I walked into the kitchen and froze. My husband, David, had made a sandwich again. The circle of crumbs on the cabinet beside the twist tie was a dead giveaway. Added to the dirty knife beside the sink, the sticky jelly jar in the fridge, and the peanut butter peering at me from the open cabinet, I had an airtight case.
Muttering, I quickly wiped the counter, washed the knife, and slammed the cabinet door, then left my spotless kitchen in a huff. On my way to inspect the rest of the house, I heard the telltale rumbling of the garbage truck passing. I held my breath and peeked out the window. Sure enough, our overflowing trash can still sat beside the house.
My anger intensified as I found dirty clothes on the bedroom floor, week-old newspapers scattered about, and a stack of crusted dishes in the family room. I called him at work and let him have it.
David listened quietly, and at the end of my angry tirade, responded with a contrite, "I'm sorry, Whit."
"Do you realize that now our stinky trash is going to sit there another week?"
"I'll take care of it."
"You can't expect me to pick up after you all the time," I persisted.
"I know; I'm sorry."
I calmed. David's tone convinced me that he'd never let it happen again.
That evening he loaded the trash in his truck, and cleaned up the dishes, newspapers, and dirty clothes.
I didn't thank him because I felt those things were his duty, and therefore, not something to be praised. Instead I pointed out his messy computer desk and his shavings on the sink.
That became a pattern. I griped constantly.
Then one morning, halfway through my kitchen inspection, I came to an awful realization: I'd spent every waking moment searching for David's messes, ready to pounce. I failed to appreciate his many great qualities. No wonder he'd been sloppier than ever. He'd learned his wife was impossible to please.
As I cooked dinner that night, I listened to giggles from the living room as he and our daughter, Emma, played. And later, when he snuggled into our bed and read to me, I felt his safety and sweetness.
While I regretted my overly critical attitude, apologizing was difficult. My attempts came out as silence that added to the empty space between us. I despised the person I was becoming.
Then David spent a week out of town. During those seven days I had time to reflect on what was most important in our marriage. True, the house stayed spotless, but I couldn't enjoy it. I missed the open cabinets and the sticky jelly jar that were reminders of his presence. I missed the newspapers and crusty dishes. I missed the giggles and snuggles. I missed my husband. That Saturday when he walked through the door I was there to greet him.
"I've been thinking a lot this week, and I have something to tell you," I said.
David looked at me with resignation. "Let me guess—you want me to wash my stinky laundry?"
"You need the trash emptied right away?"
I slipped my arms around him. "I just wanted to say that I love you, exactly as you are."
David smiled. "I love you too. What brought this on?"
"I missed you this week. And I realized what really matters, and what doesn't."
David's grin turned mischievous. "Does this mean I don't have to wash my stinky laundry?"
I laughed. "No. But it can wait."
Several years have passed. I still cringe when I see crumbs on the counter. But my heart has changed. I've learned that my way isn't the only way. That there are times when I should accept the mess and enjoy the moment. And that I'm blessed with a husband who accepts me, nitpicking and all.
Copyright © 2005 by the author or Christianity Today/Marriage Partnership magazine. Click here for reprint information on Marriage Partnership.