In response to my recent post, Angry at Your Inconsiderate Husband or Wife?, I received this from “Sam.” I could definitely relate. It is harder to Assume Love when we’re frazzled.
I am pretty good at doing this early in the day and in the middle of the day, it’s 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 believe 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 an 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?
When we Assume Love, we look for what might cause a good, loving person to do the things that drive us nuts when our spouses do them.
Who leaves dishes on the table, instead of putting them in the dishwasher he saw his wife empty before he left for work? Besides a miserable and uncaring man with no couth, that is?
- A loving man who notices nothing before his second cup of coffee soaks in. He would be astounded to learn his wife emptied the dishwasher right in front of him nine hours ago. Accidentally putting dirty dishes in among the clean ones right before dinner is a mistake he has vowed never to repeat.
- A thoughtful man who figures dinner is coming up, and it would be a lot smarter to clean up once instead of twice. Used dishes hold no creep-out factor for them the way they do for a partner subjected to nightly lectures on the proper way to set a table. You have no idea how disappointed he will be when you not only fail to praise his ingenuity but call it thoughtless.
- A caring man with a very different sense of timing than yours. When he gets home from work, not rushing is one of his top virtues, one you might appreciate in the bedroom or when he helps the kids with their homework.
What could possibly drive a loving man who craves your respect to leave his socks on the floor as he enters the house and toss his belt on the dining room table when he gets there?
- It might be a man whose return home is filled with distractions: kids, phone calls, notes to read, chores to do. Loving men, like the rest, tend to be really bad at multitasking.
- It could be a man who adores you but feels he’s being taken for granted, especially if the socks and belt are ones he wears only for work. Putting these symbols where you cannot miss them is his way of communicating with you.
- And then there are the loving men who try to break you of your perception of things like dining room tables even as you try to do the same in reverse.
How to change things?
- If it seems possible the mess in your house is the act of a loving spouse and not deliberately inconsiderate acts, start by asking for what you want. Hints do not count as asking. And requests get drowned out by even a wee bit of sarcasm or disgust.
- Check the act for a message, especially if he’s just started doing this or your roles have recently been changed by a new job or new responsibilities. If you think it might carry a message, try offering what your spouse is looking for. If you can’t tell, ask.
- If neither of these works on your first attempt, offer to find a Third Alternative together, a solution that makes both of you happy. While you might be certain the only good place for a belt is in the bedroom closet, your real goal is not to be grossed out. You could agree on another place near the door or put hooks in the coat closet. You might throw a plastic tablecloth on the table in the morning and move it and everything on it into a convenient basket when you get home. Or you might stop somewhere on your way home to shake off the day, spend the first five minutes after you get home hugging and kissing your guy or dancing with him, and find that you don’t mind the mess or the picking up nearly as much as you do when frazzled.
Well I appreciate the response to my question.
I would say, more than likely, of the options you presented the answer would be the last bullet point.
I understand and practice that the bulk of happiness and the bulk of a happy marriage is focusing on yourself and changing the way you percieve the world and a particular situation.
As for how to address the situation.
1) I’ve asked him not to leave socks on the floor, the kitchen counter, the couch, and I’ve asked him not to leave his belt there either. After the puppy went to the vet this weekend after eating a sock, I relayed my request again, because paying the vet $125 for sock eating treatment is a bummer, sock eating surgery is more expensive.
2) He’s always been this way, he might be a smidge better over 8 years we have shared a home.
3) I don’t really want to stop some where on my home b/c more than likely I’ve been out of the house for 12 hours. And that’s what really gets my goat. I want to come home, enjoy my house, enjoy my husband and relax. I can’t enjoy my house or relax if the house is a mess. It bums me out that I get home and have to tidy up and I spend the first half hour doing so and not relaxing, having dinner or sitting with Mr. Sam. I keep working on it . . .
So, for eight years, he has tried to change you into someone who overlooks the way he unwinds after work, and it’s not working.
And, for eight years, you have tried to change him into someone who attends to the things that will help you unwind after work, and it’s not working.
If you came home from work tomorrow and found him dead, your dinner unmade, your second income gone, your puppy all yours to care for now, how happy would you be with your clean floors and table?
That’s what it took for me to be able to start thinking about Third Alternatives instead of trying to change the person who loved me into someone else. The day before he died, I was sure I wanted a divorce. The day after, I realized most of what made me want him to change was within my control, while changing him was not. For what it would cost you to divorce, you could have a second dining room with a door that’s locked until you come home. You could have an entire apartment where you could go to unwind after work and before you dealt with his way of unwinding or what it’s done to the puppy. You could have a standing after-work appointment at a spa.
You will not change him much more than you have in eight years. You probably could find a Third Alternative that makes loving him a lot more fun. Or you can live alone with your home exactly the way you left it that morning. For me, that last option was suddenly my reality. And when I discovered not long after he died that I could have cut 2 hours a day out of my commute while he was still alive, I realized I had never even considered that option because I expected him to change for me. I don’t want you repeating my mistakes, Sam.
Patty, Even though I haven’t commented lately, I am still here reading Assume Love each day. Your wise words, such as those above, help steer my thoughts into a positive direction as I work through difficult issues in my marriage. Thank you for spreading your story and your dedication to helping to prevent others from repeating your mistakes.
Thanks, Lilian. I love hearing from you!
I love your blog so much Patty. Your comment to sam above is sooo wise. Please keep doing what you do. I learn so much from you 🙂
My third alternative would be to hire a cleaning person. But I really don’t want to spend the money to do so. But, I think that spending that money might prompt him to tidy up a bit before I arrive home.
That could be a good Third Alternative for a lot of people. It’s a good one for the two of you if both of you feel at least as happy with this option as with the one you started with.
If money would sour it for both of you, you need a no-money solution. Barter, perhaps? A way of making enough extra to pay someone to clean without feeling you lost anything?
Or maybe something crazier, like an old phone booth or a beach cabana right in your living room, where he can change out of his work clothes and into his dinner prep clothes and have fun keeping the belt and socks out of view.
I hope some of the more creative members of this Assume Love community will add more crazy ideas here. Part of getting there is questioning what seem like unchangeable facts. What if the husband arrived home after Sam? What if cooking did not have to occur between the time Sam cleans up in the morning and the time Sam gets home? What if Sam’s husband did not need a belt or socks? What if cooking required no cleanup? What if the socks could be made unappetizing to the dog?