I’m gonna be honest with you… my husband bugs the hell out of me. He is cranky in the mornings, is obsessed with basketball, and has literally NEVER hung his coat in the entrance closet. He leaves dirty clothes on the bedroom floor beside the laundry hamper and spits toothpaste into the bathroom sink without rinsing it afterwards (how gross is that!?!). He will not consume anything containing nuts, tomatoes, onions, fish, or seafood of any sort, but still insists that he is not a picky eater. His political beliefs don’t line up with mine and we could drive from here to Mars without coming across a single song on the car radio that we mutually enjoyed.
That said, I adore my husband. He is warm and kind, he loves our family with every fibre of his being, and I cannot imagine life without him (although I savor short term absences like business trips, which leave me to rule the roost on my own, merrily frying haddock while John Mayer croons through the ipod speakers).
I think our relationship is typical of most marriages – we know that the love is there but we don’t talk about it much. And we know (deep down) that all those little annoyances aren’t important but that doesn’t stop us from bickering about them. But every little argument is like a drip out of a leaky house pipe. Slowly but surely, if you don’t find a way to stop those drips, you will end up with damages and risk losing things that cannot be replaced.
My dog has far more bad habits than my husband and yet I can’t recall a single night when Buster the Schnauzer and I have gone to bed angry at each other. Is it the dog? Is he more charming? More apologetic? More inclined to buy me flowers and declare his undying love? Obviously not. And so I must conclude that it is me. It is my actions and my reactions that make my relationship with an often difficult dog less confrontational than my relationship with a far less difficult man. With this in mind I am making a concerted effort to treat my spouse like my dog. For those of you who would like to try this experiment at home, I offer 5 strategies:
1. Take your spouse for daily walks. Even if it’s just 20 minutes around the block, fit it into your schedule.
2. Don’t stay angry. When the dog does something ‘wrong’ I get angry but then I let it go because, let’s face it, he’s a dog and two minutes later he has no idea what I am going on about. Use the same approach with your mate. Express your disapproval once, in the moment, and then let that moment go.
3. Reward good behaviours. When your spouse does something considerate or helpful, take a moment to smile and acknowledge the moment. Maybe even give a ‘treat’ now and then (a little ice cream never killed anyone).
4. Touch often and touch kindly. Think of how many times in a day you rub the dog’s belly or give him a little head scratch? Try touching your spouse when you are talking. Hold hands. Kiss. Show affection generously.
5. Lower your expectations. Frankly, any moment that my dog is not jumping on someone or chasing the cat, I am happy with him. So maybe that evening when you and your spouse are just chillin’ in front of the television deserves a little recognition as a ‘good moment’. Bet there are lots of those moments in an average week and once you start consciously recognizing them you may find that the two of you are happy more than you realized.