My husband and I have different definitions of ‘clean’ and ‘tidy.’ I grew up thinking there was only one definition for each but then I got married and learned otherwise. When I say I want to clean my house, the list of what all that entails looks something like, vacuuming, mopping, scrubbing the toilets and tubs, dusting, etc. My husband, on the other hand, would say that cleaning the house includes sweeping the kitchen, taking the trash out, maybe vacuuming the carpet but definitely never dusting.
Tidying was the same way for us. After some minor tiffs in our early months or marriage, my baffled husband finally said ‘Mer I don’t mean to sound stupid, but I just don’t know what you mean when you say tidy? What exactly do you want me to do?’ I remember looking back at him utterly perplexed thinking ‘tidy, that’s exactly what I mean and that’s exactly what I want you to do, tidy.’ Somehow I had the wherewithal to not actually say those words and instead I said ‘tidy means I can’t see any of your stuff that’s laying around.’ It was a total lightbulb moment for him, a passageway into the crazy mind of the woman he’d married.
Along with our differing definitions came the realization that there are two kinds of people in a marriage; those that make their bed and those that don’t. This presents somewhat of a problem when you share a bed. I’m sure you would never have guessed, but I am the bed maker in my marriage. I am very serious when it comes to bed making, I like the sheets to be pulled taut and pillows fluffed to perfection. My sweet husband amuses me so and regularly helps me make our bed. He could not care less about making the bed because, after all, we are just going to get back in it that night so he believes it is a waste of energy that could be channeled into something more productive and he has a legitimate point.
It wouldn’t come as a surprise to me if, early on in our marriage, Justin may have wondered if he had married an OCD drill sergeant given my demeanor towards bed making. ‘Pull the quilt up higher, fluff that pillow on the right, make sure the sheets are tightly tucked, straighten out the bed skirt.’ I told you I was serious about it. Day after day I would come around behind him, smoothing out every last little wrinkle my hawks eye caught and giving one more fluff for good measure.
I realize this is a little insane, also a little funny, but also not funny at all because with every tuck and fluff I was communicating to my husband that he didn’t do it right or that he didn’t do a good enough job.
It was never my intent to make him feel like he didn’t do a good enough job but that’s what my actions were communicating, and the little comments I made were doing more damage to him than I realized. Rather than communicating by my gratitude that I felt loved by his acts of service for me, my nitpicking made him feel like he could never do a good enough job.
In reality, it doesn’t matter if he uses a different cleaner than the one you normally use to mop the floors; your floor is clean, and he cleaned it for you.
It doesn’t matter which rag, brush, or sponge he uses to clean the kitchen sink out with; your sink is clean and he cleaned it for you.
It doesn’t matter how he folds your shirts; he folded your clothes for goodness sake.
So these days instead of going back and tucking and pulling, I find my husband and thank him because he made up our bed just for me, because he loves me, and he knows I like the bed made (even though we are just going to get back in it at night.)
Instead of telling him which brush, rag, or cleaner I want him to use, I thank him for offering to help because the likelihood is that it doesn’t matter which one he uses anyway.
When I get over my definitions and standards rather than nit picking and continually making him feel like he hasn’t done a good enough job, it only leaves space for gratitude to my husband and all that he gives and all that he does for me.