While I'm away, readers give the advice.
On the impulse to badger a mate: One technique to address domestic nagging is to privately set a block of time (two weeks minimum) when you vow to yourself that you will not bring the problem up or discuss it. Then stick to it. One of the key elements is not announcing this to anyone but yourself — so that the amnesty doesn't become just another issue. It's completely within your control. I've found the results to be surprising — including apologies and changed behavior. Even if those don't occur, there is always an improvement in the relationship.
• • •
On dating someone with a short temper: I am married to someone who refers to all children as "little bastards," who complains to a store clerk by saying, "I am sure you don't give a damn about what I need" (I have been unable to convince him that is hardly the way to get positive attention), who believes the world is a bad place and everyone is out to get him, and who routinely curses at cars, people, dogs, and anything animate.
His bitterness and anger, his hotheadedness and eagerness for a fight, are all exhausting, and have alienated almost all our friends, leaving me much alone. (When he complained about a trivial issue in a hotel on our vacation, I went back to the desk to say, "Deal with me, I'm the nice one," and from that point on they were lovely to me, and avoided him, as do most people.)
People need to see clearly that love may not be enough and that they must learn early to be themselves, and not, NOT, feel responsible for others' actions, nor pose for them. Also, love may be enough for them, but it may be a lonely existence and they need to be alert to that.
Wife of 43 Years
• • •
On loving the marriage you've got: After almost 25 years of marriage, I know almost everyone comes to the point where they realize they didn't marry their "dream" spouse. Hopefully they also realize that person never existed — except in their mind. And that's not a bad thing, as long as they can work through expecting their actual spouse to perform like the imagined one. It can be tough, but I've realized it's far better to have a fallible, less-than-perfect-wife than to grow bitter toward her because she'll never measure up to my "dream."
I'm most thankful my wife doesn't criticize me because I'm not her "dream" hubby.
• • •
Continued: My husband, after about 10 years of marriage, gradually stopped saying hello when I came home, kissing me goodbye, etc. For a while I felt like, "If he won't do this, then I won't either, that'll show him." Then I realized I wanted to live in the kind of home where people showed others these small courtesies. Can't do much about what he chooses to do; can do a lot about my own actions. When you make a conscious effort to do things you want, because they are important to you, rather than because you want to manipulate the actions of somebody else, most of the resentment just evaporates away. It's the realization that you have choices, and you are acting freely.