Don’t fight over whether the lid gets back on the toothpaste or not.
As a wife I took this advice and lived it.
Whether it was the lid on the toothpaste, an organized linen closet, or returning items to their storage locations, I let the small stuff go. After all, is it really worth fighting over whether the cap gets back on the toothpaste or not?
I thought not.
I’ve been married for 19 years. For the first 18, I was responsible for 99% of the child and house care. Not by choice, but by necessity. It felt as though no one else was going to step up and take responsibility, so I did.
For the past several months, by mutual agreement, we’ve switched roles and he has been responsible for many of those things. For me, it’s been a true exercise in letting go, I’ve stepped back and he’s done things as he sees fit.
This morning as I looked around the house, I couldn’t stand it any longer. I cleaned the half cup of crumbs out of the toaster because it was a fire hazard and realized the silver finish is now tarnished due to lack of care. The same is true of the stainless steel appliances. The cabinets and floor are gross with spills and crumbs. Doors, windows and baseboards are grimy. I cleaned the dog vomit off the living room carpet because 24 hours of seeing it there was far too long.
I thought back to all the times I asked him to put things away rather than dump everything into my organized drawers. To keep the linen closet neat so I didn’t have to spend time searching, unfolding and folding items to find what I needed. Every few months I’d spend time straightening and organizing every drawer and cupboard because items were haphazardly removed or tossed in.
I’d ask him to be more considerate and he’d tell me to get over myself; after all each was such a little thing…
So without fighting or yelling, one at a time, I let each thing go.
This morning I realized two things.
- The lack of care has led to the deterioration of our house.
- The lack of care has led to the deterioration of our marriage.
Whether the lid goes back on the toothpaste or not is a little thing, but expecting someone to constantly adapt to how another lives, without consideration, isn’t.
Each grain of sand is small and unassuming in nature but a sandstorm can easily bury an oasis. I have been buried.
I am no longer comfortable in my own home. In the first 18 years, I respected his wishes to be relaxed about home maintenance, but I realized in doing so, I allowed him to be disrespectful of mine. He disrespected my time and he disrespected my desire to live in a clean organized house. He added to my workload instead of being an equal partner.
Surely we could have come to a compromise?
So whether you leave the cap off the toothpaste or carefully return it, take some time and consider your partner. What are they giving up to accommodate you? Is there a way you can both get what you want and need?
Note: I’m taking down my website The Sticky Floor and moving the existing content over here. This was originally published on September 20, 2009.