• Leslie Crews

How Silent Wars Create Peace in Relationships

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My husband refuses to put the toilet paper on the toilet paper dispenser. He will put it on the sink. On the shelf. On the back of the toilet. The back of the sink, which is terrible when your arms are the length of an 8-year old’s. It drives me crazy. To add insult to injury, our dispenser is a floating solid metal bar, not a horrible spring loading bar. They’re banned from our house. It’s obvious that I have strong feelings about toilet paper. If you want to drive me utterly insane, leave the last three squares on the roll. Better yet, leave the last three squares on the roll with the flap faced backwards. **sirens, flashing lights, buildings crumbling, total chaos in the brain**. Admittedly, I’m a bit OCD about toilet paper etiquette.

Hold your judgments, everyone has a weird thing about them. And perhaps I shouldn’t tell the Internet how to [momentarily] ruin my life, but it’s necessary, to convey the gravity and seriousness of what I now call, The Silent Toilet Paper War.

Pick your battles wisely.

I wrote about my ten-year journey to the altar in Married After 10 Years of Dating, and how cohabitation before marriage was the best decision we could have made for our relationship. Living together taught me the importance of picking my battles, and the necessity of allowing my partner to be themselves, authentically. These two lessons have led to happiness and peace in our home and in our relationship, even through the stressful periods in life.

If you are considering signing a new lease, I must warn you; living together is a constant battle.

Sometimes things will go exactly as you envisioned, for a long stretch of time. You’ll begin to think, “Maybe this is a permanent thing now?” You’ll get optimistic. Hopeful. Then *WAM*. You just got dragged all over the place. The old habit is back as expected. It’s maddening. But you’re not innocent. To make your partner happy, you’ll give, a little. Then you’ll give a lot because you truly want to make them happy. Over time, it becomes harder to keep up because this new thing goes against everything you’ve ever done, and muscle memory never fails you. Rest assured, you will not always be a treasure to live with. But when you’re in a committed relationship, you can’t afford to make a big deal out of every small thing that causes friction. Being angry with someone for being who they are causes unnecessary tension in the relationships, and it’s a waste of everyone’s time.

Let’s be honest with ourselves.

There are things about the people in our lives that we want desperately for them to change. But somewhere inside we know that the probability of change happening is low [in the negative]. If we are honest with ourselves and accept that we cannot change anyone but ourselves, perhaps the honeymoon phase of relationships would last longer. Perhaps relationships would have a chance to grow strong and prosper. Perhaps people would learn to take more factors into consideration before getting married or committing to someone.

If your partner is devoted and fun to be around, but they refuse to fold the towels the way you’ve folded them since 1992, don’t get overly upset and lash out at them. Of course, you may be irritated, but this small, though annoying, infringement of your mental space doesn’t have to be the start of an argument. Over the years I’ve learned to manage my reaction in response to the situation. I have not mastered this and I don’t think its humanly possible to, but this is the work that people always talk about when it comes to maintaining and nurturing relationships. No one is perfect.

Acceptance is a key element in building healthy relationships and living a more peaceful life.

It’s easy to yell when you’re frustrated about having to ask the same question for the fifth time and not receive a response. Yelling is an immediate release of aggression and it feels good. But when you choose to combine lives with someone, yelling does nothing positive for the relationship.

Because I am trying to be a better human, I do not yell at my husband for not putting the toilet paper on the floating solid metal bar, and he doesn’t yell at me for the myriad of random odd things that I do. Picking battles is hard work, but momentary irritation shouldn’t disturb the peace.

I hope this helps someone. Thanks for reading.

This story was originally published by Leslie Crews for The Startup on September 11, 2019.

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