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Burnett's Urban Etiquette

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Till death do you part

So the University of Michigan's Institute for Social Research just released a study that confirmed what some of you have hinted at in the past: the longer you're married the more your spouse irritates you.

While I am certain I hardly ever irritate Mrs. B, and Lord knows I can't even say the word "irritate" in the same sentence as her name - he he he! - I wonder if it really took an academic study to reach this conclusion.

From the time I first heard reruns of The Bickersons, to the staged spats between Alice Faye and Phil Harris, to watching George and Weezy and Al and Peggy Bundy, to hearing my folks behind a closed bedroom door whisper sharply at one another so as to perpetuate the delusion to my sister and I that they never argued, it became clear to me that the longer you're around a significant other the more they pluck your nerves.

I'm only 2.5 years into this marriage thing, but even before I got hitched I always assumed that the irritation arose 'cause you are constantly around one another. She or he is there when you go to sleep - or at least they should be, unless they're working a night shift. She or he is there when you wake up. Irritation is inevitable.

Hell, I'm irritated right now with the people sitting on either side of me in my newsroom, just 'cause they're here and I see 'em every damn day. No other reason. And I'm not even married to them.

I'm kidding! Really. I love them all. And I'd be beside myself if I had to say do all my writing from home, from my front porch, with a glass of lemonade, some smooth jazz playing quietly, my dog laying at my feet, and no co-workers also chasing stories on the phones around me.

But seriously, I always admire elderly married couples, 'cause frankly I don't know how they've gone so long without stabbing one another with ice picks or poisoning one another's food or something.

When I was covering crime in Milwaukee, I had a case in which a wife was arrested and faced possible charges ranging from major battery to attempted murder, after she nearly beat the brains out of her husband with a frozen fish, 'cause he came home from work, saw what she'd made for dinner...again, and criticized her cooking. She was irritated.

Anyway, if you read the entire synopsis of that Michigan study you'll see that getting irritated with your spouse isn't necessarily a bad thing. The study says that couples over 60 seemed to report fewer problems with their spouses - the suggestion being that after a while they simply grew more comfortable with and less critical of their spouses' irritating habits.

Does that mean they simply wore down and gave up complaining, or they became more accepting over time?

Who knows? But maybe one day Mrs. B will stop leaving her boxers and shoes and yesterday's newspaper laying all over the house.

Wait a minute. I do that. Nevermind.

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  • Ok, I'm divorced -for almost 28 years now -so I'm no judge of lengthy marriages and adjustments that go on within them but, my younger daughter, her spouse, their two small children, his 16-year-old daughter and I all live together in one sort of big old house. (Not really big enough for this many people of these many age ranges, but that's beside the point anyway.) I KNOW I have irritating habits -my daughter frequently points many of them out to me. My SIL has some odd quirks, as do the kids too. The only one here who has no irritating ways would be my daughter -or at least so it seems if you stop and try to point something like that out to her. I've dealt with her and that peculiar quirk -much like some her Dad had too - for almost 32 years now and they really don't bother me any more. Well not that much. Ok, I call her brother and bitch to him when they do get under my skin in a really big way. I think maybe it's a combination of things at play - you get used to things, you give up on trying to get people to change, you mature maybe being the biggest factor. But what do I know about this stuff anyway?

    By Blogger Jeni, at 7:12 PM  

  • Little things that you ignore or don't even notice at the beginning of your blissful journey together become big, irritating, almost insufferable things later.

    Later, after years of trying to change your significant other (who you love dearly), you realize the inescapable, irreducible truth--people rarely change or, if they do, it's a slow, excruciating transformation that in the end hardly rates all the effort that went into it.

    So, you resign yourself to changing the only person you really have some measure of control over--yourself.

    You're still irritated by these peccadilloes, and human foibles, but you've learned that life is short, and getting shorter, and you don't want to kick the bucket with a stroke, high blood pressure, or a heart attack.

    In short, holding one's temper after a certain age becomes a self-serving, self-preservation thing, not something bordering on the mystical, or the profoundly philosophical.

    By Anonymous before the mayflower, at 9:06 PM  

  • People get crankier as they grow older. SO... my hypothesis is if people got younger the longer they stayed married, well heck.. It would be a love fest at 50 years (:

    By Blogger Pamela, at 2:17 AM  

  • Last night after dinner I excused myself to go fix hair and makeup before meeting a friend for coffee, and honey says to me when I came back into the kitchen that 'he was having a flashback to the 80's.' I was like WHHHAAATTTT?? He said my hair looked a little puffy. Even tried to flatten it some with his hand. WTF?
    Now we've been married for going on 25 years so I forgave that little train wreck of a comment but I'm sure he's got it figured out now to NEVER speak about beauty issues again unless wearing body armor. I have no idea where that even came from as usually he's very generous with compliments.
    Interestingly, he called me just a little while ago asking if I wanted to meet him for breakfast. When I said I would be busy with taking our daughter and grandson to a Doc appt. he said how about afterwards, maybe an early lunch, wherever you want honey and whatever time is good for you. LOL
    Seriously, while that was a strange comment coming from a guy who is exceptionally sweet, I'm not mad at all. There are really only 2 or 3 things that slightly annoy me.
    I'd gladly share another 25 years with him! :)

    By Blogger CrystalChick, at 9:36 AM  

  • Seriously, man, do Mrs. B — and all women nationwide — a favor. Put them in the hamper! ;)

    By Blogger thirdworstpoetinthegalaxy, at 10:08 AM  

  • I've been married 13 and a half years now. We've been together for 16. And at 32 and 33, that's half our lives. During courtship, we had one fight. Then after marriage, the first six years or so were pretty rough off and on. Then there came a point where, like BeforeTheMayflower said, you just figure it's not worth the stress. So though he irritates me whenever there's a full moon or he really needs a swift kick, it's pretty mellow now. I irritate him the most when I point out said full moon or swift kick.

    And James, seriously. That crap gets old. Thirteen years later I'm still waiting for my hubby to use a hamper.

    By Anonymous katrice0321, at 9:45 PM  

  • Things work out when you both can accept the shortcomings in each other. I say that after 38 years of mutual work.

    By Blogger The CEO, at 11:26 PM  

  • Find a person who will love you BECAUSE of your differences not in spite of them, and you have found a lover for life!~~~Leo Buscaglia

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5:49 PM  

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