Will it matter in 10 years? Here’s the question that will give you perspective when handling the daily irritations in your marriage.
Bob started his own business and began working from home two years ago. I was deliriously happy. I had worked from home in a big empty house for quite a few years and, frankly, I was lonely. Once he came home, I could talk to him if the fancy struck. He was almost always available to have lunch with me. And, it was just nice to know he was across the hall working at his computer.
There was also a downside: The kitchen counter was decidedly messier than it had been. Five to ten water glasses adorned it at all times. How could anyone drink that much! I thought he should use one glass all day but that wasn’t Bob’s system.
My mind went back 35 years to a time when we lived with Bob’s mom. We all wanted to make it a happy experience—but sometimes we had different systems. One simple trick gave us a helpful perspective: When we had different opinions or different ways of doing something and there was an opportunity for the irritation level to rise, we would ask ourselves, “Will this matter in ten years?”
It was a great question. What we found was that most differences don’t amount to a hill of beans. Occasionally something did make a long-term difference and then, it needed to be addressed. Which brand of ketchup do you buy? (I know the correct answer and have a strong opinion about it, but will it matter in ten years?) How often is it appropriate to sweep the kitchen floor? (I may not enjoy the crunch of Cheerios under my bare feet, but will it matter in ten years?) If the parents lay down some disciplinary measures for the children, may the grandma lessen the restrictions? Now this was one that could make a difference in ten years. This was one that made a difference in the happiness of the adults right away! So we talked it out and came to an agreement.
There is another issue in play as well. Is the problem that I don’t like the ketchup or that there are Cheerios on the floor, or is it really something deeper? Perhaps the problem is that I’ve never felt my opinion mattered to anyone and now I feel that you don’t value it either. That problem needs to be talked out—and the talking shouldn’t be about ketchup and Cheerios. Please see Chapters 8-10 of The Marriage Dance for a fuller discussion.
The same tip that helped me 35 years ago can help keep the peace in your marriage. What is it that irks you? Your husband borrowed your Kindle and didn’t even ask first? Perpetual tardiness? Kitchen counter covered with glasses? Will it matter in ten years? Answer that question and then proceed from there.
This post was originally published on The Marriage Dance blog on January 7, 2016.