You’re rushing to prepare dinner for the family. You won’t be eating with them. You have an important meeting to attend. But it’s your responsibility to feed them, and you’re running late.
The vegetable peeler is nowhere to be found. Not in the drawer. Not in the sink. Not hiding behind the chopping board someone left out. (And you know the kids don’t bother with chopping boards.) Where is it?
There it is. It’s in the dishwasher. Not washed. Not with any hope of getting washed before it’s time to prepare dinner. Someone (and you know it was not the kids) stuck it in here to save 20 seconds of washing up. And now you must wash it if they are to eat the carrots and potatoes you planned.
You feel mistreated, invisible, annoyed. You recall other annoyances that were surely thoughtless acts: moving your magazine to another room, forgetting a dinner at your friend’s house, showing up late to your parents’ 25th anniversary party a decade ago.
(That’s how memory works. Annoying events are connected to other annoying events, not to last night’s great sex or that encouraging pep talk before you left to make this morning’s presentation at work.)
This is exactly the time to Assume Love, to ask, “Why might a good, loving person stick the vegetable peeler in the dishwasher between breakfast and dinner?”
One possible reason: you are no longer expected to make dinner today. Check the message board. Check the kids’ calendar. Check for prepared food in the refrigerator.
None of those? How about distraction? How busy was this day for your loving mate? Anything big or urgent going on?
No? How about one of those fast cleanups where you stick everything in the dishwasher just to make the kitchen presentable on short notice? Maybe. The room’s pretty neat, and so is the family room. But why hide the peeler and not the cutting board?
This might be where you remember doing your own fast cleanup this morning. Was the peeler out then? Not sure. Not likely, though.
So, maybe it really was done without consideration for you. But while you were running through the possibilities, it’s likely you automatically washed the peeler. It’s possible, too, that you recalled this morning’s kind words while you were making your quick cleanup.
Even when you do not find a loving explanation, it still helps to Assume Love. It shifts you attention away from what anger focuses it on. It lets you recall the loving moments you chose this mate for. It puts what happened into a more realistic perspective. And it calms you enough to assess the situation more accurately, so you can take action if action is needed.
While it might spare your wife, husband, or life partner from a tongue-lashing or retaliation, these are not the point. The point is allowing you to enjoy your marriage, no matter how different you two are.
Angry at Your Inconsiderate Husband or Wife?
You’re rushing to prepare dinner for the family. You won’t be eating with them. You have an important meeting to attend. But it’s your responsibility to feed them, and you’re running late.
This blog really helps to put things into perspective. How often it is that we focus on the shortcomings of our partners (like misplacing the peeler, which really isn’t a big deal) instead of focusing on the positives and allowing ourselves to enjoy the relationship. Great post.
I am pretty good at doing this early in the day and in the middle of the day, its at the end of the day when I’m tired after a long day at work that I find I can’t ignore what I beleive are inconsiderate acts.
I try to tidy the house up before I leave for work and when I arrive home, most of the time I arrive home after Mr. Sam, my tidy home is no longer tidy. There will be socks on the floor, a belt on the dining room table and dishes in the kitchen from his dinner prep. So I spend the first half and hour of arriving at home cleaning up the house that I cleaned up in the a.m. and I really don’t do well, because I’m tired, assuming love.
Rather I assume he is inconsiderate, he knows the puppy will eat his socks yet he leaves them on the floor, he knows the dish washer is empty b/c he saw me emptying it that a.m. but he can’t be bothered to rinse and put the dishes away, he knows it drives me up the wall to have a belt on the dining room table yet he leaves it there to spite me.
How to I assume love at the end of a long day?
Wonderful question, Sam! I am sure lots of others face pretty much the same thing. This will be the subject of tomorrow’s blog post.
read it maa
It has been 4 months since we had sex last. Add that to the list of growing resentments and this article is getting there for me.
