Show your wife you still have a few tricks up your sleeve.
Take a pencil and piece of paper and write down something your wife does that bothers you a lot. Next, write down something your wife does that bothers you somewhat. Then write down something your wife does that bothers you only a little.
Next, take the thing you wrote that bothers you a lot, and throw it away. Then, take the thing which bothers you somewhat and throw that away. Now, take the thing that bothers you a little and ask yourself this question: What would it cost me to forgive her entirely for this thing that she does? In other words: What would I be losing if I were to just let it drop?
Let me give you an example: my wife used to stress me out by leaving lights on all over the house. I tried many times in many ways, some calm and reasonable, some not so calm and not so reasonable, to explain to her that this waste of electricity was not good for the environment and was costing us money. Sometimes she would comply for a while, but, sooner or later, this miscreant behavior would reappear. At one point I realized that this was just the way it was going to be and that I might as well quit getting steamed about it and learn to live with it. And I did! What was the cost? The electric company profits a little and the environment suffers a little. The cost to me was that I had to accept that I can’t control her (or anybody else for that matter) even if for a valid reason and that my male ego was going to be slightly bruised for a while.
Now why, you may well ask, would I be willing to subject myself to these consequences? I mentioned stress earlier, albeit in an inaccurate manner. I said earlier my wife was stressing me out, whereas, in reality, I was stressing myself out and blaming her for it. Granted, the stress created was not all that much in the larger scheme of things, but who needs additional stress in any amount? Similarly, though the blame I was casting upon my wife was minor, casting blame, especially unjustified blame, always carries a subtle yet significant psychological cost.
Let me lay out another scenario for you. You are at a wake; your uncle has passed away. You see a cousin you have had a falling out with and haven’t spoken to in years. Touched by this reminder of the brevity and uncertainty of life you decide to bury the hatchet and go over and embrace (and forgive) your cousin. Even in this instance, a simple decision was made, albeit one impelled by highly charged outer circumstances. My point is this: Why wait? You needn’t wait to be impelled by outer circumstances to forgive perceived slights or injustices: all that is required is a simple decision.
Let’s talk about resentment for a moment. Resentment is generally defined as harboring ill will toward a person or group of persons as a result of perceived mistreatment. It differs from anger in that it has more of a seething quality and is usually unexpressed, a grudge. People struggling with resentment may experience frequent irrational angry outbursts or periods of depression, obsessive distressful daydreaming about the offending person or group and/or a distinct inability to move on or feel contentment in their lives.
The irony concerning resentment is that while its perceived goal is to harm or get even with others, we actually only hurt ourselves and those closest to us. Author Malachi McCourt is credited with having said: Resentment is like taking poison and waiting for the other person to die. When we harbor resentment we pay a high cost. We may find it difficult to open up and trust others, particularly in new relationships, despair of ever being recognized for our competency, worth and abilities and senselessly give away the personal power needed to control our own lives and destinies.
If you recognize these symptoms in yourself or someone you know, I hope you are wondering What can be done about it? What can be done is to make a conscious choice, a simple decision, to rid yourself of this debilitating condition. Concentrate on wishing for (some may call it meditation or prayer) everything you want for yourself being given to those you resent and you will be free. Wish for their safety, their health, their prosperity, their happiness, and you will be free. Picture their faces in your mind’s eye and make these wishes. Even when you don’t really want it for them, when your wishes are only words and you don’t mean it, go ahead and do it anyway. Do it every day for two weeks and you will find you have come to mean it and to want it for them. You will realize that where you used to feel bitterness, ill-will and hatred, you now feel compassionate understanding, openness and love. You will have begun to forgive not just them, but yourself.
By dabbling with this experiment I call Proactive Forgiveness and by exploring pockets of resentment in your life, you may find yourself having to reconsider terms like good, bad and personal responsibility. You can make your life happier, less stressful and have a benign, if not subtle, influence on your wife (and others as well) of which you can be honestly proud, particularly if you keep knowledge of making this decision to yourself. But that is another experiment for another time.