This week’s post comes from Michele Gruenhage of the Affinity Counselling team. Michele is a Registered Clinical Counsellor and a Canadian Certified Counsellor in the Langley, BC area with vast experience helping couples of all types.


There’s One Way to Do Things, and it’s My Way!


Pretty much every day when I work with couples trying to manage conflict in their relationship, we hit a wall around the way things ‘Should’ be done.


I often hear comments from one partner to the other like…


Why can’t you ever put your dishes in the dishwasher?!” or “Seriously, how hard is it to just put your shoes on the shoe rack?!” or even “S/he knows I can’t stand it when….


Shouldy Relationships

One of the underlying issues going on here is what I refer to as “Shoulding,” and I frequently find that one or both partners is “Shoulding all over the place.


Yeah, I know what it sounds like.


And that’s kind of the effect…it feels really “Shouldy!


Personality types can really clash.  One of the ways is with expectations we each have about how things “should” be done.  One person loses his/her mind when dishes are left beside the sink, while the other partner is baffled by the intensity of the reaction.


The same ‘dish leaver’ may lose his/her mind when the laundry isn’t folded the way s/he believes it has to be folded.


Rigid Expectations, Conflict & Anger

Two people who live in the same space and each believe his/her way is THE RIGHT WAY!


Two people who face each other, plant their feet firmly on the ground and go to battle.


Two people who feel compelled to point out the error of their partner’s thinking and convince him/her to come over to “right” way of thinking.


Some of you reading this may be thinking that so many of your relationship problems would be resolved if only your partner would stop being so (insert contemptuous comment/label here) and just do things the right way.


Your way.


Relationship Clone Wars

But the point of being in a relationship is not to turn your partner into another YOU.


Each person in each relationship is allowed to have a different perspective or belief about how s/he would prefer the laundry to be folded.  You don’t have to agree with your partner.  Your job is to try and understand your partner’s perspective.


People in happier relationships are willing to listen to their partner’s preferences and – sacrificially, intentionally, and/or lovingly – consider their partner in those daily things like folding the laundry.


Change Your Perspective

One of my sacrificial, intentional, loving things I do for my husband is folding his socks a totally different way from how I prefer to have my socks folded.


And I notice that when he folds my socks he folds them how I prefer them to be folded.


So, when you notice yourself SHOULDING, try changing your SHOULD to a COULD.


And this applies to shoulding all over yourself as well.


I know…




But sometimes we are harder on ourselves than we are on our partners.


The next time you think “I/they should ___”  try changing that to ”I/they could ____”  Maybe you will and maybe you won’t.


The thing is – there’s some flexibility for other possibilities with the word could.


Now… how do you prefer your socks to be folded?


Want research-based tools and strategies for the best marriage or relationship ever? Call us today at 1 (604) 539-5277

Darren Wilk, Registered Clinical Counsellor (RCC) and Co-founder of, has been working with marriages and families since 1988.   This includes being a foster parent providing care as a professional parent loving and inspiring children with various challenges.

Back To Top