“I Know It Bothers You.”

(NOTE: Based on time elapsed since the posting of this entry, the BS-o-meter calculates this is 6.03% likely to be something that Ferrett now regrets.)

Yesterday, we cleaned out the fridge – getting rid of all the old food that was slowly deliquescing at the back of the veggie drawer. We bagged it up last night, kept it inside so the possums wouldn’t get it, and then I even remembered to put it all out for the trashmen on time this morning – I was quite proud of myself.

Except. I thought the bags by the front door included the one that had been in the kitchen garbage can. So we’d gotten rid of our fridge leftovers and the usual rest-of-the-house detritus, but last week’s kitchen stuff was still there.

“I’ll bring it to the dump,” I said.

Gini flailed. “It’s just that it’d get so stinky if we left it out in the heat…”

“I’ll bring it to the dump,” I repeated. “I know it bothers you.”

Those words – “I know it bothers you” – carried a lot of weight for us. On both sides.

Because personally, no, I am not really bothered by letting garbage sit in a can at the far end of the the driveway. It’s the can that’s full of our bagged dog poop anyway, so it’s not like it smells like roses anyway, and we don’t generally go near it.

But it bothers Gini.

And part of a healthy marriage – a healthy relationship – involves me not having to be bothered personally to take care of my wife’s needs. I know she’d fret about the garbage, and she’s got a lot on her mind lately, so why not drive seven minutes out to the dump to take one more annoyance off her plate?

That fifteen-minute trip literally did nothing for my peace of mind. But I knew it would make Gini happy. And I think of so many dysfunctional relationships I’ve seen where one partner refused to do anything to relieve their partner’s stress unless they were also bothered – “Why should I change the batteries in that dying fire alarm? The random chirp doesn’t bug me!” – and man, did those not end well.

Weighing my own momentary inconvenience over a week of my wife randomly being vexed by some random garbage can seemed like a pretty good deal, all things considered.

But when I said that phrase – “It doesn’t bother me” – my wife also did some labor.

Because her knee-jerk instinct was to argue with me – that garbage can should bother me, too, I should have higher standards, she’s not prissy for being bothered by a smelly garbage can she doesn’t get within fifteen feet of on an average day.

What she realized was that there’s no right or wrong on this. And I can feel many of you tuning up your argument-hammers to take sides on this – but you’d be sailing right past the point.

The point is that I do not have to share her opinion in order to respect it.

Which is good! Because I’m mentally ill. Some random-ass things stress me out that no sane person should be bothered by! If our marriage was defined by “You must agree that all the things that make me uncomfortable are universal experiences,” then my poor wife would have to go, “Yes, having full-blown crying breakdowns before going to a convention is something everyone does!”

It’s not.

We get to be unique in our stressors.

And had she pressed the point until I not only volunteered, unasked, to bring the garbage to the dump, but also I had to agree it was an objectively valuable use of my time to do so would have probably kickstarted a fairly stupid argument that would sound a lot like “I know you’re doing everything I’m asking, but you actually need to think like I do.”

I can know it bothers her without sharing that bother, and still work proactively to help reduce her bother.

So the short version is that I ran a quick errand, and my wife feels better, and I feel better because my wife feels better. And we’ve both learned to accept that we have different things that make us uncomfortable, and we don’t have to agree as long as we act with respect.

That keeps a lot of things from getting stinky. Most notably our relationship.

1 Comment

  1. steeledsnakecharmer
    Sep 10, 2020

    Absolutely love this. It is so real and I can relate to both sides of it within our own marriage.

All Comments Will Be Moderated. Comments From Fake Or Throwaway Accounts Will Never Be approved.