At some point an inconsiderate spouse should just be taken at face value for the jerk that they are. There are four components to trust: honesty, caring, competence, and reliability. Trust is a vital component of love and trying to love somebody who just does not care is impossible. This is not about petty things like doing dishes: it is about unreasonable or ridiculous demands (ex; “you better work fewer hours and earn more money,” “come home early from work and pick up the kids on your way home so I can go shopping with my friends,” “go find a new house so when my friends are in town they have a room, but I don’t feel like helping.”). Nothing about being inconsiderate — making one’s spouse feel inadequate, uncared for, or unworthy — comes from a place of love.
Michael, I have to agree that some people are just uncaring jerks. Usually, though, we notice this within months of marrying them. When someone previously loving becomes inconsiderate and demanding, it can indeed come from a place a love, an odd one that can be hard to recognize when you first encounter it.
Many people reach a point of frustration in their marriage. It may actually be frustration with their life circumstances, but the fact that their spouse isn’t working feverishly to change their circumstances is mistaken for a marriage problem. Those who want out at this point just leave. Those who don’t, the ones who hope to stay married, sometimes try to make themselves feel better about the marriage by evening the score. These are the people who suddenly appear to be inconsiderate out of the blue.
Unfortunately, this just pushes the frustration onto their spouse, who may decide they have the wrong spouse instead of a solvable marriage problem. If you’re the spouse on the receiving end, it may help to know this.
So… I’m going to assume love… I’m going to assume that no matter what bs my spouse does that I should assume she loves me? That’s great. Really. But here’s the thing sometimes love doesn’t matter and you’re married to an inconsiderate individual.
Also I’ve been very … moderate in my language. So there’s that.
Yes, Ian, I invite you to Assume Love. And I appreciate your moderation of
your language. Assume Love . But please do not Pretend Love. It’s pretending
love to try to tell yourself that the inconsiderate behavior should be
ignored because she loves you. You cannot sweep your anger under a rug.
But picture yourself in a checkout line with shopping carts. Suddenly, the
cart behind you hits you in the Achilles tendon, and you are enraged. You
turn around with steam coming out your ears to see an elderly woman in
medical distress hanging onto the handle of the cart that just hit you,
trying to slow her collapse to the floor. Your rage turns to compassion and
a desire to help.
I share this little story to emphasize an important point about marriages.
It is not the cart hitting your ankle that enrages you. It is your belief
that enrages you, your belief that the cart hit your ankle because someone
behind you was careless or rude. The moment you recognize this is not true,
you stop being enraged and your compassion and courage take over.
In marriage, we often get angry at a spouse because we believe they were
intentionally inconsiderate, that they could foresee the effect of their
behavior on you and chose to do it anyway. This turns out to be true at
times. But what happens at least as often is that your spouse could NOT
foresee the effect on you or was focused on doing something loving and
overlooked the effect on you. And when you respond in anger at a wife who
had no intention of harming you, it’s a lot like intentionally slamming your
cart into HER ankle.
How to tell the difference? Assume Love. Don’t pretend it. Don’t sweep what
happened under the carpet. Don’t belittle yourself for feeling anger
initially. Just try to put yourself in the shoes of someone who loves you
and see if there is any possible explanation for what felt like
inconsiderate behavior. And then see if maybe that explanation fits your
It might not. But while you’re angry, your mind quite literally shuts out a
lot of information you know about her and her schedule and her priorities.
You cannot think clearly. Your brain seeks out all signs you might be in any
danger, and an inconsiderate spouse is a danger. When you stop and Assume
Love before you decide your initial judgment of Inconsiderate fits,
sometimes things come to mind that explain the behavior as more considerate
than you thought or as a way of evening the score after she felt mistreated
You can be Considerate by following the rules of polite behavior you grew up
with or by actually considering why the person you love, the person who
vowed to love you, might be doing things differently this time. And even if
you come to the conclusion she’s Inconsiderate, you won’t be Inconsiderate
If you have a spouse who is actually Inconsiderate, you may want to change
the environment a bit. Don’t expect her to pay attention to something she’s
been oblivious to for the past three years. Bring it to her attention,
lovingly. Don’t expect her to make the extra effort if you’ve seen over and
over that to her it’s too much of an extra effort — find a way to make it
easier for her or resolve to handle it yourself.
