A wise book once pointed out to me that it is better to live alone in a desolate place than to suffer a lifetime of complaints from a crabby wife. Wow! No need to soften the blow any because that’s not you, right? Nope. It wasn’t me either. At least I was pretty sure it wasn’t me.
Admittedly, my approaches have changed over the years in order to survive the on-again-off-again marriage cycle of shift work. When we were freshly married I actually tried to change all of my husband’s irritating habits. For 24 hours I purged the house of his vices only to have my efforts crushed as soon as shift ended. Childishly, I resorted to nagging and scolding him on a daily basis and at full volume because I was determined to transform him.
To my youthful surprise, he did not improve. Instead, I found more clothes left on the floor, more cabinet doors standing wide open, and more tools and trash left lying around than ever before. How could that be? I had tried so hard.
Through twelve years of marriage we have each given in and given up some and have come to an unspoken truce in annoying each other. My husband has improved or stopped many habits simply out of respect for me. For my part, rather than nagging, I have taken to laughing things off and using coping techniques. For example, any clothes my husband leaves on the floor I simply kick onto a growing mountain on his side of the bed. When he has to crawl across my side just to go to sleep, he might decide to do something about them.
Another example is travel coffee mugs. I used to bug him about them every day but now they stay in the truck until he brings them in, dirty and stinking. If they make it to the sink, I’ll wash them but I refuse to track them down. In return, he leaves me one specific mug that is mine alone because I hate the residual smell of soured coffee. The other four mugs are his to use and abuse whenever he likes.
These truces might not work for everyone and I’m not suggesting that anyone use them, but we have found what works for us. I believe that any relationship that hopes to survive the purging of vices and build-up of nagging during lengthy shifts should find some common ground that suits both people.