You Will Tick Each Other Off

ticked off spouse

In the next two weeks both a nephew and a niece of mine are choosing to marry the love of their life. From the vantage point of almost 45 years (August 7) I began to think of what piece of wisdom I wanted to give the two couples. After much thought I decide to inform the four of them that…

Each of you will tick your significant other off!

I can almost hear some of you gasping now. How could you say that to two young couples who have stars in their eyes? I say it because it is true.

Marriage is not a continual romance.

Instead it is a drama that is constantly evolving. Marriage is about two people who are still in the process of getting to know themselves at the same time that they are learning to love each other.

Why do we tick each other off? Let me count just some of the ways.

  • We come from different backgrounds so we have different perspectives. I’m here to tell you that can be frustrating.
  • One of us is female and one of us is male. We are similar and yet different.
  • We won’t always get our own way and that is just plain disappointing.
  • We are not the same no matter how many similarities have brought us together. We are unique and separate people.
  • We don’t always want to do the same thing at the same time.
  • We are unfinished and incomplete in the maturity department and that means that we don’t always bring our best self to the table.
  • We love being loved yet we don’t always know a lot about loving another person.
  • We can suffer from the consumer mentality that often turns us into victims. We get focused on the thought that maybe I didn’t get the best person. Perhaps I got false advertising. There might be someone better out there and now I’m stuck. Poor me!
  • We are selfish. Our mindset is more often focused on ‘what can I get’ rather than on “what can I give?’
  • Sometimes we’re just in a bad mood.

You get the idea.

We will ruffle each other’s feathers.

I have a friend who has a beautiful little condo in her head. She has designed it and decorated it so that it is truly a place that brings her joy. She says that when her husband has really ticked her off she finds solace in going to her little condo. There is just one problem, after she has played with the idea of being alone and living in her idea of paradise, she finds herself sitting on her overstuffed couch waiting for him to call.

The other day I picked up one of my favorite books on marriage titled Tell Me No Lies written by Ellyn Bader, Ph.D and her husband Peter T. Pearson, Ph.D with Julie D.Schwartz. In it Peter gives a vignette from his own marriage journey that I think is priceless.

Pete: Several years ago we were on a vacation in the Southwest. i was in a major funk, moping around a lot, rejecting every activity  Ellyn suggested and basically, being an all around drag. I had been ruminating over things about our relationship that bugged me, stuff that we’d been over many times. Essentially, Ellyn wasn’t living up to my vision of the ideal mate. Compared to the mental picture of the partner I wanted Ellyn wasn’t attractive enough, humorous enough, or high-voltage enough. Without work and other day –to-day distractions, that disappointment really hit me on the trip.

But how could I express that?

Here’s a fragment of the conversation that followed:

Ellyn: “What’s wrong?”

Pete:  “Nothing.”

Ellyn: (Blurted out in a wild intuitive hunch): “Are you thinking about getting rid of me?”

Pete:  “As a matter of fact, I am.”

Ellyn: “What do you have in mind?

Pete:  “Well I was thinking we would go to the Grand Canyon, You’d peer over the edge and whoops”

Ellyn: “Oh, I see. Bye, bye, Sweetie. So why shouldn’t you do that?”

Pete:   “ You might end up getting seriously hurt, and I don’t want you to suffer.”

Ellyn: “Were you thinking about anything else?”

Pete:  “Yes, I was thinking about those really nasty-looking mushrooms in the backyard. I would fry up a batch and that would be the end of you.

Ellyn:  “What’s wrong with that plan?”

Pete:   “Well I was afraid I would go to prison for homicide and then Molly (our daughter) would really be out of luck.

Ellyn:  “Anything else?”

Pete:   “I thought that maybe I’d go to Alaska, and every few months I would send you a postcard saying that I’m alive.”

Ellyn:  “Have you thought about getting a divorce?”

Pete:   “No, I don’t want to go through that.”

Ellyn:  “One more question. Is there anything I should be seriously worrying about?”

Pete:   “Actually, now that you ask it, the answer is no.”

This made me laugh. What honest mate would deny that there are moments like that in every married relationship?

Don’t turn those moments into World War III.

As a marriage and family therapist I would like to make some very simple suggestions to help you navigate through your irritations.

  1. When irritated choose to be silent for a while.
  1. Ask yourself what this irritation says about you? Is there something that needs to be faced personally? Are you trying to control something that isn’t yours to control? Is this a weak area for you personally and so it irritates you when you see it in your mate too? Does this remind you of something in your past that used to drive you mad?
  1. Ask yourself if this is a major mountain that you want to die on or is it a molehill?
  1. If it is a molehill, try to find the humor in it and let it go. You are not responsible for your mate, only for yourself.
  1. If it is a mountain, do you need to first of all understand your mate’s perspective? If so, be curious not furious! Ask him/her to help you understand.
  1. After you have really listened to your mate, if you want to still address it, turn your irritation into a positive request. At least that gives you a 50% chance of getting what you want out of this. Can you deal with those odds?
  1. If your mate does not see the issue as you do and you have expressed yourself clearly and positively, focus on what you love about your mate and let the irritation go.

You are just different. Perhaps this is the time to visit that

well decorated condo that only exists in your head and then perhaps you will find yourself on that overstuffed couch waiting for that phone call.

Until our next Conscious Lover’s Blog….

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