A member of my writing group, having read something I wrote on this topic,
was driving home from our meeting when it suddenly occurred to him, after
two decades of thinking his wife was inconsiderate or even pig-headed for
putting their vegetable peeler in what he felt was the wrong drawer, to buy
a second vegetable peeler and stop feeling angry at the women he loved.
I have been assuming love for 16yrs and now i cannot do it anymore. Just last night she had to work late but said she should be home by 9. I got a text at 8 saying things ontrack. Then nothing until 11. They had a problem and she had to help out. Why couldnt she txt at 9? I am at the receiving end of these things weekly if not daily. Or how about minute notice to a cocktail evening which her company is hosting at a conference? It will only be for avout an hour. I have to shower change and drive there which will take me almost an hour. So what the hell was the point? Sure she knew earlier on. She could have given me a maybe it will be ok or some kind of heads up. But i think it is her way of covering herself since other went. So she asked but i couldnt make it! I am hurting and all i think about is revenge! How can i still assume love?
Hi, Leon. I’ve been away from my blog for a bit, and I am just catching up.
Assuming Love does not mean telling yourself something that upsets you is okay because you love her. It means asking yourself if there is an explanation for the behavior that upsets you that is consistent with the notion that she still loves you very much. If there is, you have a great basis for finding a solution.
If you were certain she’s a good woman who loves you very much, why couldn’t she text at 9? And why would she ask you to join her for an event that will be over within an hour from when she calls? Here are some possible reasons. You will know which if any might fit:
– Her work environment is very different from yours, and it’s actually very difficult to make such a call, but she believes you will understand.
– Her work style is very different from yours, and once there is a problem, she’s hyperfocused on it, won’t even notice it’s past 9 until everything is done.
– Her relationship to time is very different from yours, and she believes 11 is almost the same as 9.
– She would never worry if your job made you late, so she has no clue how much this distresses you. (I can empathize with you on this one. My husband probably would not look for me until I was several days late coming home from something work-related. He never expects trouble and trusts implicitly that if I don’t show up, it’s because I am doing whatever is best. If he’s an hour late, I am already vividly picturing his car hurtling off the side of a mountain.)
– She’s never not ready for an event, so she never factors in what it takes you to show up the way that feels right to you.
Rather than taking this personally, try looking for a Third Alternative that makes both of you happy. Just click on that link on the right side of my blog for tips on how to find them.
One thing I have started to do was to voice my anger and frustration. If I am 5min late she is already texting or calling to find out where I am. So I have decided to live with the fact that I have a selfish spouse. It makes things so much easier and i can just accept that as the reason. It might not be the best and I will try to not pretend love but this seems to be working for me. She also told me during our conversation/voicing of anger (no real shouting just talking in the car away from other people.) that she felt awkward having me around at the work functions. Then cherry on the cake was when in that same week she came how and said how nice it was that her collegue had gotten her husband to do the photography! how nice indeed. I atually told her that if anything she could have rather not have told me that! We are fast approaching 40 so I am trying to focus on me and my happiness and just to accept that we both have our faults but now we can just try to live the rest of ourlives in “peace”. Thanks for the words and wonderful blog. It really helped.
I’m here because I was searching for something that will tell me how to deal with an inconsiderate spouse.
What comes AFTER the stage of assuming love and going through cycles of telling my husband nicely, angrily, pleadingly etc why it hurts me that he is thoughtless about me?
Is it possible to Assume Love when I’ve been through several cycles of first being patient and quietly putting up with it, then talking about it, then getting upset about it, then him seeing my point and changing for a few days and BAM, by the fourth day of him behaving like an adult, he is back to his previous inconsiderate behavior.
