In relationships, it is not uncommon for couples to have difficulties. Sometimes there are things your partner does that drives you crazy! In my work with couples, a common, innocent complaint of women is that their husbands don’t put their dirty clothes in the hamper. They will leave their dirty clothes on the floor right next to the hamper but just won’t take that extra step to get them in the hamper. This seems like such a simple issue but I have heard some women on the verge of divorce or a mental breakdown over this simple issue.

Now, I want to give men equal time here. One of the problems men complain about is their wife’s inability to put gas in their car. She will often drive around with the red “low gas” light on and it drives husbands wild! This seems like another simple thing but it has placed a huge strain on many relationships.

When I ask the question, “Whose problem is it,” what I am really asking is, “Whose most upset by this problem”? Well, in the case of the dirty clothes, it’s the woman who is upset. In the case of the empty gas tank, it’s the man who is upset. Do you think the man is sitting at work upset because he left his dirty clothes on the floor? I doubt he even gives them a second thought once they are off his body. And as for the woman, I don’t think she’s sitting at home thinking, “Oh darn, I forgot to stop for gas and now my sweetie is out driving our car and there’s no gas”! No, in this situation, she is likely oblivious to the gas situation.

If we can agree that the person with the problem is the person most upset by the issue, then we can get somewhere. If there is a person in the relationship who is upset with the other person because of something he or she does or does not do, then it is the first person’s problem. One of the biggest mistakes we make in relationships is having inaccurate problem definition.

However, what commonly happens is that if I am upset by something you do, then I am certain YOU are the problem and I am going to do all in my power to ensure you understand just how much of a problem you are. I am taking my problem and trying my hardest to make it your problem. If you are on the receiving end of my frustration, you have three common responses. You can ignore my attempts at making you responsible for my issue, you can accept it’s your problem and attempt to fix it, or you can fight back and resist my attempts to make you guilty.

In each of those situations, we both lose. It may look like I win if you choose the second choice but do I really? Even if you fix the problem as I’ve identified it, how are you feeling about me? Probably you are resentful of my methods. You may not like having to do something you don’t think is important. You may even find me unreasonable in my requests, thinking I don’t have my priorities straight. This will do nothing to strengthen our relationship. So, even if I think I’ve “won” something, our relationship has suffered and so I lose.

The only way I see to have a winning outcome is for the person who is most upset to accept that the problem belongs to him or her. Instead of trying to get your partner to fix your problem, accept responsibility for its solution. Pick up the clothes. Fill the gas tank. Whatever the issue is, fix it. And while you’re at it, leave the resentment behind. Don’t get angry because your partner doesn’t see the world the same way you do. Don’t be frustrated that your priorities are different.

If you truly love this person, then accept him or her as he or she is. Stop trying to change your partner. Fix the things that annoy you gratefully. Be happy that you have this wonderful person in your life. You will be less frustrated and a better person with whom to live. Your relationship will prosper.

Author's Bio: 

Kim Olver is a life coach and public speaker who has a graduate degree in counseling, is a National Certified Counselor and a licensed professional counselor in two states. She has worked in the helping profession since 1982 and has spent her entire life helping people get along better with the important people in their lives. Kim works with couples, parents and children, and individuals seeking to improve their lives.