By Shawn Boggs Counseling, PLLC
I once heard a professor in graduate school say to my peers who were often late to class, “If you can be habitually late, you can be habitually on time”. He always had a way with words. I chuckled at what he said- I never thought about it that way before. And the more I thought about it, the more it made sense. These students created a practice that was easy to maintain, but it wasn’t very functional. The problem remained unresolved.
I am often puzzled as to why married people often do the very same thing. At home, there are dozens of little tasks that need to be completed with regularity. The dishwasher needs to be loaded, shoes put away, children need to brush their teeth, laundry needs to be washed, dried, folded and put away, etc. With so many little things like this do, why do couples keep having conflict about how they are handled? There are enough big decisions in life that you don’t want to haggle so frequently about the little stuff.
Here’s how you can resolve the little problems: 1) Together, make a complete list of all the little things/daily tasks that you and your spouse disagree about. 2) Decide to whom each task is more important. 3) Do each task the way the named spouse prefers. If it’s clearly more important for a wife how clothes are folded and put away, why not do it her way? If it’s clearly more important to a husband how often the cars are washed, why not do it his way? It shouldn’t be difficult to give up something that isn’t as important to you as it is to your spouse.
People tend to minimize the importance of small, daily tasks, since by comparison they aren’t as important as the major decisions of life. But being disagreeable on a regular basis, even regarding the little things, has a collective and negative impact on your marriage that is easy to underestimate. It can formulate the idea in each of your minds that your spouse can be a lazy or selfish person. And that’s a big deal because that’s defining character. I’ve had many couples tell me they fight often about small things, yet they haven’t been able to effectively resolve them prior to therapy. So now you know- resolving small differences is a big deal.