I went to my cousin’s bridal shower on Saturday. (Congratulations, Jaime!)
In my typical fashion, I did that thing where I get all excited about making something fancy for a special party, so I overestimate my abilities and I underestimate the time needed to pull it off. Accordingly, I spent a flustered Saturday running around like a madwoman, trying to fit in all the normal stuff, plus grocery shopping, making myself presentable for the party, and constructing 48 beautiful little tartlets filled with feta/spinach/pine nuts and tapenade/artichoke/pancetta/parmesan/arugula. (Yum.)
The boys were bouncing off the walls, my husband was managing them, and both he and my mother-in-law were enlisted to help me with the food. I was scurrying around, so consumed with the tasks at hand that I hardly made eye contact with anybody. (Because who has time for eye contact when you have stuff! to! get! done!?) I’m sure I was a peach.
Somehow, I got everything mostly put together and (thunderstorm notwithstanding) arrived at the shower a mere 20 minutes late.
But that’s beside the point. (And I promise I have one.)
At the shower, there were these notecards on which guests were asked to write messages to the bride. You might be familiar with the idea: on the envelope, the guest writes an event in the bride’s future and on the card, she writes a message for the bride to read when the event comes to pass. (Incidentally, when they did the same activity at my bridal shower, a bunch of the envelopes read “When you have your first daughter.”)
Anyway, on to my point.
On my envelope, I wrote, “When you get annoyed with your husband.”
Now, I certainly don’t think I’m the ideal person to be giving marriage advice. Brennan and I have only been married for five years. And ours is probably not the marriage most starry-eyed engaged couples are dreaming of: We’re not all that romantic. We’re probably pretty boring, even.
But we work. We’re content. We’re happy. And we’re getting better at our marriage every year.
A significant reason for this, I think, is that seemingly small thing: how we deal with being annoyed with one another.
When we were first married, all of my husband’s little idiosyncrasies drove me nuts. The dirty dishes on the counter, the socks on the floor, the cabinet doors left wide open, his absolute conviction that he is always right. And I could tell that he was annoyed with me too: my OCD tendencies, my procrastination, my perfectionism, that little sticking noise I make in my throat when I breathe.
So for the first several months of our marriage, there was this cloud of gloom hanging over many of our interactions. I was annoyed. He was annoyed. Sometimes it was all I could think about. Why did he spread those things across the kitchen counter? Doesn’t he realize I just spent an hour cleaning it off? He’s so inconsiderate! He doesn’t even notice that this bothers me! He wouldn’t care anyway! He must not love me! Waaaahhh!
(In my defense, I was pregnant at the time.)
Ultimately, the gloom built to the point where I couldn’t take it any longer. Our annoyances had left us each feeling self-righteous. And my annoyance with his annoyance with me (got that?) left me feeling hurt. So I prayed about it. And we talked it through. We realized that we needed to stop letting ourselves become so annoyed. After all, when we’re annoyed by something another person does, the other person isn’t the only one responsible for the situation. We’re responsible too. We have a say in what we let get to us.
Over time, we have decided to choose our relationship over our individual selves. We’ve decided to remind ourselves that annoyance can build on itself, growing into something darker and more damaging. And we’ve decided to recognize that words said in annoyance, frustration, and anger can act as chisels, chipping away at a marriage, bit by (seemingly insignificant) bit.
Now every time Brennan does something that gets to me — every time I feel that hot, prickly annoyance welling up in my chest — I ask myself which is more important to me: my relationship with my husband or my own feeling of being wronged. I no longer find it acceptable to dwell on the situation; I’ve got to either deal with it head-on or walk away. I can find a kind and constructive way to ask that Brennan do something differently, or I can stop letting that something bother me.
And it goes the other way too. There was a time when a day like Saturday — a day in which I’m running around like crazy, trying to do too much — would have really bothered my husband. Maybe it bothered him yet; I’m sure I was indeed pretty annoying to be around. But there was no palpable tension over it: he was so kind. There was simply him, stepping back or stepping in as needed and me, quietly pushing to get it all done.
I now try, and I think Brennan does too, to react, to act, to think, in ways that will build up my marriage. What a difference this has made. For all the talk of honeymoon periods, my husband and I are far more happy and relaxed in our marriage now than we were back then. I hope that Jaime and Dustin — and other engaged couples — will be able to say the same.
So, what to do with an annoying husband? Love him. Be kind to him. You’ll never regret those responses. And hopefully your love and kindness will encourage your husband to respond just as charitably to his annoying wife.
P.S. I know, I know, I know I made a little pledge to post every other day for the next two weeks. But I’m making a small adjustment to the thing. Rather than every other day precisely, I’m doing seven posts in fourteen days. Given my propensity to fall asleep at the computer, I’ve got to be somewhat flexible with deadlines. (And though I missed posting on Sunday, I’ve already written three posts in the first four days. So that’s not bad!)