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A woman I know told me that she wants to divorce her husband of 40+ years of marriage. Her list of reasons was short: He was irritating. I asked her, "What is the most irritating thing he does that makes him so awful as a husband?" She paused for a good long time and said, "Everything." I wouldn't let her off the hook so easily so I pressed further and she replied, "When I ask him where he wants to go out to eat, he always says he doesn't care so I have to choose."
"When we eat, he doesn't talk." It perplexed me as to why this was a new revelation for her as her husband has always had an extremely silent personality from the time he was a child, and she knew that when she married him. Why in the world would she expect him to become a different person now?
It seems silly but small irritations can grow into deep resentments that cause emotional chasms between spouses over time.
"He's always late for every social engagement."
"He never wants to make a decision."
"He leaves his dirty socks on the floor and they pile up."
"He has a habit of crunching ice in his teeth at every meal."
"He insists on wearing only sweatshirts wherever we go, no matter where we go."
"He doesn't communicate with me."
"When I'm on the phone, he always finds a reason to loiter close by to eavesdrop."
"All he does is sit on the couch and watch television."
"He has this rude habit of picking his teeth with a toothpick."
Any couple can attest to how difficult it is to live together without finding personal differences annoying, especially over time. Are minor irritations a reason for divorce? If they become the source of continuous conflict, the emotional discord can lead to unhappiness and loss of respect for each other--both more serious reasons to divorce. Here are a few ways to cope with those aggravations:
Reframing the irritant
When I say "irritant" I'm not referring to your husband but his habits. Can you look at those irritating behaviors differently? This is called, "reframing" a concept. We might be looking at the same picture but choose differently what to place in the center of our frame of mind.
My husband would complain about the toys and noise and clutter in the house when the kids were little. I told him that someday, he would wish for all of it to continue and my prediction came true. The kids are grown, and our youngest died at the age of 12. Today, the house is tidy and quiet. What irritated him in the past would be signs of a joyful, bustling home.
It doesn't bother me one bit to pick up his dirty laundry. Can he learn to pick it up himself? Yes. Is this a sign he is being lazy and disrespectful of me? No, I don't choose to see it that way. He's a busy man. He is a tired man. The smaller things don't register in his mind when he's focused on the bigger picture for the family's sake. I like taking care of him, supporting him in the ways I can, and I do it with love. Thank goodness, because this is so much easier than trying to change him!
Ignoring the irritant
My uncle was a highly tolerant man. Always gregarious, he never seemed to be bothered by negative people. If anything contentious came up, he'd shrug his shoulders and say, "It doesn't bother me." His wife had some trying habits but he simply ignored them. Another aunt of mine had to deal with a very difficult husband and when things got testy, she simply ignored him and crafted, sewed, read when she felt irritated.
Being a tolerant person is a virtue we all should acquire.
I know I have my own irritating habits that my husband so graciously ignores. To be fair to your spouse, you must consider your own faults and irritating habits. Can you list them? Can you ask him to list them for you? It could be an eye-opening exercise. He might be more tolerant than you know to ignore your irritating habits.
Putting it all in perspective
When I was a child, I recall not being able to sleep because my elderly grandmother was a snorer and she always slept with me when she visited. It was hard until one night, she stopped breathing. Alarmed that she died in her sleep, I shook her until her snoring resumed--to my relief. And the sound of her snoring from that moment on was a comfort, not a nuisance, to me. Strangely, now it was easy to sleep through the rattling.
Could you put your husband's "irritating" habits into perspective? What if he passed away suddenly? No more annoyances to deal with. Would you willingly and lovingly pick up his socks for the rest of his life if he could only return to you? My husband's habits no longer bug me the way they once did. Yes, he still falls asleep with the television on. Yes, he still leaves every light on in the house wherever he goes. Yes, he still plays computer games for hours on end. And yes, he leaves his dirty laundry on the spot where he strips. But he had a heart attack and valve surgery when he was 40. He could have left me then. Every little "irritating" habit reminds me that he is still here with me, and I love him for sticking around to annoy me.
If you find growing irritations are causing arguments and resentments, reflect a bit to see how you can reframe things or become more tolerant. Put it all into perspective. Life truly is short, and you won't want to look back and see how the small irritants robbed you of joyful moments with the man you love.
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