Getting irritated by your spouse is an occupational hazard for marriage. It happens in all marriages—some more than others.
Sometimes I frustrate and annoy my wife, Susan. I confessed that when I wrote about how sometimes I can be like a prickly porcupine. And sometimes Susan can get on my nerves too.
Take a recent weekend this summer, for example. Susan came into the kitchen and discovered a chip in one of our counters. Quickly, she declared quite irritably that either me or my son were guilty of the damage since we were there.
My reaction wasn't award winning, but it was natural since her accusation irritated me too. I countered, in front of my son, with the defensive question, "Why do you just assume that one of us did it when it could have been someone else?"
That didn't work too well. She got more irritated with me, walked out of the room, and went upstairs.
As I followed her upstairs, my frustration was growing too. When I asked her why she was so upset, she said I "chastised" her in front of our son and that I never listen to her about taking care of our furniture. Naturally, I had some examples of my own to share with her about how she irritated me ...
You probably see where this went—nowhere. In marriage, either of us can make a HUGE list of how the other annoys and irritates the other, but that won't get us anywhere.
Thankfully, after we processed this squabble, we came to the following conclusions:
1. We are equal-opportunity agitators. Husbands and wives BOTH do, or don't do, things that irritate the other. So often, I forget about the things that I do that frustrate and irritate Susan, dwelling instead on all those things she does that get at me. We should take a step back and remember that we are a source of irritation too. Then, maybe we can overlook some things that our spouse does.
2. It's not all about me. Marriage is not all about me. Our job as a husband or wife is not to make sure our spouse follows all our instructions and does what we want them to do for us when we want them to do it, like a king or queen issuing edicts to a subject. Rather, we should strive to serve one another. Remember, love is all about giving.
3. I'm an agent of change ... for myself. It's always easy to focus on what the other person needs to change. It's easy to make mental lists of what we want our spouse to do differently. But each of us needs to focus on those things that we need to change about our own behavior first. Then, when we become models of perfection, we can start working on changing our spouse.
4. She/he is not me—and that's fine. Our spouse is not made in our likeness. Our spouse is not designed to conform to our image. Our spouse does not think or act the same way we do, and they are not supposed to. They have a different personality and different ways of doing things. But how often do we act as though our spouse should be just like us? Don't demand conformity. Celebrate the differences.
What are some things you think are important to remember when your spouse annoys you, or you annoy your spouse? Please share your comments below.
Mark Merrill is the president of Family First. For the original article, visit markmerrill.com.