We had irreconcilable differences: He refused to put the toilet seat down.

By Donna Lee Schillinger

A fool shows her annoyance at once, but a prudent woman overlooks an insult. Proverbs 12:16

She who covers an offense promotes love… Proverbs 17:9

Her ways are pleasant and all her paths are peace.

I once heard a story of a Japanese woman who suffered a slap in the face by her tantruming three-year-old without batting an eyelash. Instead of rebuking the behavior and trying to force discipline on an obviously upset child, she continued to coo him into submission as he writhed and lashed out. Her objective was to calm the child. Even as he struck her in the face, she did not lose sight of her objective. How could instantly switching from her comforting coos to a “No, no! We don’t hit! Do not hit Mommy!” help calm the child? She left that lesson for another moment, when the child was calm and would soak up her instruction.

This mother reacted in a way that is unnatural. Our natural reaction when we’re dealt a blow to the face is to stop and defend ourselves, nip unwanted behavior in the bud or perhaps even to strike back. However, if she had acted on these natural inclinations, they would have taken her off course for her objective: to calm the child. To accomplish her objective, she needed to pursue harmony, not perpetuate discord.

Pursuing harmony is all well and good, but for women in relationships, does that mean we have to suffer the same insults repeatedly? Take, for example, the boyfriend who likes to tell an embarrassing story about us in front of other people. He thinks it’s all in fun, apparent by his good humor as he tells our tales. We think it’s humiliating and we wish he would stop. Instead of addressing the insult when he delivers it (The next time he does that, I’m going to walk out!), giving back “tit for tat” (I’ll get him back with embarrassing stories of his own!), or just completely ignoring it time after time until our self-esteem suffers, we can strategically select an opportunity to lovingly tell our boyfriend how we feel when he does that. In private and when we’re already in harmony, we say, “When you do…, I feel…” Don’t say: “I hate when you do that.” Or, “I wish you wouldn’t do that.” Or, “You always…” The most effective few words we can use to educate our boyfriends will clearly communicate how it makes us feel. If they really care for us and are considerate, they will stop that behavior, though it may take them some time and effort to change their bad habits.

What about when the offense is just irksome, but in all honestly doesn’t warrant a statement about how it makes us feel? Should we use this same strategy to address the toilet lid left up or the pretty tea towels used to clean spills on the floor? We don’t have to be resigned to always putting the lid down ourselves for the rest of our lives, but we do need to make sure that the issue of the toilet lid does not become an element of discord in our relationships. To minimize the frustration these things cause, try making a list of things he has to put with. Maybe he’s the type of person who likes to get places early and we’re always causing him to be late. In the big picture, it probably balances out. But if it truly does not, then cut him loose now because marriage will only erode the thin coating keeping you from being a live wire!

Not as serious as all that? Ask yourself, how important are the toilet lid, tea towels and host of other things making up your “gripe”? Are they more important than harmony in your relationship? Are you really unhappy because of these petty things? If so, that boyfriend might be putting up with more than you realize.

Hold this thought: I’ll let the little things go.

Note: If you’re in a relationship where the slap in the face is literal, this is not petty offense. In fact, it’s a serious offense, morally and legally, and most certainly worth disturbing the relationship and ending it completely.

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