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June 22, 2012

Up! Down! Left! Right! This! That!

Do you and your spouse sometimes get caught in repetitive disagreements over issues like these?
  • The right way to fold towels
  • Toilet paper over or under
  • The best place to park
  • Wash dishes now or let them soak
  • Toilet seat up or down
  • How to place glasses in the cupboard
  • Squeezing the toothpaste
  • Proper way to load the dishwasher
  • Should you lick your fingers when eating finger food

Many people are passionately opinionated about these and similar matters. Towels folded into quarters instead of thirds are annoyingly untidy. Drying oneself from the bottom up rather than from the top down after a shower is seen as a complete breakdown of logic. Distress over an improperly squeezed toothpaste tube is so widespread that a Google search on "squeezing toothpaste" yields more than 1.9 million results and Amazon lists over 100 imaginative devices for squeezing the tube.

The belief that there really is only one right way to do any of these tasks has led to uncountable hours spent lecturing, complaining, whining, wheedling, sulking, sneering, and bickering. Family members, spouses, roommates, and the occasional neighbor or houseguest can't seem to resist enlightening those around them as to why the correct way (their way) is more efficient, logical, courteous, good-looking, or morally superior. People have been known to scream themselves hoarse over the toilet seat position.

Why do some people get so deeply invested in such trivialities? Often the reason is simply that this is how they were taught to do things in childhood. It's comfortable and familiar, and it works. Doing things differently seems strange and awkward. If Mom or Dad was adamant about doing certain things in particular ways, the grown-up child may still feel an obligation to comply with those parental directives.

It's convenient to do things the way you've always done them. If you already know how the toilet paper rolls, there will be no fumbling for the edge when you get up during the night. If you know exactly how to load dishes into the dishwasher, you can do it quickly without thinking about it.

Sometimes change or uncertainty makes people anxious. We like having a certain amount of familiarity and predictability in our environment. Little things are typically easier to control than big things, and so having the details just-so can provide a sense of security. An excessive need for this kind of security sometimes turns people into control freaks. That can also happen temporarily, when two people stubbornly refuse to budge over minor differences.

So what can you do when you and your spouse repeatedly find yourselves in disputes about the best way to angle a dustpan or whether it's better to walk around the mall clockwise or counterclockwise?
  • If it doesn't affect you, let it go. The way your wife ties her shoes may look silly, but as long as she isn't tying your shoes, too, it's none of your business.
  • Be grateful for small favors. If your husband is folding the towels vertically when you prefer them folded horizontally, just be glad that he's folding the towels at all.
  • Take turns. This week the toilet paper hangs over and next week it hangs under. You'll both know what to expect.
  • Separate yourselves from the dispute. Buy your own, separate toothpaste tubes and squeeze them any way you want, any time you want.
  • Do something completely different. Instead of choosing between parking near the door or parking under a shade tree, park as far away as possible. You'll get some good exercise walking to the entrance.
  • Do your spouse a favor. Make it your generous, loving gift to your spouse to do it his or her way from now on. Who knows? You might learn to like it that way, too.
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6 fabulous comments:

  1. Thanks for some great ideas!

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  2. ha ha ha this is a really nice post.. well I had the same issues like this before with my husband now who was then my bf.. we didnt agree with the way we wash the dishes.. okay when i was the dishes, i wash it with the dishwasher liquid and sponge and have it rinsed directly with the tap water and put it in dish shelf and have it dry.( am doing it manually since in Asian homes dish washers are not really a necessity)okay now my husband wash dishes like use the sponge and dishwasher liquid and then without rinsing it he puts it straight away to the dish shelf and have it dry, when it dry he will wipe it.. i cant imagine ever using the dishes if washed that way..

    in the beginning we had a lil argument over it because as he depended himself that it was the way how his mom taught him, and i said it was the way I learnt it from even my grandparents. (and its the way we wash the dishes in asia, as far as i know,, ;-), and so now that we are married, we dont argue about it anymore, he submitted to the way i wash them and thats it.. ;-)

    I think sometimes we just have to accept differences and give way and respect..

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  3. I liked this. It really puts some thought into why we do the things we do. The toilet seat is the only thing my husband and I disagree about. He says it's no big deal, but HE never falls in the cold toilet water in the middle of the night. lol

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  4. OK, now you've got me curious. I'm familiar with all the other arguments, but walking the mall clockwise or counter-clockwise? What's the argument there? I will admit that I tend to always enter a store and go to the right, so I'm in the counterclockwise camp, but I never gave it any thought as to being good or bad for any particular reason. I'm really not even sure why I do that. I think maybe it's because in most of the stores I shop at, the door is closer to the left, so I'm working my way back to the door???? LOL

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    Replies
    1. Chris, I'll admit that the inclusion of mall-walking direction was a bit tongue in cheek. I had read some studies that indicated most people in the U.S. walk around malls counter-clockwise. I found that some people believe that it is more "natural" to turn right when entering a building, because most people are right-handed, or because we drive on the right. There are some religious traditions that involve walking counter clockwise around a holy place, but I hope that is not being applied to the mall!

      Seriously, I have heard people bicker about which way to go in a mall (not clockwise vs. counter clockwise, just direction in general), based on their ideas about shopping efficiency, nearness of the food court, and so on. Apparently it's possible to get stubborn about just about anything.

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  5. What a great reminder. Thanks for sharing!

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