Anti-Grumbling Marriage

Posted by: Shel 8 Comments

            Life’s little irritations can make or break us. How we choose to deal with them affects our mates and marriages. It determines our level of contentedness.

            Years ago people dressed their salads with oil and vinegar and homemade dressings. Homemakers were delighted when ready-made dressings became available in stores and were awed to have several choices. Fast forward to 2013 where salad dressings take up one third of a grocery store aisle. Options for flavors, brands, and sizes abound.

Courtesy of
Courtesy of

            I like Ken’s Country French dressing. It was often unavailable at the local stores I shopped so when I’d spot it, I’d buy several bottles at a time to hold me over a dry spell. The dry spells got longer and longer until it had been so long I began to wonder if it was still being made. Yet I look each time I go to any grocery store. And grumble as I have to select from one of the hundred and forty-two other choices available.

            But I don’t want Seven Seas, Paul Newman or Kraft – I want Ken’s. And not Ken’s Ranch, Vinaigrette, or Italian. It has to be Ken’s Country French. It’s special. It has a touch of honey in it. So I keep looking at every grocery store. And I keep getting disappointed.

            You’re probably already tired of me whining. I hear you thinking: “So squirt some honey in one of the other brands and get on with your life for Pete’s sake. It’s salad dressing – how much time are you going to spend on such a petty issue?!”

            Not very attractive, is it?

            Let’s look at some of the things we grumble about at home. Clothes left on the floor?  Toothpaste cap off? Toilet seat up? Anything that can finish this sentence:  “I have told you a hundred times to/not to [fill in the blank].

            Now rate this recurring issue on a scale of one to ten where ten is “life changing” and one is “I usually forget about it within a few minutes.” Then ask yourself these questions:

1.       Has my grumbling about this issue changed my mate’s behavior?

2.      Can I list three things I love about my mate that far outweigh this issue?

And, if you’re really brave ask yourself:

3.       Is there something I do that annoys my mate that I have no intention of doing different?

Nobody’s asking you to stop grumbling cold turkey – that might throw your body into shock. Wean yourself. Next time the annoying event happens, count to three before reacting. Increase that count a little each time it happens. You will eventually count high enough to forget why you’re counting and what you almost grumbled about.

Let me start us off. I’ll stop grumbling about not being able to get Ken’s Country French dressing and start appreciating available options. But if you happen to spot it somewhere, will you pick me up a bottle or two?

 Have a tip to help squelch grumbling? Please share it in the comment section below.



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  • Wise words. Reminds me of an exercise I was doing for a while, but have let drop–a daily list of five things that I’m grateful for. That really helped me stay focused on the things that mattered and let the little irritations slide.

    • Shel Harrington

      I’ve done that exercise off and on, too – had a special ‘gratitude journal’ on my bedtable. When I did it for any length of time, I would find myself looking for things throughout the day to record. And at the end of a “bad day,” coming up with that list (a bed to sleep in, electricity, running water. . . ) helped put things in perspective. Thanks for the reminder, Sharon – I think I’ll dust off my journal!

  • Love this one, Shel! My strategy (when I’m feeling “mature”) is to remind myself if the person who is doing something irritating (guess who that would be?) was no longer HERE, how would I feel. Pretty much negates the need to grumble about most things. I’m sure I cause no one irritation, so not too worried about that. BTW: look what I found: 🙂

    • Shel Harrington

      Hmmm, being mature – not a bad strategy in itself! Thanks for the head up on the dressing – even with the shipping cost the same as the product cost it still beats ‘buy the case.’

  • My son told me the phrase the other day – first world problem. I think it sums up so many things that people grumble about. So now I think, is that a FWP and laugh at myself and go on.
    Also, be careful when you say FWP everyone seems to think you’re cussing.

    • Shel Harrington

      Oh my gosh, Christine – that is the perfect summary! Tell your son thanks for me – I am definitely adopting that phrase and suspect that I’ll have plenty of opportunities to use it. And I’ll make sure to only use the abbreviated form in the appropriate venue!

  • Great advice, Shel. One thing hubby and I do when we are grumbling is to take a minute to listen and respond to the other person. Example: Me: “I hate when the popcorn scorches at the bottom of the pan. It wastes so much popcorn!” Him: “That sounds irritating. Is there something we can do about it?” Me: “No. There’s always a bit of scorched popcorn, not that big of a deal.” When my feelings or thoughts are validated, I think about it and realize most of the time it’s not important in the scheme of things. If it is something that’s irritating one of us, we commit out loud to doing better, even though we’ll still slip up, but just validating the other person’s issue helps to start clearing it up. Now, if only he would stop playing that computer game… 😉

    • Shel Harrington

      I agree, sometimes it’s about ‘being heard.’ Love the collaborative spirit you described between you and your husband, Kristin – bet that serves you well in a myriad of situations. And I SO get the computer game issue!

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