I see emails all of the time from people struggling in their marriage. In most, the biggest issue is presented something like this: “If he…….”, “If she……” , “He does…”, or “She does…” The problem lies in that a lot of the time the struggling spouse is totally consumed with the failures of their mate. Before I go further, I must clarify that situations where there is physical abuse, drugs, alcohol, mental health, or adultery going on are real issues and are not the type of thing I am talking about here. The type of thing I am talking about here is your spouse’s idiosyncrasies.
So, what are idiosyncrasies? Idiosyncrasies are those peculiar habits that your spouse may have. I think we all have them.
I will tell you one of mine. I am an obsessive packer. When we are going on a vacation I pride myself on taking all of our luggage and packing it in the van in the most space efficient manner possible. I will have all of the suitcases lined up behind the van and pick each piece individually based on its ideal fit in a scheme for as compact a fit as possible.
That sounds bad, but I am the same way in a grocery store with a shopping cart. I have a location and place for where I think every item should go that we place in the cart. I want the cart to be filled for maximum occupancy. Don’t even get me started on the inefficiency of the shopping cart design and how awful a grocery store’s layout is for packing a shopping cart. I mean it shouldn’t take a genius to realize that someone should come up with a shopping cart with places designed just for milk cartons, eggs, and bread. Is it too crazy of an idea for there to be an insulated compartment that is designed for ice cream and/or some frozen foods? What about layout? Is it too hard to think that squishable items like bread, eggs, and produce should be last so they can go on top? To make matters worse, you work hard to get everything just the way it should be and then you checkout and they reverse the order of everything as they stick it back in your buggy. What’s a guy to do?
As you can imagine, this isn’t an issue if I am going by myself to get some groceries. If I am going with my wife to get groceries this may be an issue, though. She may not appreciate the skills and thought that I may put into grocery cart management. She may even be a little put off if I keep moving items that she has placed in the cart. From my standpoint, I have to wonder why my wife so hazardously tosses items in the buggy with no regard for their proper place. How could I be married to someone with such a screwed up logic system?
Now that was a somewhat exaggerated example from my life but in truth we all married idiots. Elaine Miller in We All Married Idiots states, “A spouse’s idiosyncrasies can drive you to the point of imagining your mate’s habits are more than peculiar – they’re idiotic! On a trying day it is easy to list your honey’s peculiar habits and for your honey to list yours. If you let them, idiosyncrasies can take the joy out of marriage.”
As I dated my wife it was easy to see that she was a perfectionist, had a very black and white view of right and wrong, and liked to be in control. Those things meant that she was extremely smart, excelled at piano and flute, and had an unwavering enthusiasm to achieve whatever goals she wanted to accomplish. Once we got married, those were the same traits that led to her being a dominant and controlling wife. Now, she asks me, “If you knew I had those traits, why did you marry me?” My response is, “Those were the traits that I admired about you. You were a go getter with an unquenchable spirit. While there are aspects about you that are challenging, those are often traits that make me better, peculiarities that make you interesting and not like anyone else.” If you are not familiar with her site, I encourage you to look at www.peacefulwife.com and read her About and When She Surrendered posts.
So, when it comes to changing those idiosyncrasies that your spouse has, how do you do it? Elaine Miller notes in her book that the word “idiot” and “idiosyncrasy” come from the same Greek root, “idio”, which means “common man.” All of these things are common to most of us. Elaine Miller points out, “Instead of examining all the idiosyncrasies of your beloved, please examine yourself. It is easy and dangerous to read a book on marriage and discover all the things wrong with your spouse. To my surprise, I never found a scripture that says, Examine your spouse. God does say, “Examine yourselves” (2 Corinthians 13:5).”
Elaine Miller is right when she says that we all married idiots. We all have our traits that would be difficult to live with. A lot of how we deal with those peculiarities will depend on our attitude. Force yourself to think about the positive aspects of those traits. Challenge yourself to not deride, get irritated, or make fun of your spouse because of who they are. Idiosyncrasies are not something you can change about your spouse. If you can allow them to be a unique treasure in your life, then you will find that the negative aspect will go away.
Elaine Miller gave an example that her husband was a tapper. Wherever he was he tapped his fingers. On the table when they would eat. On the steering wheel when they would go somewhere. His tapping would often get on her nerves. Sometime in the past, her husband was hospitalized and his survival was in question and all she could think about was how silent his fingers were. She prayed, “Please, God, let me feel his fingers tapping.” She states, “The very thing that bugs you the most is what entices you to your beloved, and what you will miss the most when your loved one is gone.”
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