When Your Spouse Drives You Nuts

What does your partner do that absolutely drives you nuts? Notice I didn’t say “IS there anything your partner does to drive you nuts?” We all have something that irritates, bugs, annoys, gets under our skin or ruffles our feathers…. things maybe like leaving dirty dishes in the sink, leaving wet towels around, not shutting cabinet doors, leaving the T.V. on in unoccupied rooms or not disposing of garbage properly. Why do we spend time fighting about these things that are really quite dumb?

Let’s face it, we all do it. There so many other things out there to put our energy into but so often we pick apart our partner’s flaws rather than looking at our own. This is why there are books written like “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff.”  Yet the majority of the couples I know (present self included) keep sweatin’ away.

Sometimes when these bickering couples walk into my office I will talk to them about sharing their feelings, being assertive and setting boundaries with enforceable consequences…blah blah blah. I mean all that stuff is great and foundationally (did I just make up that word?) needs to be taught but I even annoy myself when I use all of these “healthy” tools and say to my husband “What I’m hearing your say is….” or “The story I tell myself when you say that is….”. It’s just too much and way too serious at times.  

When my husband started his triathlon training he had a coach tell him that in order to improve, he needed to focus on his core. Since I love to tell my husband what to do, I took the idea and ran with it.  You see, every morning, my husband would take his morning shower and proceed to put his damp towel over the edge of our beautiful sleigh bed. Over and over, I would walk into the bedroom, remove the towel and see a temporary discolored water mark. This continued despite me picking, pleading, complaining, begging, threatening, scolding, and shaming (I’m sure you are all shocked these tactics did not work).

Desperate, I remembered the orders of his triathlon coach.   The next morning, when I found his wet towel slumped over our bed, I told him to drop and give me 20 push-ups!!!! Surprisingly, he did!  In return, however, he told me I would need to do 20 sit ups (only because he knows I loathe sit ups) for every daily disposable contact lens case I attempted to toss across the bathroom into the trashcan, channeling my inner Michael Jordan, yet failed miserably.  I said, “Okay, fine I will accept the challenge.” Pretty soon we had a cleaner house, a clear bed and moved on to other things we didn’t like that the other one does.  

These annoying habits do not turn into fights, but rather a  light-hearted way to connect.  It’s hard to teach couples in sessions to be light-hearted and silly in their approach to their “problems.”  I usually try and teach clinically proven tools and tactics.  But man, light-hearted and creative approaches can be just as effective, sometimes even more effective, than tools like boundaries and I-statements.  

Now your turn…….Note ONE thing (not seventeen things) that drives you nuts about your partner.  Suggest a creative, light-hearted consequence when your partner does said annoying thing.  If it doesn’t make you and your partner laugh, it’s not the right consequence.  Try again!  Then, ask your partner to pick ONE (yes, still just one) annoying thing that you do. Pick another “consequence.”  And lastly, have fun with it!

ADD version (We will give you an ADD version, but really, this is such a short entry you can read the whole thing)

  • We all annoy our spouses.
  • Not everything needs to be so intense that it needs to be a fight or have serious consequences.   
  • Find ways to connect in the annoying things you and your spouse do to each other.  
  • Admit something that drives you nuts about your spouse.
  • Select a light-hearted consequence for annoying habits, something that makes you laugh.   

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