A key component to a relationship is mutual respect.
So what do you do when your spouse refuses to respect you by altering or even working on their own chosen behaviors, but expects you to respect their wants and needs?
Redditor ThrowRAShoes is struggling with that issue. So he went to the Relationship Advice subReddit to ask for help.
"My (36 M[ale]) wife (34 F[emale]) keeps tying my boots after I've told her to keep her hands off of them. I tried to teach her a lesson and really hurt her feelings."
He summarized things as:
"Wife keeps tightening my boots when I'm not wearing them, delaying me on ambulance calls. I finally had enough, and she's calling my response abuse."
The Original Poster (OP) explained:
"Yes, I know the title is bizarre and I can't believe I'm actually writing this. My wife is a neat freak. Always has been. She throws notes on my desk out assuming they're garbage, my belongings get rearranged to the point where it takes me hours to find them, it's something I've come to accept. I'm not happy about it, but we have a pretty happy marriage on the whole."
"I am a volunteer EMT, and I keep my boots unlaced up against the wall next to my clothes hamper so that I can throw them on along with my uniform if a call comes in during the middle of the night. Well, my wife has taken to tying the boot laces when she sees them untied."
"Not only does she tie them, but she tightens them and double knots them to the point where I need to undo the knot, open up the boots, and let a little slack out to fit my feet into them. I ignored it the first two times, but the third time she did it, I made it a point to bring up to her the next day."
"I very calmly said, 'Hun, I appreciate that you want everything neat, but please do not touch my boots in the future. Time is of the essence when I'm going on a call and at 2 in the morning I don't have the time to unlace them and open them up. It's not just a minor inconvenience, it's people's lives, so I would appreciate it if you left them alone'."
"She rolled her eyes, said I was being dramatic, and that she wouldn't help me out by keeping my things neat in the future.
Well she never stopped. No matter how many times I've asked her, told her, begged her; she just laughs and says, 'Well you know how I am!'"
Then one night the OP had enough.
"The other night a page went out for a CPR in progress. I went to throw my boots on and they were, once again, tightened beyond recognition. So I'm sitting there on the edge of the bed, cursing, trying to get my boots open, and fumbling due to the stress of the situation."
"My wife opened her eyes, groggily looked at me, and asked, 'Don't you need to go on that call?'"
"I know I was in the wrong here, and I regret it. I slammed the boot into the ground and yelled, 'Yes! I do! I would have been out the door five minutes ago, except SOME STUPID MOTHERF'KER F'KED WITH MY GOD**MN BOOTS AGAIN!'"
"My wife got up without another word, walked into the bathroom and slammed the door. I got my boots open and went on the call. By the time we arrived, the police had gotten her back, so I didn't have to do CPR, but I was sweating and shaking thinking my delay could have cost a life."
"I got home and my wife wasn't talking to me. She ignored me the entire day until we finally sat down and talked. She said I had scared her with how angry I got, that she thought I was going to hit her, and she didn't know I was capable of getting so angry. Note: I have never raised a hand to her, nor have I ever yelled at her before; I am absolutely not a violent person in any way shape or form."
"I apologized for yelling at her, and acknowledged that I hadn't meant to snap at her, I was frustrated with the situation as I needed to get to the person in need of CPR as soon as possible and it was a delay that didn't need to happen. I, once again, pleaded with her not to touch my boots because lives were literally on the line."
"She told me that if I was going to overreact and make her afraid then she would never touch my boots again because she didn't want to live like that."
Despite her assurances however, the OP's wife still messed with his boots.
So he decided to return the favor.
"Last night, before I got into bed, I had a sinking feeling, so I went over and checked my boots. I was very disappointed to find them tightened up again. So I decided to show her how it felt. I went over to her closet and pulled out her running shoes."
"I unlaced the shoelaces on both of them, removed them from the shoes completely, curled them each into a little coil, put them inside the shoes, and put them back. I then went to sleep."
"At 6:15 I was woken up by my wife screaming, 'How could you!? Why would you do this?' holding up both laceless shoes with tears in her eyes. My wife likes to go for an early morning run and I knew she would want to get out the door as soon as possible."
"I smiled and said, 'You know how I am! I just like things neat!' She continued sobbing and walked out of the room. So, by the time she was all laced up again, it was raining so she missed out on her run. I actually feel pretty terrible about that because I really only wanted to delay her, not ruin her plans completely."
"At this point, she's alternating between crying that I went out of my way to hurt her and ignoring my presence. I acknowledge that what I've done has been pretty childish and not at all constructive. I just don't know what to do."
It turned out his wife doesn't understand his request or his apology.
"She said, through tears, 'You admitted you were totally in the wrong for yelling at me, and then you turned around and took it out on me in a different way! What is wrong with you?'"
"The problem is, to her, an apology means taking on 100% of the fault. When I apologized for blowing up, she took that to mean she was 100% in the right and that my feelings were completely unjustified."
"So at this point, I haven't apologized for ruining her run, because she'll take that to mean that she wasn't wrong to touch my boots."
"I've tried to have these discussions but it's in one ear and out the other. We have such a good relationship otherwise, but I feel like this issue has reached a tipping point and it's going to continue to result in arguments until we resolve it."
"How do I make things right with my wife while still letting her know that I won't tolerate her disrespecting my property anymore?"
The OP came back to answer some of the recurring questions people had.
"Wow! This blew up! I went through comments for six hours last night and I still have 1.8k to get through."
