Q: “My husband’s pettiness is driving me crazy. We argue over everything and nothing at all. We argue over everything and nothing at all. For instance, I like going out with my friends every week, but he makes sure to ruin each time by blowing up my phone with texts and picking fights with me about minor details. After six years of marriage, we seem to be drifting apart, and I’m finding myself dreading going home. How can I get him to understand that if he would stop being picky about how I clean the house or how much I spend (I am a working woman) or even whether I eat or not, our relationship might improve? I just want some peace.”

Joyce:   Peace is sometimes found a piece at a time.

Pettiness can be a very annoying character trait. But what seems trivial to you is, apparently, monumental to him. Perspectives are a funny thing — like opinions, they’re never wrong. Sensing I need to probe deeper into your issues, allow me to offer a few observations.

1. Drifting apart.
This screams for attention. A six-year investment should be reaping great returns. There was no mention of children, but even without a child in the mix, you have begun a legacy that deserves preservation. Compare the last two years of your marriage to the first two. What or who has changed? There was obviously a strong attraction for you both to get you to the altar. Life is often difficult, but home should be a refuge to soften its blows. If you have lost that solace in your home, it’s time to assess, first what you can do, and then what he can do to bring back the tenderness your marriage initially enjoyed.

2. Dreading going home. 
Attitude sets your altitude. What’s yours as you enter the home? If it is one of dread, it certainly can’t be any more welcoming to him. No one enjoys walking into an environment filled with ridicule and/or arguing. I totally understand that. But honey draws more flies than vinegar. Whereas we have no control over another person’s demeanor, we do have total control over our own.

3. Going out with friends. 
I’m all for a girls’ night out. I believe you, like every woman, are deserving of those special moments. My concern is more about why he insists on ruining each occasion? Does he have a set of friends? If so, perhaps the nights out could be simultaneous so that each of you would have an activity to focus on. If he doesn’t, therein lies a source of irritation for him. Ideally, a group of male friends would be a good thing for him. For me, my husband is my best friend, and I enjoy his company immensely. I would encourage you to strive toward nurturing the friendship you two are obviously lacking presently. Friendship develops a level of trust, which could potentially be a piece of the missing peace puzzle for you.

4. Being picky.
Compromise is waiting to be reached regarding your perspectives of cleanliness, thriftiness, and healthiness. These are matters of sitting down in adult-to-adult conversations and reaching a common ground and tender understanding of expectations. Some concerns should be dealt with in a team-spirit approach (cleaning and spending), whereas others broached in attitudes of love and respect (concerns for eating and friends). For the sake of preserving your marriage, I would encourage you both to decide that concessions will be a noble sacrifice for each of you.

5. Arguing. By definition, arguing is “to exchange or express diverging or opposite views.” Whereas you don’t lose your individuality when you become one in marriage, generally, a married couple will share a lot of common views and interests. Therefore, I strongly suggest the two of you take time to figure out why you are opposing the one you love and vowed to spend the rest of your life with. I understand it takes two to say I do, but only one to say I don’t. However, divorce is not the answer to something that could be so easily remedied. Arguing could cease, as could pettiness, when the two of you slide your scales of extremes back to the middle and balance out your marriage.
Understanding involves sympathy and empathy. Until you both appreciate that relationships are more important than material possessions, the most important one could be lost in the fray of life — yours.

Struggling with a relationship issue? Write to Joyce Oglesby and find a solution for life.