Even though Erich and I spent practically every day together for the past three years, living together and making a home together brought out many unexpected quirks.
He gets hot faster than I do (meaning I spend lots of afternoons wrapped in an afghan while the AC blasts away). He leaves the lights on unnecessarily. He splurges on ice cream and root beer after we’ve gone over our weekly grocery budget. He hates making phone calls and driving. And he leaves the toilet seat up.
I like shopping at Walmart. I put dishes into the dish drainer the wrong way. I make unrealistic budgets. I park poorly. And I put my feet up on everything — Erich, the desk, the couch, sometimes even the kitchen table when I’m nestled against the chair back, lost in thought and honey bunches of oats. (It’s a leftover trait from my homeschooled days. Never sat at a desk. When I did, I sat cross-legged.)
On one thing we are agreed: we never make the bed. We are a quirky pair.
My husband’s professor, married over thirty years, pulled us aside and gave us her marriage advice that she gave to every engaged chemistry student: “Let the little things slide,” she told us. “Unless it causes harm to you or something else, just let it go.”
That stuck with me and governs whether or not I make things a big deal with Erich.
I think it’s necessary, when making a home and a life together, to hold one another to better ways of doing things and to break bad habits if and only if it causes harm to yourself, your spouse, or something else. Otherwise, living together becomes a constant passive aggressive annoyance: “Do you have to put your feet up?” he’ll say. “Can you please just let me make my own decisions about my feet?” I’ll retort.
We’re adults. We ought to get a say in how we conduct our lives in our own home, instead of feeling like we’re still in public, following arbitrary rules like keeping your shoes on. But when two adults who ought to get a say in how they conduct their lives in their own home clash on arbitrary rules, something needs to give. Hence the rule: Unless it causes harm to me, him, or something else, I let it slide.
Take the classic toilet seat example. Growing up with all boys and then living with all boys in dorms and off-campus housing, Erich leaves the toilet seat up. Maybe for some women this causes mental harm (and, I’ll admit, I fell into the toilet a couple times because I forgot to check whether the seat was down), but for the most part, it doesn’t bother me. I let him know once or twice to put it down if it passes his mind, but if he forgets, I just put it down myself and don’t mention it.
On the other hand, leaving lights on is a big no-no. We’re on a small budget and pay our electricity ourselves, so we’re light nazis. (Just realized I left the kitchen light on. Be right back.) When I walk past the bathroom and see the light on, I’ll call out, “Babe, did you realize you left the bathroom light on again?” It’s not nagging, because we both agreed to train ourselves to turn off all unused lights.
We’re going to lovingly harp on each other about our forgetfulness because our financial security is at stake. And if we save on the electricity bill, I’ll feel better about buying root beer and ice cream.