Troubling Nuances

After last posts… got to thinking… are there little things that can be annoying that aren’t a big deal but are? I mean… are there little things that can create friction that really aren’t a big deal… but are a big deal? Not touching the debate about tissue paper orientation or the toilet seat being up or down. Just the little nuances in how people see things that can create issues for a relationship.

Troubling Nuances

I’ve heard a few people speak about conflicts in a relationship that gets little press. Or little that I know of. It’s that moment when a partner does something seemingly nice (as in actually nice… from their vantage point) that comes across as annoying, bothersome, and just “off” enough to evoke negative feelings.

To help put us into the right mindset of today’s blog post… a quick story. Imagine a guy trying to sort out his feelings about a time his wife wanted to help him out. She randomly decided to wash all of his older sports jerseys. They were a bit rank. They were a bit neglected. She made sure to lift all the stains and bring these jerseys back to brand new life. Problem was, she was not a sports enthusiast and had no understanding of the collector’s value of such worn out jerseys. They were a rare collection of jerseys worn by the very athletes they represented.

Any sports enthusiast would clearly understand why such a man would respond in great anger, frustration, and justified passion. Most men would have shared very harsh words with their wives about such an action. The woman, understandably, would be very perplexed and hurt by such an intense response. No one would fault her for standing her ground and defending herself to the best of her ability.

However right as both sides are, the relationship can easily suffer significantly when these moments arise. Let’s take the examples down a degree, as this scenario is not as likely as others, but the results can be just as stressful.

Imagine, if you will, the apartment is getting a bit cramped and it’s Spring cleaning time. Historically, a lot of things get tossed out to make room for the warmer weather. The husband gets an early jump on this project and notes that his wife has too many pairs of shoes, bags, and clothing. In an well intentioned gesture, he takes it upon himself to clear out several duplicates he sees. Some time later, his wife notices a few extra unused sporting good stuff around the place. Although she asked his opinion and was given a vague answer, she goes ahead and donates most of the discarded gear.

When the cleaning project is done, the couple take inventory of what they have and quickly notices the missing items. Eventually, words are said that can’t be taken back, feelings are hurt, attacks made, doors slammed. You get the picture. The relationship took a serious hit.

What is it about these little things that can cause so much difficulties? Often times, when the layers of life are peeled back, the issue is not so much the items or actions, but the fundamentals behind the actions that’s the concern.

The thought that counted

Let’s start with the basics. Everyone knows that communication is critical for relationships to work. Sadly, many leave communication at a transactional level instead of maturing it well into a relational level.

In plain speak… we speak about what we want to do, going to do, or need and move on with life. This usually looks like this. “I want you to do…” “I need this from you…” “Can you do…” and the list goes on. We speak about the things that needs to be done or not done… ie the transactions we need to undertake.

How often do couples take the time to speak about the values that motivate a lot of their decisions? How often do couples take the time to examine the motives behind their feelings and actions? Not often enough.

Reason being… these deeper level conversations take time, requires more trust, more transparency, and more vulnerability. It’s more work. In this very busy life, more work is the last thing many want to undertake.

How does this relate to the examples given above?

In the sports jersey scenario, had the husband made a point of explaining to his lady why he was collecting sports jerseys, she would understand their value. As ridiculously obvious as this sounds, most people do not communicate their values to their partners. They assume that the partner will get it because the partner sees how they act. Most people do not know how you feel based on how you act. They can take a guess based on how they would feel in such a setting, but they can’t know how you feel if you don’t tell them. Not to mention… it’s very unfair to require them to guess your feelings.

We won’t touch the fact that this guy in the first example left such valuable items in a way that did not clearly denote their value to a casual observer. Had they been in a special holding area, secured and locked, the wife would probably not have noticed that they needed to be washed… as she wouldn’t have smelled them to begin with. I’m sure she could have lived with the stains… visually speaking. But I digress.

In the example of spring cleaning… most typical guys I know don’t understand why their women have duplicates of things. A single black skirt to most guys is enough. Having 12 black skirts is hard for most men to understand. We won’t discuss the various shades of blacks, the various lengths, fabric types, fit style, A-frame vs pencil cut vs mermaid, so on and so forth.

However, a conversation of greater depth could have helped the husband understand that fashion is very important to the wife and that she is on top of donating whenever she no longer needs anything. Same with the man, he could have kept on top of organizing his stuff and communicating their relevancy and value to his wife.

Even more simple… before the Spring cleaning project took place, they could have both spoken about what they wanted to see done, what they wanted to have stay, and what was the goal they wanted to reach for the project. Then, they could have worked as a team and checked in with each other before throwing out the items that belonged to the partner.

Communication is so key.

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