According to Emirates News, in 2013 a man divorced his wife because he found a picture on her social media of her kissing a horse and decided that she was cheating on him. Apparently she was fine with the divorce, saying that she was “not upset by splitting from a man who cannot distinguish between humans and animals.” Hopefully none of us would be tempted to divorce over such a stupid issue, but many of us fight over stupid issues that we really should let go.
Not fighting about stupid stuff sounds simple in principle, but determining whether something is worth addressing can be tough. Here are a few questions that I ask myself when I’m trying to determine whether to bring up an issue:
1. Is this situation ever going to happen again?
Some events really are one time situations. For example, imagine that you are getting ready to go on a roller coaster and your husband, who is in front of you in line, gets the last seat in the car ahead of you, leaving you to ride by yourself with people you don’t know. Do you wish he had waited for you? Moved back into the car that you are in? Sure! Are you likely to encounter the situation again? It’s unlikely. In a situation like this, it’s usually better to just let it go. If the situation does ever come up again, you can always address it then. You would be surprised how many of these one time situations people fight over!
2. Is this event absolutely unacceptable to you?
Even if something may never happen again, you should address it if it is a behavior that is completely unacceptable to you. For example, I feel very strongly about not threatening to get divorced, even in joking. If my husband did that, I would definitely talk to him about it even if I thought it was unlikely to happen again because it would be absolutely essential for me that it never happen again. My one piece of advice with answering this question, though, would be to take a break from the situation before addressing the situation. Often, space from the situation will show you that it is not as horrific as you thought, and if it really is a big deal, you will want to be as calm as possible to deal with it anyway.
3. Is this event important?
The opposite of the last question is important as well. If the event really isn’t a big deal, it will probably be more valuable for your relationship as a chance for you to practice letting things go than it will be as a subject for discussion. Most pet peeves fall into this category of stupid stuff to fight about. Pet peeves can be difficult to deal with, though, so if you need a refresher, check out this past blog post. In general, if an event is not important, you should let it go. Unless, of course, question #4 applies…
4. Is this situation part of a troublesome pattern?
Events that are unimportant by themselves can become important if they are part of a pattern that is important. Not every pattern is important. Just because your husband leaves the toilet seat up every day and it irritates you every day doesn’t mean that’s an important issue. On the other hand, an event that highlights an important pattern should not be ignored. For example, siding with his mom’s opinion on a minor issue isn’t necessarily important, but if he sides with his mom every time you have a disagreement with her, that may signal a bigger problem that needs to be addressed. In that case, make sure you address the bigger issue, not just the specific situation, and take time to prepare mentally for the discussion. The heat of the moment is not the time to deal with a pattern.
These four questions have been really helpful for me in deciding which things to address and which to let go. Ultimately, the biggest question is this one, though: Am I addressing this because I believe doing so will make my relationship stronger, or do I just want to vent my frustration? If you are just venting frustration, you might be fighting over stupid stuff.