He literally does nothing but go to work, come home, bathe, eat, wat h TV, play with his daughter and go to sleep. The only other thing he does besides this is drop our child to school and pick her up. Whatever little gestures he does to make my life easier, I thank him profusely.
What comes after the stage of assuming love?!
What a great question, Sangeeta. Assume Love does not mean “sweep your feelings under the rug” and it’s not intended to change your husband, only you.
Assume Love means temporarily set aside your fears that your husband behaves as he does because (a) he doesn’t love you or (b) he’s not the good man you thought you were marrying. Instead, start with the assumption (unproven at this point but consistent with his promises to you) that he’s still a man of good character who loves you a lot.
But this is just our starting point. We can’t stop here. We won’t believe this assumption without evidence, and we shouldn’t. Instead, we look for explanations. What could lead a good man who very much loves his wife to go to work, bathe, eat, watch TV, play with his daughter, and fall asleep? And what could lead a man who claims to see his wife’s point about something she wants from him, but stop after just three days?
Let’s start with the second of these. If he loves you and wants to please you, why would he agree to do something you asked and stop after just 3 days?
Here’s where Assuming Love is valuable. Most of us are tempted to view the change of heart as a sign of disinterest. But it’s usually not. So let’s stick with the unproven assumption that he loves you dearly and wants to please you. In fact, let’s picture some guy in a movie, where we’ve all seen how much he love his wife. And yet he tries something he’s asked to do and stops after 3 days. Why?
Maybe he’s out of ideas. He doesn’t really understand your request and he tried a few things but your response did not make him feel more respected by you. (If you’re writing movie scripts, it’s important to know that almost all men find it very hard to be loving when they feel they don’t have your full respect.)
Maybe he’s out of sorts. You ask, he gives, then he comes home tired and gets sent back to the dog house for skipping a night, so he just stops.
Maybe he’s passive aggressive, not getting what he needs from you, so he withholds what he knows you want from him until you guess what it is and give it. If you’re a lousy mind reader, start your guesses with respect: respect for going to work and not following his desire to ditch it all and go fishing or play video games, respect for remaining faithful instead of taking up that bimbo at work on her offer of extramarital sex, respect for working at staying sober around your child when he’s longing to just get drunk.
Maybe he’s trying to give you even more than you asked for, and you’re not noticing, because he speaks a different Love Language from you. You’re waiting for Acts of Service while he’s dishing out Words of Affirmation. Or you’re waiting for Physical Touch while he’s bringing home sushi as a Gift. (Check out Gary Chapman’s 5lovelanguages.com if you’re not familiar with these languages.)
Sometimes, if you sincerely Assume Love, you come up with an explanation that gives you a big “Aha!” You don’t need to agree that sushi is as good as hugs and kisses or that going to work instead of playing hooky is worthy of respect, but if you suddenly understand what’s going on, you can stop begging and start looking for ways to get what both of you need. At the very least, you can see that this is not a matter of a bad husband but of different expectations.
And then you can do something about your expectations. If your husband’s way of loving does not include enough Physical Touch for you, you can buy yourself a weekly massage. If his way of loving doesn’t relieve you of your excessive responsibilities, you can find friends to cook for two families twice a week (giving you a night off) while you cook for two on two other nights. Or you can tutor a local babysitter in exchange for 2 hours to yourself once a week.
Something miraculous happens when you take care of as many of your expectations as you can on your own. As the demand on your spouse goes down, the willingness to give usually goes up.
Now, here’s the thing about Assuming Love. Sometimes, you look for an explanation that’s consistent with a loving man of good character and there is none. You might even double-check with another woman who approaches love differently, just to be sure. But if there’s no explanation, it’s entirely possible you are not loved. And if you are not loved, your choices for getting what you want are to leave or to bully your spouse.
There is no choice in which we lovingly demand another human being treat us in a way that does not feel loving or right to him. And there is definitely no one right way to love another person.
