It’s interesting, but consider the following question: how many of us think about our attitudes? How many of us talk about our attitudes? Are you a perpetually upbeat person and always looking on the bright side? Are you cynical and annoyed with life in general and look at the glass as half-empty rather than half-full? Did you know that your attitude reflects in everything you say and do?
For example, if you’ve been treated unjustly and you are filled with venom towards the who or what treated you in such a fashion – your attitude will affect the perceptions of those around you, up to and including your spouse? If you’ve never thought of these things, then you should because our attitudes are deeply ingrained and our attitudes comprise major components in our marriages.
Our attitudes affect how we handle things, but they also affect how we perceive things. Have you ever looked at your partner or spouse and said, “I don’t get it – how do you NOT see a mess?”
Your partner likely shrugged and became defensive. They’re not seeing the mess wasn’t intentional, just as they didn’t see it to begin with. Their attitude towards cleaning is different from yours. Other major issues where attitude can cause couples to clash includes:
Simply put, we’re all different and we all grow and change, but our attitudes are pretty static unless they are affected by constant stress over time. The couple that always struggles with money may find their attitudes shifting, even becoming polar opposites on the issue. A new mom’s attitude towards sex may not reflect her husband’s. A husband’s attitude towards sex may change.
And that’s the point, attitudes can shift and if we’re not talking about it, we may never understand why. If he’s not talking to you anymore, you need to know. If you’re not having sex anymore, you need to know. If he or she seems physiologically incapable of picking up their laundry and actually putting it in the laundry basket, you need to know.
So if you’re thinking that’s great, but how? Consider trying one or all of the following:
Identify your own attitudes and quantify them. He doesn’t put dishes in the dishwasher, why does this tick you off? What disturbs you about it? Make it clear, make it not a criticism and complain, honestly: (i.e. when you leave your dirty dishes on the counter or table and don’t just load them into the dishwasher, I feel like I am supposed to be the maid. I do not like to feel this way. Can we talk about what we need to do to fix this for both of us?)
If you can identify where your attitudes come from and why you feel like, you can often work towards a mutually satisfying solution. Maybe your parents were neatniks, maybe they weren’t. My grandmother cleaned with bleach and I often don’t think I can get the house nearly as clean as she did. It drives me nuts to have things out of place, I will actually get headaches and feel restless until the straightening is done. Over the years, my husband learned to understand this attitude and does his best to give me a hand.
As evidenced on a particularly bad day where everything went wrong, I called him while on the road heading home and expressed my utter dissatisfaction with everything. I was miserable right up until I walked in our front door. The house was immaculate. He’d done all the chores from taking out the trash to running the vacuum to wiping down the counters.
Because a clean house really lifts my attitude and takes the finger off my hot-button of stress.
Understanding your attitudes can help you facilitate things for both of you. It can take some of the powder out of the magazines of arguments and it can increase your levels of intimacy. Don’t expect to change someone’s behaviors, the only person who can do that is him or herself. But if you can learn about their attitudes and they can learn about yours, you’re already on a great road to compromise.