During a recent Goop podcast, (I say that like I’m well versed and up to date; it’s the second one I’ve ever heard) Gwyneth was chatting with Sarah Jessica Parker about nothing in particular. Their conversation made its way onto the subject of marriage, compatibility, and being irritated.
At the point I began attentively listening, Sarah Jessica was talking about how she handles feeling irritated by her husband. She talked about how feeling irritated is somehow so satisfying, that it’s an inch we love to scratch, and that irritants have a cumulative effect. She went on to say that at this point she understands that irritants don’t really matter and that–this was the thing that got me–whenever she feels especially irritated by her husband, she reminds herself just how irritating she must be to him.
We aren’t necessarily wrong to be irritated. Perhaps a spouse has blatantly ignored a request we’ve made of them several times before. Perhaps a sibling has legitimately interrupted our schedule by running late for a scheduled rendezvous. I should stop before I really get going because there are unlimited examples of the ways in which a person might cause us to understandably feel irritated.
Whatever the reason that another’s behavior causes a reaction in us, our tendency is to focus on the stimuli, the irritant, or the outward source of our grievance.
Except that sometimes, when we get irritated, we can get a little high and mighty. We can begin to act as though we never do things that irritate our loved ones. The more we put ourselves up on a pedestal and relegate our loved one a.k.a. The Most Annoying Person Lately to the underworld of Mess Ups, the harder it becomes for us to stop being irritated.
Of course, communication is vital. We have to talk out the dumbest things so that the dumbest things don’t snowball into really big, unrepairable ones. But after a certain point, the choice is ours: to go through life being endlessly irritated, or not to be.
Put that way, I’d choose the later; wouldn’t you?
The way to level the playing field is to remind ourselves that we, too, are irritating to live with. Or, that we, too, require a lot of attention/feedback/support from our loved ones. That we are also flawed and complex and occasionally careless. And as we are deserving of forgiveness, so are the people we love.
Sure, City may leave a trail of drinking glasses in his wake (and always in bathrooms around the house), but then again, I’m a germaphobe who freaks out if he lays on the bed in street clothes. Does that sound like it’s a rocking party for him?
We are still allowed to hold our spouses and family members and friends to a high standard. We are allowed to expect that they treat us with respect and integrity and compassion and that they, in a phrase, indulge our uniquely weird neuroses as we indulge theirs.
That’s what this whole relationship thing is about really: learning to compromise, to sway as harmoniously as possible to multiple melodies played simultaneously. To twist according to his needs and shimmy according to hers. And to remember, at the end of the day, that two people are almost always matched because one is strong where the other is weak, and vice versa. That we are not brought together to annoy the shit out of each other, but to teach the other about our complimentary strengths, and to readily admit our weaknesses.