I hope you will take another shot at figuring out what could make a man like your husband choose to love you in a manner different from the one you expected, so you can start to feel his love again. I’ve been in your shoes, and they are such uncomfortable ones. I could not see my other options until my husband died. I missed out on a lot while protesting my very uncomfortable shoes.
I have a wife that is never on time and I am not talking two or three minutes. I’m talking about hours late or just doesn’t show up and will not call or text to let us know what’s going on. I’m talking about never wanting to do anything we would like so we do what she would like to do and when I come get her, after a long day, she’s hours late so we miss the reservation then stays 4-5 hours in one little store after I told her that I was ready for dinner and haven’t eaten much all day, by the time she leaves the store I have been outside in he truck waiting for 2 hours and illl by that point and when I try I talk to her about it she yells at me and cusses and treats me terrible.
Now if this was here or there that would be no big deal, but this has gone on for 11 years and she always says she’s sorry but turns around and does it again and he next day.
On top of all that she is always so angry at everyone and her actions in front of our girls is terrible.
Final statement…Has anyone gone to marriage counseling by themselves? Trust me It does not feel good!
J.R. Sometimes you need a Third Alternative to the two you’ve been battling over (in this case, her rather intense need to avoid paying attention to the clock and your need for a way to reliably enjoy your time with her).
Instead of fighting over which one of you is right, you decide both of you need whatever it is that your angle on the situation will give you. You’re just both wrong about how to get it.
When you talk about it, don’t talk about how to get her to be on time. Talk about how to get your needs met, too, while she’s doing her thing. My guess is you know a little about where this comes from, why she can’t bring herself to commit to a schedule even when she says she will.
Compromise is highly overrated. And far too few couples look for those Third Alternatives that could make both of them happy.
In this case, using her own car, even when you’re going to the same place, might be part of a way to meet both sets of needs. Then you’d be free to go get something to eat when you tire of her store choice, and she’d be free to stay. If you don’t have two cars, you can brainstorm together how to afford one for her. It’s a lot more pleasant than fighting and a lot less expensive than divorcing.
And yes, many people see a marriage counselor by themselves. It really takes only one member of a couple to change a relationship dramatically. And it takes away the option of compromise as a solution. It’s not really true that we’ll be happier with less just as long as the person we love most in this world also gets less. We might possible be less ticked off, but definitely not happier or more in love.
“It’s important to know that almost all men find it very hard to be loving when they feel they don’t have your full respect”
God, do I hate advice like this. As if women were these inhuman creatures who somehow find it easy to be loving when they’re being disrespected on a regular basis. The only reason the stereotype of the long-suffering wife exists is that, up until recently, it was impossible for women to be economically independent or to divorce a bad husband. Many women were trapped in marriages that made them extremely unhappy, but it wasn’t feasible for them to leave. This continues today in marriages where women sacrifice their own career for the kids, either by going full SAHM or taking the mommy track.
“respect for going to work and not following his desire to ditch it all and go fishing or play video games, respect for remaining faithful instead of taking up that bimbo at work on her offer of extramarital sex, respect for working at staying sober around your child when he’s longing to just get drunk.”
Respect for wiping his own bum? I see advice like this all the time for women to respect their husband for doing extremely basic things even when that respect is not returned, but somehow not advice for husbands to respect their wives for these kinds of extremely basic things. In order for a woman to earn basic respect she has to do not just her shift but all the childcare and housework and social planning and his foot massages too, and if she still doesn’t get any respect then it’s still her fault for not regularly thanking her husband for going to work instead of spending their retirement savings on hookers.
I came here looking on advice on how to fix this long-running issue WITHOUT being a doormat, because the doormat track is the one my mother took with my father and it utterly ruined her life. Women DO NOT NEED this kind of advice, we get far too much of it already.
Christina, I’m with you. I grew up watching the doormat model. It’s not one I ever want to reproduce or suggest anyone else reproduce.
