Friday, May 13, 2011

Giving Up Control

Matt piles stuff on top of his side of our dresser. It has always bothered me. Right now, there is a pair of shorts, a polo shirt from work, a package of new underwear, and a large envelope containing some old farming magazines. (Yes, I inventoried the "pile" for purposes of this post). I've tried everything to get him to move the pile but most of the time I would just try to ignore it because I've pretty much learned that no matter what I do, stuff still seems to find its way back up there. Allow me to present a visual (and I should add that when I put the flower pots up there, I secretly thought they might serve as a deterrent to the pile. They did not).

Well, not long ago I was moving stuff up off the floor to vacuum. As I moved around the room, I came to my side of the dresser where I scooped up a pile of "stuff" and set it on the bed. And now that I think about it, there are always at least a couple of things in that spot. How interesting that Matt's pile bothers me but I never even noticed my own. I started asking myself why that is - because to an outsider (or an angry husband) it looks like I think I'm the only one allowed to make a mess. As I thought about it, I found the real reason. My pile doesn't bother me because I have control over what I put there, when I put it there, and how I long I wait before I clean it up. His pile bothers me because I don't have control over it. Suddenly I realize that this isn't really about him and his mess problem. This is about me and my control problem.

Ok, I admit it - I tend to want to be in control of things. I like to hold the instruction manual, the map, and the remote. I'm a here-just-let-me-do-it kind of person and I have a very hard time with we'll-just-figure-it-out-later people. I do my best to keep it within the confines of my own life, which is great for other people but not always so great for the person who has to live with me. Although Matt finds my need for control to be bothersome at times, we almost never argue about it. I attribute that to two things. One, Matt is incredibly accepting of it. Two, I am incredibly aware of it. And because of those two things we are able to compromise our way through it and get a lot of laughs in the process.

Matt has always been so great about allowing me to be myself and in return, I owe it to him to allow him to be himself. He lets me make schedules and lists and yes, he even lets me hold the remote most of the time. (I know, what a saint). So I do my best not to take control of his life the way I take control of my own. Unfortunately for me, that also means leaving his pile of stuff alone. As long as he doesn't make a mess with the expectation that I clean it up, then it's his house too and he should be able to put things where he wants them (which is a lot easier for me to type than to believe. But at least I'm working on it).

One of the biggest lessons I've learned as a person who likes to be in control is that I only have the right to control myself. Each time I discover that something is part of my control problem, I have to redefine it in a way that puts the control back on me. It's not my job to control his mess. It is my job control how I react to his mess. So the reaction I chose was to just let it go (which is very different from trying to ignore it. When I ignored it, I just didn't say anything about it but it still bothered me to look at it. I had to let it go, which meant that I would free myself from being bothered by it). Once I did that, it bothered me less every day and now I really don't even notice it anymore. And now, before we go to bed Matt will throw his shirt up on top of the dresser, and then look at me and say, "so what's the schedule for tomorrow?" And we're both happy.

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