It’s Be Nice to Your Spouse Week!

by Kara on March 17, 2010

Okay, I made that up. As far as I know, there is no such thing as Be Nice to Your Spouse Week. You should probably be nice to your spouse every day! But I bring it up because I am in the middle of reading The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. She selected a different area to focus on each month for a year, in order to try and increase her happiness (that is an extremely simplified version of what she did). I am only on the third month now, but I was so taken with February that I had to write about it now. The book would be worth it just for February alone.

That chapter’s focus was on love. Specifically, how we can’t change our spouse, so we should focus on what we can change – ourselves. This is all no brainer stuff, but I really like the way Rubin talks about it. She says of her husband Jamie, “I’d donate a kidney to Jamie without a moment’s hesitation, but I was intensely annoyed if he asked me to stop at the drugstore to pick up shaving cream.” Most of us – those of us who aren’t perfect – have let petty annoyances get in the way in our marriages, but this really crystalized for me how important it is to fight against that. I am NOT going to be perfect, but since reading this chapter, I’ve really tried to stop and think before I speak to my husband. When he does little things that annoy me, I seen to forget all the reasons that I love him and just focus on one petty thing. That’s not to say that I always need to agree with everything he says and does, but I have to learn to let some things go. I have no idea if my husband has noticed or will notice any change, but what I have already found out is that it does make me happier. It is a lot more relaxing when I can let things go and just enjoy his company.

I am putting most of my focus on two things, both of which Rubin discusses in the book. First, I am not complaining about work. I’m trying not to talk about work at all. It has to be kind of stressful for him to have to come home and listen to me complain about my stressful day when he just wants to relax. And the bonus is that then I don’t have to carry the stress home with me – I can just leave it at the office. It will be waiting for me when I get there tomorrow!

The other thing I am focusing on is not nagging. This morning, I started to tell him to move the bag of dog food out of the foyer and into the hallway, but I stopped mid-sentence. It didn’t have to be done that moment. I knew we would be cleaning the house this weekend before my Mom comes to visit, and I know it will get put away then. Normally, I would just do something like that myself, but I am no longer allowed to lift a 30 pound bag of dog food – definitely not worth the pain. There are some things that I simply cannot do (and some I just don’t want to do), and I’m trying to step back and remember that most things don’t need to be taken care of immediately unless I am willing to do them.

The New York Times had an article today about couples arguing on Facebook that I found rather appalling. The lack of respect these couples had for one another was staggering. I know it’s a different generation, but respecting the person you love shouldn’t really go out of style. But it was another reminder that not everything needs to be said. I am very sarcastic, and things that I intend to be funny sometimes just come out mean. Is it really worth it? Probably not. In her book, Rubin points out that we tend to be more kind and considerate to other people than to our spouses. That feels true to me. We should be kind and considerate to everyone, but that should INCLUDE our spouses.

Rubin started a blog (see chapter three) about the Happiness Project, and it is also a great resource. I think it is still worth reading the book, however, because it follows a very specific month by month plan and the blog is more general. A friend loaned me the book (even though I should be reading the books I already have) and I am really glad she did. I am not a big fan of self-help books, but I really like Rubin’s non-sappy, organized approach to the material. I related to so much of what she shares about herself in the book, that I found it much more useful than just some general book with a list of tips on how to be happier. The Happiness Project is really a memoir of how Rubin approached bringing more happiness to her life, and her personal successes and failures are what make the book work.

Stephen will probably read this (although I’m kind of hoping this will be one of the times he doesn’t read my blog), so it won’t be a very secret experiment. These are things I can change that won’t take any extra time out of my life. It just takes a little more thought before I open my mouth, and we could probably all stand to do that.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Margot March 18, 2010 at 11:03 am

If you’ve read my blog recently, you’ll know that I gave up self-help in 1978. But Rubin’s book sounds interesting; I’ll take a look. :-)

Kara March 18, 2010 at 12:55 pm

You reminded me that I kept meaning to put up a link to your blog. I loved what you said on the post you referenced, “There are so many books in the world and I’m having trouble getting to them all.” I find it a source of great annoyance that there is no humanly possible way to read every book I might want to read! But for now, I going to keep trying.

The Happiness Project is definitely worth checking out. I keep having ah ha moments while reading it, and there will definitely be at least another one or two posts about it. Self-help books are usually impractical, vague and/or just plain stupid, but I am not calling this one a self-help book. I’m calling it FUN!

Tina October 23, 2010 at 10:23 am

Thank you for sharing. this is great info and now i want to read the happiness project myself. Thank you

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