill me, but he tried hard to maintain a sense of humor about it all even though I had nearly burned down our house.

At the end of the day you wonder how you ended up in a major row over the little things, such as what size tupperware to have, or whether you should buy this type of soil or that for the garden, or whether the vegetable peeler needs to go here, or there. But, it is the silly little things that will bring down a marriage. And, then, on top of that there are the big things, like almost burning down the house. These things, big and small, all pile up until you are covered in things you cannot shake off. They are the straws - and eventually, the marital back will break.

So, here are some tips for keeping the "things" at bay (or at least trying): 
  1. Remind your partner you appreciate them: Yes, it is true, they chose to chop out that tree stump all on their own. You even advised against it. You did not ask for it. You did not even want it. But, he is still doing it to impress you, and you are expected to gush over in appreciation regardless of the fact that it has drug out the yard project an extra 2 weeks. People want to feel appreciated, and they will do it how THEY want... they won't actually do what YOU would have appreciated (e.g. not chop out the stump so we can be done faster and have our weekends back). They will do what they think should be appreciated, and whether you like it or not, you are then required to appreciate it or else you are the one that seems ungrateful. And, perhaps you ARE ungrateful if you don't, as at least they have made an effort and they are trying hard to impress you, and that says a lot about how much they love you. So, just appreciate it. Gush over about it. Be grateful for it. It is a kindness and generosity on your part. And, okay, it will be nicer without that stump there. So try to see the positive side to it.
  2. Drop the 'Always' and 'Never' from your language: Don't say the inevitable, "But you always..." or "You never..." UNLESS they are in relation to good things. Meaning, "You are always so thoughtful" is okay, but "You always forget to take the trash out" is not. The other day my husband asked if I could (and I do quote him on this) "Pick up my shoes that are always strewn about the house."  I looked around and there was ONE pair upstairs in the bedroom, and ONE pair in the front room. The rest were in the coat room where they belong. That is hardly "strewn about the house" as if I have a rabid shoe fetish and shoes covered every surface of every room. And, how do you think that one little comment made me feel? These little negative comments throughout a day bring a marriage down. Married couples nitpick themselves into divorce over really silly things. Get rid of the 'Never' and 'Always' from what you say unless it is in relation to a compliment. The way you word something makes all the difference. Instead say "Would you mind picking up this pair of shoes?" or "Would you mind helping me quickly pick up the front room?"
    Clean. Straight forward. Simple. And a whole lot more positive.
  3. Choose your battles: You could fight over many things in a day, but ask yourself, 'Is this worth it?" and then ask yourself, "Will I care tomorrow? Next week? A month from now? If he died tomorrow?" I know that sounds extreme, but it gives a lot of perspective very quickly. If you would not care tomorrow, or even realize you would probably regret having cared and making a fuss about it, then take a deep breath and just take care of it yourself, or walk away and come back when you are calm and can be nice about it. Don't start a battle over a silly thing you won't really care about in a week's time.
  4. Find time for you: Take time for yourself. Find a way for it. Come home an hour later each day and go the gym. Get up an hour earlier and have a quiet moment. Take up that one hobby you were always interested in and do it alone, without your partner. Take a moment just for you. Life can get away with us, and with it we lose those moments that let us refresh our inner-self, which ultimately give us the energy to be patient and kind to our family members. Make it as important as eating, and sleeping.
  5. Accept the frustrations with the happy times: A true relationship is not one long line of perfect happiness. That would be pretty boring. Life is about the ups and downs. The good and the bad. You need the bad times to change and be a better person. You need the good times to get a respite and enjoy the world at large. The truly best friends you have are the ones you had a major row with, and you worked it out, and you were both better for having worked it out. Marriage or any long-term friendship of any kind needs the ups and downs, otherwise it becomes a homeostatic line of boredom. The key is balance though. It is okay to have a bad day, as long as there are good. If you start to feel there are no good days, or that the drawbacks outweigh the benefits, then take a step back, and maybe it is time for marriage counseling or outside help. But, otherwise, use the bad days as a way to improve yourself, improve your relationship, or just as a warning flag that you need some time for yourself to get your patience and loving kindness back (note this does NOT apply to if you are dating an asshat... you cannot fix an asshat - in this case, you just have to move on, lick your wounds, and find a nicer guy that treats you right!)

I recently bought and started reading Gretchen Rubin's 'Happier at Home' book, which has some tips like these, and a whole lot more. It is a good review of the little daily things we can do which make all the difference in the happiness of our marriage. I really recommend it:

Please do comment with one little tidbit of advice you have to helping keep a marriage happier, longer...

**Photo Credit: Flickr CC - Some rights reserved by Heinner Adams

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