In every marriage, there are arguments that matter and those that don’t. The big issues, such as finances, religion, sex, how many children to have, and disciplining the children are important matters that should be discussed in depth and with a certain amount of seriousness. Major differences in these areas can cause significant conflict in a marriage.
However, there are other issues that come up that simply cause annoyance. He hogs the remote control, she talks incessantly during the big football game, he uses all the toilet paper without replacing the roll, she makes a mess in the bathroom every morning. While these are certainly not deal-breakers, little things can add up over time until one or both spouses feel that the other doesn’t consider their feelings at all.
Being perpetually irritated and upset with your spouse is not healthy for your marriage. The following will help you to avoid the things that could turn minor irritations into major points of contention.
1. Don't worry about what other people think
Do what works for you and your spouse. If your wife enjoys mowing the lawn and fixing the cars or your husband finds laundry and cooking relaxing, don’t let comments from your very traditional mother-in-law rattle you. Or if you and your husband prefer a more traditional set up, with the wife sticking with housework and the husband earning the living, ignore your feminist friends when they question your sanity. If you and your family are satisfied with the arrangement, then nothing else (and no one else’s opinion) matters.
2. Don't be a martyr
Rather than feeling resentful that your husband goes golfing every Saturday or that your wife has a “girl’s night” once a week, carve out some of your own recreational time. Sometimes one partner will be jealous of the other’s interests or activities because they themselves are unfulfilled in that way. Find at least one activity that interests you and pursue it. If your spouse has repeatedly offered to stay with the kids so that you can go do something that you enjoy, take him or her up on it. If not, then make that request of them. Don’t let excuses get in the way and then blame your spouse. The laundry or yard work will wait and your toddler can survive without you for one day.
3. Don’t say “I told you so.”
No one likes to have their face rubbed in it when they make a mistake. If you were right about something, simply let it go. If there are negative consequences, be supportive of your spouse as he or she works through them. For example, if you advised your spouse to slow down while driving but she ignored you and got a speeding ticket, instead of fuming over the expense, sit down together and figure out how to tweak your budget in order to pay for it. Your spouse probably feels bad enough without you reminding him or her of the error.
A. Lynn Scoresby, founder and president of My Family Track , First Answers , and Achievement Synchrony , and has been a marriage and family psychologist for more than 35 years. He has published more than 20 books and training programs.