Clutter in the Relationship

Lately I've been meeting couples where each partner has different habits with their stuff. Some prefer less. Others more. That's not the problem. The difficulties come with wanting the other person to be different than their nature. That's when the anger and resistance come. That breaks the feeling of connection for the couple. Even with that pain, I've seen couples dig in and continue to try and control their partner.

Trying to control the other person's relationship with their stuff becomes the clutter. Sometimes it can be very subtle. I had one client who told me she clutter busted her stuff so her husband would follow her lead. When he didn't, she fumed. Neither action made him change his way.

Some part of us thinks we can force, flatter, inspire, convince or ignore another person to do what we want them to do. But no one likes to be told what to do. It becomes easier to take care of the things that we are responsible for, and respect the others responsibility for their lives.

Here's a poem that someone sent me yesterday:

After We Saw What There Was to See

by Lawrence Raab

After we saw what there was to see
we went off to buy souvenirs, and my father
waited by the car and smoked. He didn't need
a lot of things to remind him where he'd been.
Why do you want so much stuff?
he might have asked us. "Oh, Ed," I can hear
my mother saying, as if that took care of it.

After she died I don't think he felt any reason
to go back through all those postcards, not to mention
the glossy booklets about the Singing Tower
and the Alligator Farm, the painted ashtrays
and lucite paperweights, everything we carried home
and found a place for, then put away
in boxes, then shoved far back in our closets.

He'd always let my mother keep track of the past,
and when she was gone—why should that change?
Why did I want him to need what he'd never needed?
I can see him leaning against our yellow Chrysler
in some parking lot in Florida or Maine.
It's a beautiful cloudless day. He glances at his watch,
lights another cigarette, looks up at the sky.