There is no question there will be conflicts in marriage. They are unavoidable. Dan Wile, author of After the Honeymoon wrote, “When choosing a long-term partner…you will inevitably be choosing a particular set of unsolvable problems that you’ll be grappling with for the next ten, twenty, or fifty years.” In response, Dr. John Gottman comments, “Marriages are successful to the degree that the problems you choose are ones you can cope with.” This is an interesting concept to consider when most of us are looking for what we like in a spouse, not concentrating on what problems we can cope with. However, focusing on the latter may make for a more successful marriage. When couples are able to live with each others’ problems amicably, and learn to cope using healthy strategies, they are likely to have a longer lasting, less stressful marriage.
For example, I prefer things neat and orderly, while my husband doesn’t mind a mess. In fact, he doesn’t even notice when he has left shoes, clothes, papers, his backpack, and everything else strewn about the house. Since I prefer everything in its proper place, this could easily cause contention, and at times it does. However, for the most part, both of us let it slide. I don’t bother him by constantly asking him to pick up everything that is out of place, and he tries to remember to put things away. When I do ask him to pick something up, even if he doesn’t want to, he complies because he knows I’m only asking because I have reached my maximum level of tolerance for things out of order.
Not surprisingly, I knew my husband was like this before he was my husband, just as he knew I was particular long before he proposed to me. We knew this was an unsolvable problem that we’d be dealing with it for many years to come, and we have figured out how to cope without making each other crazy. I didn’t have any preconceived notions that he would be clean and tidy the moment he said ‘I do’, just as I don’t expect him to be any different than he is now 10 years down the road. Sure, this is something we could both escalate to the point of a yelling match, but what is the point of that since we know the other won’t change? I would rather enjoy a happier marriage in which we can both let some things slide.