I have this terrible habit of leaving things in odd places. I think it is a reflection of my creative bent, that I sometimes pause and put something down, then get distracted by a new direction and never quite make it back to finishing the first job. My wife says I’m lazy. Whichever is true, it became an issue for a while when I was leaving things in close-but-not-quite locations and my long suffering wife felt like she had another child to pick up after. Eventually she confronted me with my sloppiness and we worked out a solution: Anything I failed to put away during a day would be deposited in my side of the bed. It was then mine to deal with before I could get to sleep. It sounds a little odd, but it was incredibly effective. That first night that I discovered a coffee cup, my shoes and the kitchen scissors sitting neatly on my pillow sent a powerful message, and made me laugh. What is best is that I learned from the experience too.
The point is that had she just told me (once more) that she was tired of picking up after me, she would have felt bad for ‘nagging’ and I would have felt bad for messing up again. If one of us had been on less than our A-game, it might have led to a decent argument. Chances are, little would have changed too. What we did instead was find a creative solution that dealt with the issue in a way we could both manage and accept.
When there is something that needs addressing in your relationship, the way you approach it with your man is key. Not many guys take criticism well, and to begin by launching into a litany of his bad habits is inviting disaster. Instead, approach it from where you are at. “I feel… when …” is a powerful statement. It tells your man that you are having a tough time as a result of his actions. It is hard to interpret as an attack, too, because it is an expression of your experience. Regardless of how you interpret his actions, or what his intentions really are, the resulting feelings are valid and need addressing. By starting “I feel…” instead of “You always…” you are inviting him to help your relationship grow rather than opening fire on him.
I think I have mentioned before that us guys are problem solvers. This is a very important element to bear in mind. When we hear your complaint or criticism, we are listening for the problem to solve. If you want the process to work out, think in advance about what that problem is. This is part of sorting out the feelings you want to express, too. Is the clutter around the house a problem because you feel too cramped in your home, or because you feel taken advantage of? If it’s an issue of space, then he needs to be thinking about how to get a bigger place or make less mess. If it is about your role in the relationship, he has to consider how to contribute more or expect less. If you don’t really understand why an issue upsets you, it is probably asking a little much to expect any man to – we’re just not that perceptive! Instead take the time to work through what you expect, so that there is a direction you can suggest to him. That way the problem becomes something you are facing together, rather than an issue dividing you.
No relationship is going to be smooth sailing, all the time. There will be things you need to talk to your man about, and he won’t necessarily like it. However, how you go about it can make all the difference, both to the experience of discussing it and the eventual outcome. He might even start picking up after himself. I know I did.