How to deal with The Thing He Does That Drives You Crazy

Posted on August 10, 2010


What is it? Dirty socks on the floor? Not doing his dishes? An annoying belching habit?

Whatever it is, you’re well acquainted with it because it You’ve tried everything. Rational discussions, “I feel” statements, perhaps even creative interventions. Thing is, nothing works. He doesn’t seem to care; he is still doing The Thing That Drives You Crazy. And you’ve started to realize that no amount of begging and pleading will inspire him to stop.  So what exactly is a woman to do?

I’m happy to say that there is a way to deal with The Thing He Does That Drives You Crazy. It’s even quite simple:

1. Stop telling yourself the story about why he does the thing that drives you crazy.

2. Look at the situation from a different angle.

3. Tell yourself a story that feels better than the original story.

Take, for example, my significant other’s habit of leaving used napkins all over the house. For months, each time I would see a crumpled napkin somewhere, I would get so angry. My thoughts went something like this:

Who does he think I am? The maid? Just because I work from home does not mean I have hours and hours to pick up after him. Does he think I don’t have anything better to do? I’m not his mother. See, that’s the problem. He grew up in a culture where women constantly pick up after men and he thinks I’m going to do the same. Well, he’s got another thing coming if he thinks that’s the case!

And so on and so forth until I had worked myself up into quite a frenzy.

The original story I told myself was that my husband left his used napkins around the house because he thought I was going to pick up after him. Keeping that story resulted in anger, frustration and increased marital tensions. And let’s be real. Who wants that?

So I did what any marriage-loving woman would do. I let the story go. In truth, this was the only logical option left. Did I know with absolute certainty that my husband thought that I should pick up his dirty napkins? There was no way I could actually know what he was thinking when he left the napkins behind. I had NO IDEA why the man, despite constant reminders and strategically placed garbage cans, could not remember to throw his napkins away.

Then I decided to look at this situation from a different angle. I watched my husband with his napkins and this is what I noticed. The man tries to eat, check his work email and do our company’s accounting simultaneously in order to have time to workout in the morning with me. In his hurried frenzy of trying to do so much at one time, he jumps up to put his dishes in the dishwasher and forgets his used napkin behind on the table.

Suddenly I realized that the story about the napkins was much different from the one I had been telling myself all long. My dear husband didn’t leave his napkins behind because he assumed I would pick up after him; he did it because he was busy trying to get everything done so we could spend time together. Now when I see I dirty napkin, I smile. I tell myself the new story: a dirty napkin is a sign of a devoted, caring husband.  Dare I say it? I actually look forward to throwing dirty napkins away.

You can try this handy-dandy little perception switcheroo with anyone. Sick of your kids leaving their backpacks in the hallway? Tired of that obnoxious colleague? Fed up with the insensitive friend? Stop telling the story that makes you feel like crap, view the situation from a different angle and come up with a new story that makes you feel better.

This doesn’t mean that you can’t ask others to change their behavior. It just ensures your sanity in case they don’t.