More thinking, less reacting

See-saw © Konstantin Kirillov |

Recently I’ve seen a several articles mention the “teeter-totter syndrome”. The idea is that doing more of something causes your spouse to do less of that, while doing less will cause your spouse to do more. Like being on a see-saw, if one of you moves, the other must move to maintain the balance. With this understanding, the theory is we keep our spouses from doing certain things, or dealing with certain things, because we do them, or try to do them, or talk about them too much. If this is the case, then the solution is to back off, resulting in your spouse doing more in that area.

I think there is some validity in this, but I also know plenty of examples when it does not work. If the person who wants more sex stops asking, a few spouses would start initiating sex – but a good many would not. Same for something like being on time – if the one who cares stops doing anything to try to be on time, the most common result would be that the couple will be even more late than before. It boils down to this – backing off only works if your spouse cares about the issue – sees it as valid, or worth some effort.

Still, no one likes being nagged. If you are always pushing for something, always wanting to discuss it, always working on it, you are probably getting the negative side of the see-saw effect.

My suggestion is to do some serious thinking about any issue where you think the teeter-totter syndrome might be at work. How can you back off or modify what you do? How could you give her some breathing space without ending up in a worse situation? Alternatively, maybe, the issue is more critical than you have been making it, and you need to stop picking at the edges and get serious about dealing with it.

On the flip side, do you see places where you have reacted in classic see-saw fashion to your bride’s actions? Choose to stop reacting, and start thinking. Do what’s right, even if the natural reaction to her actions is to back off.

Image Credit: © Konstantin Kirillov |

3 Comments on “More thinking, less reacting

  1. You make a terrific point. I once backed off of picking up my husband’s shoes from all around our room, thinking he would figure it out; eventually, his entire closet of shoes littered the bedroom floor. He didn’t care, but I did. Eventually, I decided that it was worth the seconds I took to put them back and stopped bothering him about it.
    Not every issue is like that, though. You have the insight that there isn’t a sure-fire formula for every situation. You need to take a good look at each issue and determine if and how to change your response to get the best (or at least acceptable) result.
    Thanks for shedding light on this.

  2. @J – It certainly is a matter of choosing your battles.

    BTW, I am aware of areas where my bride has done what you are talking about, and while I probably don’t say it often enough, I most certainly do appreciate her choice, and how it’s made our marriage easier for both of us. It also encourages me to make similar choices in other areas.

  3. Pingback: What do you Really Want From Your Marriage

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