I do not ever suggest being long-suffering or staying with anyone who mistreats you. But, because I royally screwed up my first marriage, I do want to share with you what I’ve learned in reading the research about relationships and attending marriage education conferences since then.
One of the very surprising (to me) things I’ve come across is how very differently men and women feel about respect. It’s nothing I had ever noticed, because I know how important respect is to me, and I simply could not imagine someone else finding it more important.
Now that I’ve learned about and seen the difference, I share it with other women — not to tell them how to be a good wife but to share how to understand the very common problem of feeling unloved when you’re overburdened, maybe even crying yourself to sleep night after night, baffled at a husband who promised to love you but doesn’t lift a heavy burden off your shoulders. (That was me. It stinks.) Because when you understand it, you have a lot more influence over how it plays out.
There are some very real physiological differences between male and female bodies, ones I had tried hard to deny as an undergrad at MIT back when they capped the number in each class at 90 out of a class of 1,000, fighting off bizarre claims of male-female differences that predicted my inability to succeed there or in a STEM career. I could see some claims of male-female differences were bogus, and I assumed therefore all were.
But when it comes to reproduction, sex, and love, we really are different in some significant ways. And one of them is that while most women thoroughly despise being disrespected, for most men not on estrogen therapy, respect is the very foundation of any friendship or marriage. Take it away (whether through disrespect or just a lack of signs of respect or the questioning of motives or judgment), and the rug’s pulled out from under the relationship.
We can think, “What wimps!” but we’d be wrong. Think back to adolescence (or to perimenopause if you’ve been there). Your emotional reactions weren’t exaggerated because of inexperience with problems or a lack of self-control. Your instantaneous blood chemistry changes when bad (or good) things happened were just much stronger than those of a 30-year-old.
Even male marriage therapists and marriage educators, who deal with marriage issues all the time will tell you that there’s a Jenga-tower-collapse feeling that accompanies having their judgment or motives questioned by a loved on or by being told that screwing up one small thing overrides all the much larger good things they’ve done.
Talk to women, and you won’t hear about the tower collapse, only about the wearing down from repeated acts of disrespect. We’re different.
Should we women therefore tiptoe around our men? Behave better than they do? Put up with their disrespect? Watch our careers go up in smoke because we got pregnant? Do all the childcare and cooking and cleaning on top of a 40-hour-a-week (or 60-hour-a-week) job? No!! Good grief, no!
But we might pay better attention to things that didn’t seem significant before.
For one, when we’re fed up with doing too much and then our husbands praise us for it (maybe even to other people as we listen), we might hear it as respect, the thing they want from us and are now offering to us. I know it always used to sound to me like my husband was bragging about getting over on me. It rankled me, and then I’d wonder why he never showed me any love or respect as I blew off all his offerings of his version of respect.
For another, we might think through how it will work if — when we’re feeling overwhelmed and in need of someone to share the burden of housework and childcare and income-generating — we broach the topic by accusing our husbands, pulling that Jenga stick out from the bottom of his pile and hoping it leads to an outpouring of concern for our wellbeing. It’s a predictably ineffective strategy.
(Don’t worry. There are equally ineffective strategies that men try with women out of ignorance, too. And when they ask, I talk about these.)
When you’re angry, especially when your marriage feels really unfair, it can be excruciatingly difficult to offer any gratitude for doing what you feel is valuable but insufficient. And I am not saying you must or should do it. I’m saying you might want to try it, because you’ll be widening the base of that tower of sticks that is his relationship with you, and because most people — when they feel their relationship is sturdy — choose to do more of what will earn them genuine appreciation.
The moment a relationship starts feeling shaky, both sides get self-protective and stop being proactive about loving. But the only way back to love is through love. You can be the one who takes a step in a new direction, or you can wait for your spouse to do so. To my thinking, waiting is about as helpless a feeling as the doormat position. I tried it. I ended up unmarried, unloved, and with a lot more responsibility, not less.