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No Room for Pettiness — Ever

Reprinted from PN/Paraplegia News March 2014

Set aside your spouse's seemingly bad habits, and be grateful for the things they do for you.

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In all relationships, after spending abundant time in each other’s company, we all tend to point out little things about the other person that can cause us a bit of discomfort.

Eventually unchecked, these little annoyances become outright nerve-crackers and we become unable to withstand even the slightest inkling of their occurrence.

Additionally, we become internally grateful that we have no such habits to annoy anyone who is lucky enough to be in our presence, so why should we have to put up with these habits in someone else?

Well, if we come back to reality for just a moment, we would possibly realize our spouse is probably thinking the exact same thing, but with one exception.

Dishing It Out

We, who are disabled, inevitably put up with far less than what we dish out. This isn’t to say we do it on purpose. As a matter of fact, it’s quite possible we don’t even know what we’re doing and when we’re doing it.

As my friend, wounded warrior Norbie Lara once said to me, “You may think you don’t wear the burden of your traumatic experience, but all those around you can see it clearly as daylight.”

While you’re busy being annoyed at your spouse’s idiosyncrasies, your spouse is trying to be patient with your mood swings, bursts of anger, constant criticisms, complaints regarding your physical condition and of course, their efforts not to upset you by sharing their concerns and fears about what has happened to you.

The problem is, as you keep up this angry man/woman act, you’re slowly losing what feelings of support that existed around you. The reason this is one of the early rules is because it’s important you learn to master this skill as quickly as possible, if for no other reason than for the sake of your marriage/relationship.

Expended Energy

I hope you’re reading this while you’re still in the rehabilitation hospital or very soon out of it.

First, remember how much your spouse was by your side while you were in the hospital. If your spouse carries a full- or part-time job, you need to realize just how much energy he or she expended on your behalf.

The late nights by your side, driving home during the most dangerous hours, getting up after only a few hours of sleep and trying to perform at 100% the following day at work, are only a few of the sacrifices your spouse underwent for you.

Additionally, your spouse didn’t complain because he or she knew you had enough on your mind to worry about. Which could only mean he or she experienced quite a few other inconveniences in order to be there at the hospital for you.

Having read all that, how do you work through those issues?

Know Your Feelings

I can’t tell you how to make things work. I can only tell you how I make it work in my marriage.

First and foremost, I tell my wife I’ll never divorce her. As strange as this sounds, if you remember your wedding vows, you made mention of for better or worse. I simply make sure my wife knows those weren’t just words, but real feelings.

Yes, we have our arguments, but while we are arguing, my wife doesn’t have to worry that the marriage is in any danger whatsoever.

The second thing I try to do is pay attention to my own feelings. Once I realized my emotions were neither the fault nor the responsibility of other people, I learned to alter my self-talk habits.

I would first ask myself “Why is this situation making me angry?” Sometimes the answer was as simple as it’s the month of my injury.

I noticed every November was very difficult for me. This was because it was the same month as my injury. So every November I would take extra care to watch my mood and my reactions to statements being said around me.

Other times the answer was a bit more elusive, like I’m feeling trapped and my wife doesn’t trust me to go outside on my own. Rather than just scream and push myself out of the house, I would try and talk with her about how I was feeling in regards to feeling trapped.

I just needed to remember all disputes can be resolved with a conversation, and never, never call my wife a bad name. Once I had those rules down pat and my wife learned to trust not only me, but the strength of the marriage, we were able to get through some really tough times.

Make a Choice

So my advice to those of you married or in a relationship is this: Don’t let the injury affect the relationship in any negative way.

You’re going to have negative emotions, stressful days, sleepless nights, you name it. But you also have free will and thus the ability to choose how you are going to react to any situation at any time.

And in that choice, we can also choose how we are going to live the rest of our lives.

Me, I chose to live it with my wife by my side. The question is now, what do you choose?

 

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No Room for Pettiness — Ever

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