My girlfriend and I moved in together six months ago, and as to be expected, it’s taken some time to get used to each other’s idiosyncrasies – doing the laundry, putting away dishes, and so on. For instance, Melissa sorts our clean towels according to size. I, on the other hand, prefer to separate by use, because… eww, gross. The gym towels should never touch the bath towels! Even if they’re clean, that’s disgusting! Right?
Still, I pride myself on the fact that I don’t get annoyed with her over petty things. When she does something that’s the complete opposite of what I’d do, I remind myself that it’s not a big deal. And if it is a big deal, we work something out. We always work something out.
But that wasn’t always how I operated.
Thirteen years ago, I experienced another cohabitation situation, and it was difficult, to say the least. Katie, my girlfriend at the time, was coming up on the end of her lease, but hadn’t been able to find a new apartment. Since I lived alone, I offered to let her move in with me for a few months. When she accepted, I was genuinely excited.
Once she actually moved in, though, the way I acted was anything but excited. I’d go so far as to say that I was an asshole to her. I was never physically abusive, but I definitely got frustrated with her. Often.
One time, she wanted a soda while we had some friends over. There weren’t any cold ones left, so she tossed a can of Coke in the freezer, figuring it’d be nice and cold in ten minutes. Well, she promptly forgot about it, and 20 minutes later, I heard a loud pop coming from inside the fridge.
I opened the freezer door, and I saw that the can of Coke had exploded, covering everything in a layer of syrupy brown liquid. I pretty much flipped out. In front of our friends, I said to her in a tone I’m not proud of, “Oh my god, I can’t believe you did that! You’re cleaning that up!”
Looking more bewildered than anything else, she nodded meekly and said she’d clean it up. And immediately, I felt horrible for losing my temper.
This was the most egregious instance of me getting unnecessarily angry with Katie, but it wasn’t the only one. There were many.
Years after we’d broken up, I worked up the courage to apologize to her, even specifically mentioning the Coke incident. I was surprised to hear that she didn’t even remember it. Obviously, I still do, and I still cringe every time I think about that night.
Today, I’m proud to say that I’m no longer an angry boyfriend. In fact, Melissa often jokes that I’m too stoic and never seem to get upset or annoyed by anything. I’d like to think that I’ve matured over the last ten years and that I’ve learned to let the petty things go.
But what if that’s only part of it? What if it wasn’t just a matter of maturity, or lack thereof?
As much pride as I take in my ability to chill the fuck out nowadays, I think there was another element to the anger issues that I had with Katie. Deep down, there were aspects of the relationship that I wasn’t happy with. I realize that now. And I know she felt those same doubts. In public, we got along great, and all of our friends liked us as a couple. But in private, neither of us was ready to put the effort into making it a lasting relationship. I didn’t figure it out until years later, but frustration was a symptom of my subconscious lashing out and trying to be heard, not that it excuses any of my behavior.
You know the saying that if you love someone, their quirks become cute and adorable? And if you’re not into someone, their quirks become obnoxious? Well, both of us were feeling a deep-seated dissatisfaction with the relationship, so we found ways to get on each other’s nerves. Of course, this only pushed us apart – which, ultimately, is what we both needed, but were too naïve to admit.
At this point, we’ve only been living together for six months, but I already feel a difference with Melissa. She does some of the exact same things that I used to get furious at Katie for. And shockingly, they don’t bother me at all. So, the meadowy freshness of my bath towels has to intermix with the locker room stank of my gym towels. I can learn to live with it.
And that’s how I know that this relationship will last.
If you find yourself constantly annoyed or frustrated or even angry with your partner, maybe you can blame it on yourself being an uptight person, or your partner having obnoxious habits. But ultimately, maybe it’s a sign that you’re not right for each other. Maybe, when you and your partner are a good fit, you don’t spend your days thinking about all the ways you can prove them wrong. No, you respect them enough that you spend your days thinking about all the ways you can learn from them.
On the flip side, if you find that your partner is always grumpy or surly, maybe it’s worth considering if they’re just an angry person, or if their subconscious is trying to say something that maybe they don’t even realize yet.
Either way, is this person worth staying with?
This article was originally published at The Frisky in March 2014. Comments for the article can be found here.
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