If you find yourself in an unacceptable situation, you really have three choices:
- Fix it – make changes so that you find a solution to the issue
- Accept it – come to peace with the situation at hand. Often times if we come to terms with the situation you can still be happy. I’ve read stories of Tibetan monks being imprisoned for years, but through meditation and coming to terms, they find some sort of peace with their less than ideal situation.
- Move along – walk away from the situation you find yourself in and start fresh somewhere else.
We’re responsible for our own happiness and can’t make others behave the way we want. That includes kids, bosses, friends, family and spouses. We’re really lucky as Loudboy and Birdsnest, who are two years apart in age, play really well together about 80-85% of the time. That other 20% though is spent pushing each other’s buttons, bickering or fighting. In school they are taught “Kelso’s Wheel” to help them deal with conflict. We talk to them about making good choices and if they can’t come to a resolution they Walk Away. Sometimes it works for the youngsters, sometimes it doesn’t, but at least they are learning more productive ways to deal with conflict without adult intervention.
This stuff works well for adults too, but my third choice “Move Along” is a long-term permanent solution and shouldn’t be confused with the Walk Away option which is intended to put the issue to bed short term. Move Along in the context of a job would be to quit. In the context of marriage would be separation. Obviously decisions made when all other options are exhausted and you can’t deal with a situation that is toxic.
In the past, I held frequent bitterness and resentment toward my wife Holly for two primary reasons: 1) I felt somewhat to very unloved due to a lack of affection and what I felt was low sexual frequency (my language is physical touch) and 2) I felt I was carrying a larger share of household burdens (both before and after kids) since I dealt a lot more with day-to-day cleanup responsibilities. This manifested itself in a frequent Groundhog Day type argument, where I’d get fed up with one or the other or both, insist on having a conversation/argument about it which inevitably blew up and both sides felt hurt and usually had the opposite result of what I had hoped for. I’ve called Hollly a “slob” and nagged her to clean the way I wanted her to clean. In discussing the book The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lasts, we’ve found that Holly is a words of affirmation language, which made these insults even more hurtful.
So we kept on this viscous cycle for years, doing little to fix our differences or accept them. I think there was a lot of underlying resentment on both our parts during these times. Then I stumbled upon the ‘sphere, which laid out the blueprint of why we are the way we are, and the hows and whys of intergender relationships. Things instantly clicked in my mind and after those things fell into place things changed in those two key areas.
My parents are on the hoarding spectrum (which makes me want to be the exact opposite), so my idea of clean is lack of clutter, dishes done, counters clear, laundry done and put away. I’m no clean freak by any means, but Holly has a much higher tolerance in these areas than me and it used to drive me bananas. A recent USA today article/study has been referenced recently around the blogworld about men who do housework, and the reduction in sexual frequency.
Husbands who do a lot of cooking, cleaning, laundry and other traditionally female forms of housework may do their marriages some good — but, contrary to popular belief, they are not rewarded with more sex, a new study finds.
Instead, it’s the guys who do the most lawn work, car repair, driving and bill-paying – traditional men’s jobs – who have the most sex in marriage, the study suggests. The same is true for women who do the most traditional female housework, according to the study published in the February issue of American Sociological Review.
Now I still do lawn work, driving, snow shoveling and other “manly” chores, a cluttered house causes me anxiety. I can see where my old self, the score-keeper, got upset.
But after many, many unsuccessful attempts to “fix” her, I learned to accept that if I wanted happiness and peace, I would need to accept this part of her. In doing that, I let go of my resentment and score-keeping that I used to do. Then I started to see all the stuff she does do that I never would, and began to appreciate that it is more balanced than I previously saw. She’s a big picture project person and organizer. She’s the planter and care-taker of the gardener while I only enjoy the benefits of her labor (I hate gardening ,but love fresh veggies). She takes apart a whole room and puts it back together in a better way. She’s tackles major junk and decluttering and organizing projects, ones that I would simply throw another piece on (think of stuffing a closet and quick slamming the door: that would be decluttered and “clean” in my world, since it’s out of the way, but to Holly that’s messy). She is the cleaner of fridges, organizer of garages, and remover of kids items. She doesn’t do this every day mind you, but when she does, it’s usually a major project.
We approach cleaning in totally different ways, and once I understood that, and accepted that, I came to an understanding that we actually work well together. No longer do I harbor resentment over the fact her half of the closet is in shambles, or she leaves dishes lying around. I’d still she rather clean up after herself immediately, but I’m not sure it’s in her DNA (her brothers and dad are the exact same way. Maybe we spouses are enablers, but picking up an extra coffee cup while I’m cleaning is better than nagging and resentment). I appreciate the organized areas and what she does bring to the table. It’s a much better place for both of us to be and I’d say its a direct result of finding peace with the situation.
Remember, you can’t change others, only yourself. If you aren’t getting the reaction you want from actions you are doing, you either need to try other actions, accept the situation or move along.