A newlywed couple returns from their honeymoon filled with excitement from the week. They unpack, recount the fresh memories they just made and begin to make the adjustment of having another person living in their space. As the days unfold, a curious thing begins to happen. The kitchen trash begins to overflow. No one takes it out. Instead, each partner wonders how long the other will wait before bringing it to the curb. As the days go by, the trash grows higher, and their apartment smells increasingly worse. Each thinks that the other is a bit of a slob. Finally, the wife approaches her husband and politely asks, “How long do you plan to wait before taking out the trash? The paint is peeling of the walls in the kitchen.” “Me?” He responds. “I thought taking out the trash was your responsibility.” In her family of origin her father brought the trash out, and in his family of origin his mother brought the trash out. Each figured it would work the same way in their marriage.
This is an example of an unspoken rule. We tend to create rules in our minds about the way certain things should operate without communicating them to others. Unspoken rules exist in every area of life, but especially in marriage. Sometimes, couples create their own unspoken rules and everyone follows them, usually because they have similar rules. At other times, each partner brings these unspoken rules into the marriage and then wonders why their spouse does not abide by them.
The reason our spouse does not abide by our unspoken rules is because they are….well…unspoken. This seems straightforward enough, but so often tension builds in relationships because the other person isn’t abiding by our set of unspoken rules. Most of the time, we don’t even realize we are doing this. We think it must be obvious that our spouse should just fall in line with our set of unspoken rules. After all, isn’t this the way everyone should conduct themselves?
Sometimes we confer to our spouse mind reading abilities that they do not have. They are not necessarily privy to how responsibilities were divided in our families growing up, who took on certain roles, or they way we think things should operate in the present.
A great deal of the time, these issues sort themselves out. As was the case with our newlywed friends, one can only stand so much trash piling up in the kitchen, so they had a discussion. But sometimes these things do not work themselves out, and one party just takes out the trash, feeling they are doing the other person’s duty. This then leaves room for on spouse to feel bitter or resentful toward the other. One just assumes the other is being lazy, selfish, or obstinate, when in reality, the other person believes things are running as they should be.
So what is the moral of the story? Your spouse cannot read your mind. You have to tell them when things are bothering you. You have to clue them in to your world. Just because they are not following the rules that exist in your mind that you have never told them does not mean they are trying to slight you or ruin your day. It could be that they just don’t know.
Walk good. Live wise. Be blessed.
What were/are some of the unspoken rules you brought into your marriage?
Here were a few of mine (which were different than my wife’s):
-Weekends are for staying home, relaxing, and watching movies.
-Laundry should be divided in three separate hampers.
-Microwaves are for heating food, but also storing open containers of food.
-When someone “beeps in” while you are on the phone, you switch over.