Confession time: in my marriage, I’m the messy one. You see, I never close drawers all the way. Ever. It’s not that I mean to leave them all hanging open, I just don’t notice it. I grab a pair of underwear out and give a half-hearted shove of the drawer. What’s that? There are two pair hanging out, preventing the drawer from closing completely? Huh, never noticed. Jon, on the other hand, is fastidious about the closing of drawers. And folding, but that’s a whole other post.
Sounds like a recipe for disaster, right? He’s neat; I’m messy – surely there’s plenty of fodder for regular arguments. But there’s one thing my husband chose to do early on that had a profound effect on our relationship. Do you know what Jon does when he sees an open drawer? He closes it. No nagging. No exasperation. No “leaving it open so maybe I’ll learn to close it myself someday” (i.e., hoping that I’ll change something fundamental about myself). He just takes the two seconds to close the drawer fully and moves on. Once, I asked him why he doesn’t nag. His response:
“It doesn’t bother me anymore. It used to; I thought you were just being lazy. But then I realized that you really don’t see it or notice it. I do, so I do it for you.”
This could’ve become a daily source of frustration for Jon. “Jennifer, you left your drawers open AGAIN.” It could’ve been a daily source of guilt/sense of failure for me. “I don’t mean to, seriously. I just don’t see it!” But my sweet husband, in his infinite wisdom, freed us from that exhausting cycle. And he sent me a very clear message – he accepts me as I am. He lets me be me, drawers ajar and all. As the spouse with the more annoying habit(s), let me vouch for what this will do for your relationship. Without the nagging, I don’t feel like a disappointment. In turn, I try hard to contain my messiness out of respect for Jon. This tiny little mutual kindness has paid dividends over the years.
This is not to say we have a perfect marriage and never have fights or get on each others’ nerves. Far from it. You can’t make every single life decision as a twosome without a disagreement, and you can’t live with someone for years and years on end without getting at least a little annoyed now and then. Did I mention I also am terrible at completely screwing the tops back on things? (Toothpaste, salad dressing, medicine. It can get messy. My mom actually thanks Jon on a regular basis for putting up with me.)
But we do our best to eliminate the temptation for daily nagging. We don’t get everything right (maybe even most things), but I’m pretty sure we nailed that one.
What little thing do you strive to get right every day in your relationships?