The Happiness Connection  

Weird marriage behaviour

My husband is responsible for feeding the pets every morning and then taking the dog into the yard to do his chores.

I had to fill in for him one morning this week as he was away for work.

As I went to get a poo-bag I noticed that rather than putting the new roll of bags into the holder I keep hanging from a nail, my spouse had just stuffed it in with my gardening tools. As I was waiting for the dog, I took the minute necessary to put the bags into the holder and hang it back up.

This isn’t a big deal, but I shook my head a little and wondered why he couldn’t do that himself. Just to be clear, this isn’t a one-time occurrence. My husband never puts the new rolls of bags into the holder, he just shoves them somewhere.

This is also his typical pattern when he needs a new roll of toilet paper. Rather than replacing it for the empty cardboard tube, he puts it on the floor or the back of the toilet. I’m sure I could recount numerous other examples of this behaviour, but I think you’ve heard enough to get the idea.

I find his inability to swap the full roll with the empty one, weird. Let’s be clear. Bizarre behavior is in the eyes of the beholder.

Some of you may be cut from the same cloth as my husband and wonder what my problem is. You may think I’m the weirdo because I want the rolls in their holders, but let’s not get caught up in details.

The purpose of this tale is not to debate specific actions, or in this case lack of action. It is about reaction.

In the early days, I used to try to persuade my husband to change his behaviour and just take a few seconds to put the roll in the holder. There are no prizes for guessing how far I got with that strategy.

As the years went on, his persistent refusal to get with my program infuriated me. I’m sure we’ve had more than one fight about toilet paper. My request was simple and made good sense. What was his problem?

I couldn’t see it then, but our altercations had very little to do with toilet paper and far more to do with control. I wanted my husband to do it my way, which was obviously the right way.

My husband was adamant that he was not going to give in and be controlled by me.

So many of the fights and negative feelings that arise in relationships have nothing to do with the specifics being argued about; they have everything to do with winning and being in control.

I believe the statement “two become one” should be revised to “two remain two, but chose to move in the same direction.”

If you see yourself needing to morph into one being with your partner, there will be a plethora of opportunities to battle over what that new being should look like. This is where so many difficulties begin.

Instead, think about your partner as being a unique entity and ask yourself if what they are doing is causing harm to anyone, or anything? Resist coming up with answers like, it is harming the toilet paper.

If there is no legitimate damage happening, look at your own choices. In my case I could leave the roll where it was or replace it myself.

If you aren’t trying to change your spouse into being just like you, it takes the control conversation off the table and prevents a win-lose scenario. Instead of trying to persuade each other to come to your side of the argument, listen and accept each other’s views.

Acceptance is different from agreement.

We want to know we’ve been heard, but once that happens you can work to find some middle ground that you both can live with. This is also a great time to decide whether the conversation isn’t worthy of your time and energy.

Often it isn’t.

My journey to the place I am now was a little slower than it might have been if control and trying to become one hadn’t been central to my belief of marriage. Thankfully I got there in the end and so will you. My hope is that you will get there a little sooner by hearing about my experiences.

I no longer feel anything more than a mild sense of curiosity that my husband still chooses not to replace empty rolls with full ones.

I would love to say that I never mention it to him, because that would involve pretending to be someone I’m not. But when I do draw this bizarre behaviour to his attention, it is with humour, acceptance, and love not criticism.

The next time you feel triggered by something your spouse does, or doesn’t do, try the following steps.

  • Take a deep breath.
  • Ask yourself if anyone or anything is being harmed.
  • Think about the actions you can take.
  • Choose the option that will make you and your relationship happiest.

A strong marriage isn’t the result of the perfect couple coming together, but of two imperfect people who are willing to accept and embrace each other’s differences.

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About the Author

Reen Rose is an experienced, informative, and engaging speaker, author, and educator. She has worked for over three decades in the world of education, teaching children and adults in Canada and England.

Research shows that happy people are better leaders, more successful, and healthier than their unhappy counterparts, and yet so many people still believe that happiness is a result of their circumstances.

Happiness is a choice. Reen’s presentations and workshops are designed to help you become robustly happy. This is her term for happiness that can withstand challenge and change.

Reen blends research-based expertise, storytelling, humour, and practical strategies to both inform and inspire. She is a Myers Briggs certified practitioner, a Microsoft Office certified trainer and a qualified and experienced teacher.

Email Reen at [email protected]

Check out her websites at www.ReenRose.com, or www.ModellingHappiness.com

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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