There are things that drive me nuts about my husband. (But this is not a post where I am going to complain and rant about him – in fact, you won’t see that on this blog.) AND, there are things that I do that drive my husband nuts as well. When I step back and really look at these things, the reason most of them drive me nuts is because they inconvenience me. In my busy, trying day, they make things harder. I can dwell on this, and let it become personal. I feel like he must not really care. I feel like he is just here to make things even harder on me. But most of these things have little to do with him trying to make things harder for me. In fact, most of these things have very little to do with me at all…..
When we are feeling hurt, uncared-for, unloved, and taken for granted, what is a typical reaction? At the very least, it is to put up our defenses, and, at worst, to go on the offensive, to attack the person who we believe showed such little regard for us and our time. What I realized is most of the time I just need to ask my husband and find the “why?” I need to show grace and love, and go with an open mind, without assuming I know why he does what he does, and just ask.
Example: My husband leaves shoes in the front entry. This is difficult, because we don’t really have a front entry – we have a front door that opens into our living room – so any shoes that are left there are left in our already-tight, makeshift hallway behind the couch.
So, in an effort to fix this problem, I came up with a plan to keep things neat. I bought a small plastic boot tray, and set it off to the side of the door, where there was enough room for each of the kids and my husband to keep one pair of shoes by the door. The plan was, if there is already a pair of shoes there, and you bring another one in, you have to put one away. I asked for input, and my husband said he thought it was great.
I expected to have to remind the kids how it worked for a while, and make sure they stuck to the one-pair rule. But after a week of this, it was my husband’s shoes that were still all over the entry way. I was livid. Here I went and bought a tray, and came up with a plan, and my husband couldn’t follow up and stick with the program.
I am embarrassed to say, I did not handle it well. I went to him and demanded, “Why can’t you just keep your shoes picked like up you said you would? You can keep one pair by the door, but THREE pairs of big boots? I am tired of tripping over them…..”
Definitely not my finest moment. I was hurt and upset that I went to the trouble of trying to include him in the decision about how to take care of the shoes, that I began working hard at keeping my own shoes and the kids’ shoes cleaned up, and that he seemed to not care about the trouble it caused me.
He was upset (understandably, right?) But where he would sometimes get defensive, he just looked at me for a minute, then went on to actually answer my question of “why” the shoes were there… “One pair of shoes are still wet because I was working outside in the rain today, the other pair are dirty from mowing the grass last night, and the third are the pair I just came in wearing and I am about to put on and go back out. I’m sorry I haven’t had time to clean the two dirty pairs. I don’t want to carry them through the house and put them in our closet when they are dirty like that.”
In that moment, I was humbled when I realized there actually was a reason he did what he did, and that he did it in an effort to keep our house cleaner, and make things easier for me. I could have suggested he just clean his shoes right away before bringing them in the house, or that he put the third pair away and get them when he was ready. I could have suggested any number of things. But this was his house too, and it was much easier for him to have his shoes by the door. I kept my mouth shut, and decided maybe we needed a new plan, now that I actually understood where my husband was coming from, which is what I should have tried to understand before I got upset.
I spent some time the next day thinking about how to solve both of our problems. I realized if I moved his wire shoe rack into the closet by the front door, he could just keep all of his shoes there. They could go in there even if they were dirty, and they would not be in the way. They would also be out of sight, and not the first thing people saw when they came in the door. I had to move some things out of the hall closet into our bedroom closet, but I made a space for them.
When my husband came home, I asked what he thought about just keeping all of his shoes in the front closet, so he would not have to carry them back and forth to put them away and get other shoes out. I opened the closet and showed him his shoe rack in there, and he smiled. “I think that’s great,” he said. “Thank you!”
Sometimes we need to remember it is our job to help our spouses out, and this doesn’t mean just coming up with the perfect system to keep the house clean and organized. It certainly doesn’t mean “fixing” everything we think is wrong with our spouse. (Good luck with that job, and good luck to your spouse on fixing every problem with you – *wink*) Instead, it usually involves hearing our spouses out, considering their point of view, and making things easier on them too!