Hax: Spouses shouldn't attempt to perfect

The Washington PostMarch 11, 2014 

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Dear Carolyn: Every so often my other half will complain about something I've done. It's nothing consequential. Example: I sometimes put bags on the kitchen counter even though the bottoms of those bags are not necessarily hygienic.

While I think it's perfectly valid to communicate one's pet peeves, no matter how trivial, I can't get myself to do it when I find my other half doing bothersome things. At the same time, I hate feeling like crud when my other half points out a shortcoming and I don't have a specific comeback. The last thing I want to do is keep tabs on these things or raise the shortcomings when they appear, because it just seems so petty. But I don't want to be the doormat.

SCOREKEEPING

"While I think it's perfectly valid to communicate one's pet peeves, no matter how trivial": Really? I think it stinks.

Now, if you're talking about a one-time warning along the lines of "I have an irrational aversion to seeing unclean things on our kitchen countertops" with a rare, self-deprecating refresher - "Remember my bizarre countertop fixation" - then I do agree with you. But if one of you believes the other owes it to him/her to be ever mindful of his/her expectations, then I'm back to saying it stinks.

Avoid the tit-for-tat and go straight for: "I think we'll both be happier if we don't attempt to perfect each other's behavior. I want home to be a safe place for us both to be ourselves."

Re: "Scorekeeping": How would your suggested conversation change if only one spouse has annoying habits? My spouse is always noticing that I left the counter dirty or the sponge wet, etc., but pretty much never does those things himself.

ANONYMOUS

I refuse to believe there's someone who has no annoying habits. Perfection DOESN'T EXIST. Please humor me and read "Domestic Violence: The Facts," specifically the "Warning List" (http://bit.ly/1c1Z5Za). The constant fault-finding alarms me.

Email tellme@washpost.com. Chat online at 10 a.m. Fridays at www.washingtonpost.com.

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