Thursday, July 29, 2010

The salt... criticism?

The end of the story is that today, my wife confronted me after countless conversations on this topic that she feels that she is giving 100% and that I am being overly critical by telling her when something bothers me.

The most recent mini fight in which she flew off a handle was the salt.  I picked it up while preparing lunch in the morning before I ran off to my document review project, and it was slimy from the night before when she cooked the kids matzoh brei, a dish the kids LOVE.

I didn't think much about it, except that we have been married for four years and this has never happened, but I've asked her a few times to wash off the dish soap after she uses it (and the honey for that matter) so that the dish soap isn't all slimy when I pick it up to wash out the blender after using it each morning.  I just don't like sticky stuff.  I certainly wasn't angry.  I just didn't want a new habit being formed, and so I told her about it conversationally since she was standing next to me when the salt bottle slipped out of my hand.  She started yelling that I'm too critical, and that I don't think she's a good wife, and that I always have to criticize her about everything she does wrong.  I thought she was nuts because I certainly do not criticize her about everything -- moments before that, when I opened the fridge, the soy milk flew out and spilled on the floor because she stuffed it into the fridge on top of a pot of leftovers rather than putting it in its place which is on the refrigerator door.  This annoyed me because it has happened before and I've mentioned it to her to be more careful about it and it happened again.  However, with a quick swipe of a paper towel, the problem went away so I didn't say anything.

To skip ahead a bit, we've been fighting these past few days, and recently, she's been trying to be mean to me to hurt my feelings which hurt my feelings because I've never done anything to her to intentionally hurt her, ever, and here she's actively trying to hurt me.

Today she wanted me to take an extra hour off of work so that I can accompany her to the passport agency.  Yes, it's her newest necessity to visit her Safta in Israel who is ill.  No biggie.  Anyway, in the car, she started screaming at me that she is going to cause me the pain that I've been causing her, and that "you'll see what it feels like to have someone criticize you when you're already giving 100%."  As an example, she brought up the salt.  I told her that I wasn't criticizing her, and that most of the things that bother me, I let them slide and I don't say anything because I don't want to start a fight.  But when something is important, I say it.  I told her that when I say something, it's not that I am criticizing her.  There's a huge difference between telling someone that it would mean a lot to you if their behavior in a certain circumstance would be different, and telling someone that they are flawed because they neglected to do the behavior you asked them to do.  In short, I told her that I didn't want her to leave the salt shaker oily and I wanted her to clean it up after herself.  I wasn't saying she was a bad person or a sucky housewife because she left the salt shaker oily.  Obviously this is not the case.

She then started persisting why did I even marry her if she is such a terrible person, and if she does so many of these things that upset me?  I told her that had I known she did all these things, I may have considered them as factors in weighing whether I wanted to marry her, but its a little bit too late now, and one doesn't divorce his wife because she doesn't clean up after herself.  I told her that we're married now and those are things I will have to live with if I cannot convince her to change them.  She then went back into the "why do you want to change who I am?" conversation, when really I felt and still feel that asking someone to change a behavior (e.g., clean up after yourself) is not the same thing as changing who the person is.

We got to the post office, and it was closed.  She neglected to check the hours it was open.  I didn't dare say a word.  [I had to work an hour extra today because of it, but I'm pretending that it was open and we accomplished our purpose in having me go along with her.]


Anonymous said...

You guys need some serious counseling!!!! How can you live like this? Seriously, i am asking you a question with compassion.


Ahuva said...

"I may have considered them as factors in weighing whether I wanted to marry her, but its a little bit too late now"

You say that you don't say things to intentionally hurt her and then you say something like THAT?!?!

That was your cue to start iterating all the wonderful qualities you saw in her when you married her and acknowledge that they are still there. Taking that tact would go a long way from keeping minor requests like wiping off a salt shaker from turning into a huge "why did you even marry me" fight!

Zoe Strickman said...

How is it supposed to be?

Zoe Strickman said...

Ahuva, okay, oops.

Ahuva said...

Zoe-- people respond better to requests for behavior changes when they're coated in honey.

Seriously, you two really need to see a counselor and learn how to relate to each other better. I know a family that sounds very similar to what you're describing. The children have all been damaged by the relationship between their parents and the husband and wife both hate each other beyond all hope of repair.

Do not let this happen to your family. You two need help.

It doesn't matter if the problems you describe happen only once a month and you two are "really" happy and peaceful the majority of the time-- these issues need to be dealt with. A husband and wife should NEVER say the kinds of things to each other that you're describing.

Anonymous said...

Are you asking how a marriage is supposed to be?

Ahuva said...

Zoe-- here's another idea:

"why did I even marry her if she is such a terrible person"

That is a good opening to say something along the lines of "I didn't mean to imply that you're a terrible person. Can you please help me understand what about my words made you feel like I was saying that? What should I have said differently?"

Obviously something needs to be said differently because I'd be surprised if getting her upset furthers any of your goals-- including the goal of getting her to wipe off the salt shaker.

Barefoot Jewess said...

I agree with Ahuva and anonymous. You two need counselling.

I see no love, and I see no kindness. I see a couple who is stuck with each other.

Anonymous said...

I think that you don't necessarily need counseling (even though I'm not saying that counseling is a bad thing.)

I do think that you might be unwittingly hurting her feelings.

What would make it better is for you to say things like the following:

1. I know that I'm a difficult man, and sometimes small things annoy me that to someone else may be unimportant. I don't want to criticize you, I just want to tell you that I know that it's me that's being difficult with these things that I find irritating.

2. I think that you're a wonderful wife and I would fight to keep you, there's no way I'd want to let go someone who gives so much to me. I see all the effort you're making.

3, None of us are perfect, and it's you that I want, please give me a chance to listen to you and find out how we can make things better.

I hope all goes well (whether you take this advice or not.)

Anonymous said...

Dear Last Anonymous,
How cold you possible say that he may not need counseling? Does their marriage seem to be working? Do they respect one another? Do they agree on how to raise the kids? Do they agree on their religious observance? Do they agree on working responsibilities? Do they share the same views on who does what around the house? Do they agree on how old their babies should be when sending them to daycare? Do they have an agreement on how the funds should be spent?

This couple has ZERO chance of happiness if they do not seek help. It certainly is not working their way!