Friday, March 20, 2015

Marital Peeves

Dear George,
I was thinking it would be amusing to write about pet peeves.  I began by making a list of things that annoy me now and then in various public places (e.g., the drugstore, the fitness center).  However, it turned out that about 90% of my irritations are located inside the four walls of our household.  That’s not too surprising since that’s where I spend much of my time.  Also people experience many of their frustrations (and rewards) in their close relationships.   When you’re married for a long time, you’re bound to accumulate a bunch of irritations.  What I’ve learned in my married life is that the first thirty years are the most difficult.  After thirty, you’ve learned to sidestep major areas of conflict, and what’s left are petty annoyances.  I decided it would be sort of uncomely to write exclusively about my marital complaints, so I also asked Katja what her pet peeves were about me.  Neither one of us had any difficulty generating a list.  Here are some of my items.

  • Katja doesn’t sort the trash properly for recycling (e.g., leaves the caps on plastic bottles) 
  • She regularly turns on NPR the minute we get in the car
  • Our refrigerator is often overflowing and sometimes tomatoes and cucumbers get spoiled
  • Too many lights are on in the house at night
  • Katja turns up the heat when she’s chilly (instead of putting on a sweatshirt)
  • She puts chicken broth in the dogs’ dry food though the vet advised it was poor for their teeth
  • Katja has been known to throw my stuff away
  • When I ask how much things cost, Katja usually reduces the price by at least 25%
  • Katja puts New York Times in the trashmasher even though newspapers can’t be mashed
  • Why do we have a trashmasher anyway?

I would summarize my list in terms of three themes: (a) doing things “the right way” (e.g., recycling); (b) being economical (e.g., don’t turn the heat up); and (c) respecting boundaries (e.g., not throwing stuff away like my old Menominee matchbook collection).

I didn’t show Katja my list, but it didn’t matter since she predicted it all anyway.  Likewise, Katja’s list wasn’t a surprise to me.  Her items included:

  • Too bossy
  • Too many ultimatums
  • Too many instructions
  • Excessive time demands (e.g., we have to leave at exactly such and such a minute)
  • Money handling, spending (doesn’t like to spend money)
  • Entertainment (wish you would enjoy things more that we do)
  • Always wants to be in charge of the remote control
  • Doesn’t listen to me
  • Sloppy, leaves stuff all over
  • Doesn’t say he loves me often enough
  • Wants things done his way
  • Can’t find things

My items tend to be more concrete, while Katja’s are broader.  For example, I complain about broth in the dog food, and Katja complains about my being bossy and giving too many instructions.  It’s hard to say whether chicken broth or bossiness is a more important matter, but they’re both pretty important.  A lot of Katja’s peeves have to do with control issues (e.g., ultimatums, wants things his way).  Others have to do with money and finances; insufficient attention and affection; and disorganization (sloppy, can’t find things).

In some ways, our pet peeves dovetail.  Katja complains that I’m bossy, while I suggest she doesn’t do things “correctly” (i.e., the way I think they should be done).  Similarly, she thinks I’m too stingy, and I think she’s too extravagant.  These are potential areas of dissension in married life for most people, and they’ve always been with us. 

To see how much we agree or differ in our perceptions, I made up a two-item survey: (a) Who makes the decisions?; and (b) Who gets their way?  I used a 9-point (1 to 9) scale for each question, with 1 meaning “Katja always”, 5 meaning “Both equally”, and 9 meaning “David always”.  We each filled it out separately.  For “Who makes the decisions?”, Katja chose 6 (David makes the decisions slightly more often), and I chose 3 (Katja clearly more often).  For “Who gets their own way?”, Katja said 8 (David gets his way nearly always), and David said 2 (Katja gets her way nearly always).  These are basically opposite pictures.  You might wonder if one of us is more right than the other, but I think we experience our life together from different vantage points, and our contrary judgments accurately depict what’s going on.  That’s the thing about pet peeves.  They’re always in the eye of the beholder.

G-mail Comments
-Donna D (3-22):  morning, david!  bek and i are sitting on their patio drinking our morning coffee. :)  we just had such a fun time reading this blog!  Bekah said she would love it if you would do a blog about what you have learned from her  and she from you during your marriage.  including categories such as things about self, about life, and especially ways you've each made the other a better person.  Will you do that?   Yay!  Lookin forward to it!
-Gayle C-L (3-21): David.  When the book  Men are from Mars and Women from Venus was  written, evidently the author wasted a lot of time writing it  because it Looks to me like You got life beat!  :)   Lots of love   G

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