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Opening Arguments

Annoy, repeat

A friend was telling me last week that every married woman she knew had been complaining about their husbands. "Did I miss the annoucement of Irritable Spouse Week?" Then I read this article:

If your spouse already bugs you now, the future is bleak. New research suggests couples view one another as even more irritating and demanding the longer they are together.

The same trend was not found for relationships with children or friends. 

The study results could be a consequence of accumulated contact with a spouse, such that the nitpicking or frequent demands that once triggered just a mild chafe develops into a major pain. But accumulated irritation has its silver lining.

"As we age and become closer and more comfortable with one another, it could be that we're more able to express ourselves to each other," said lead study author Kira Birditt, a research fellow at the University of Michigan's Institute for Social Research. "In other words, it's possible that negativity is a normal aspect of close relationships that include a great deal of daily contact."

Rather than breeding unhappy couples and ill health, the increase in negativity could be a normal part of relationships

I'm reminded of the Jack Nicholson line that gave the movie its title. "What if," he asked patients in the psychiatrist's office, "this is as good as it gets?" How depressing to think that the annoyance you felt toward your spouse today is only going to get worse. Furthermore, there's no point in worrying about it, because it's normal.

I can only testify to what went on in my marriage, and what I have seen in others, but I think there's something to that "accumulated contact" theory. Irritating habits or quirks that you can overlook in, say, a brother or a friend because you don't see them every day, become just short of unbearable when you have to experience them over and over and over until you think you're just going to explode, with no relief in sight, just over and over and over. . .

. . . sorry. Little flashback there.


Wed, 02/06/2008 - 12:49pm

Perfectly captured by Danny Devito in War of the Roses:
"I hate the way she licks stamps."

Bob G.
Thu, 02/07/2008 - 10:25am

ISS: Irritable Spouse Syndrome.

And here my wife's been telling me it stood for:
In School Suspension!

Who knew???