"I promise you I am reading every one of your comments and appreciate the advice. A couple things to address points that keep getting brought up."
"My wife has never been diagnosed as having OCD. As an EMT, I'm very careful about labeling someone as having a disorder as I don't have the proper qualifications to make that diagnosis. I do agree that it's time for her to see somebody, get a proper diagnosis, and address these issues."
"My boots lace up in the front and zipper on the side. They're not a full unzip but rather an unzip to open them up a bit. The way my wife is tying them makes them impossible to get on even with the zipper down. They're weather proof and great for standing on rough terrain or the highway after accidents."
"They're only about a year old and were actually a gift from my wife. I've not considered Velcro before, I'm a bit hesitant to do that as I don't know that they wouldn't catch on things or wear out quicker. I've tucked the laces in but she still tied them up."
"This is a bit of compulsive behavior on my part. I don't leave my boots in the garage because my mother was a smoker growing up and that's where she would smoke. So I would end up with ashes in my shoes and having them reek of tobacco after. So I developed a habit of wearing them into my home."
"Also, if I leave them there, they're likely to get moved someplace 'safe' where it will take me even longer to find them. Putting the boots in the closet, she found them and tied them. Putting them under the bed or out of sight they were found, tied, and moved to the closet."
"I honestly believe that a footlocker or any other kind of box would get moved to where I would have to wake her up to find it. If it's locked, then my keys are likely to go missing. For some reason, sitting on my dresser is not appropriate but in the pocket of a jacket downstairs in the closet is."
"I am likely going to start putting my boots in the car. Though I had to laugh at the people suggesting decoy boots. As much as it may seem like it, I'm not living in a Spy vs. Spy cartoon."
"I am a volunteer EMT. We respond from home. We don't have sleeping quarters, and I work the overnight shift so I sleep during my shift, get out of bed when a call comes in, drive to the building, and take the ambulance to the scene. This is typical of volunteer organizations."
"Paid EMS is more likely to have sleeping quarters or even require EMTs to be in the truck throughout their shift. Community based EMS is more likely to take 911 calls and respond to emergencies whether paid or volunteer. Private EMS is more likely to take transport requests such as to/from dialysis or chemotherapy as well as hospital to nursing facility discharges."
"To those who have told me that I don't have the right to use the word lifesaving, on my dress uniform I have pins for 3 defibrillator saves and 4 for CPR saves. I've crawled into a car wreck to open someone's airway and bag them until we could get them out. While transporting a patient I recognized signs of internal injury and ordered we divert to a trauma center, where he was put directly into emergency surgery that saved his life."
"Did I do these things entirely by myself? No, of course not. I would never claim that I was the sole reason someone lived. However, I am, at my very basest level, a vital link in the chain of survival. So while I can't claim complete credit for any of the things I've done, I would certainly put a lot of blame on myself if someone didn't live because of something I failed to do."
"I have a full-time job that I work 8-5 Monday - Friday outside of EMS. That is why I volunteer on the night shift. My wife works as a payroll manager for a mid-sized office. I earn about $10,000 a year more than her. We've been married for two years."
"While I lived on my own before we were married, she didn't move into the apartment until we got engaged. So, I think to her, that was my place, not ours, and she didn't really touch my things. I was with another EMS organization until we moved to a new town after our engagement. When we bought the house, I joined the local volunteer squad as an EMT."
"My wife regards my job as part of my identity while she sees the EMS as something I volunteer to do. She would say, 'This is my husband, he is [job title],' not 'This is my husband, he is an EMT'."
"...You're all very kind. I appreciate so much that you took the time out of your day to acknowledge things and want to help me."
So what sort of advice was most popular among Redditors?
People brought up his wife's lack of respect for his position as a volunteer EMT and suggested ways to make the point clear.
"Tell your wife that this interference with your gear could crash your marriage and facilitate a death. And is she good with that or will she work on herself." ~ wtfthecanuck
OP confirmed his wife's lack of respect for his EMT work.
"She thinks I'm being dramatic when I refer to lifesaving. That what I do is more 'transporting boo boos'." ~ ThrowRAShoes
People found her attitude unacceptable.
She had a meltdown over her run expecting her husband to respect her chosen morning routine, but dismissed her husband's multiple requests that she not interfere with his legitimate responsibilities as an EMT.
"Why does your wife not take what you do seriously? I'm sorry to say this but she seems so out of touch and unempathetic if she thinks that being an EMT is just 'transporting boo boos'."
"I hope for your sake that she realizes soon that you do really important work by helping people and that taking any extra time to reach someone may cost that person their life." ~ latotrash
"Because not taking his job seriously enables her to shrug off any criticism and continue with her compulsive behavior." ~ VaginalBeans
"bingo! ding ding ding. she NEEDS to not take his job seriously so that she can avoid responsibility for her behaviour." ~ TrumpsTanLine
The general consensus was his wife should consider seeking therapy if she wants to change the behavior.
But if she doesn't want to change, she is being manipulative, selfish and inconsiderate and her husband needs to examine their relationship.
"She's got serious issues. Who in their right mind would do this?! Then deflect it by making him feel bad for yelling."
"What in the actual f'k? How this guy has a 'happy marriage' is beyond me. She needs help, that's just wrong." ~ doglover331
"because the only person she thinks about is herself. its typical narcissist behavior. OP can either get her a therapist and meds or leave her."
"He shouldn't bother prolonging the inevitable and just skip therapy. You can't force someone to change. They have to be willing themselves." ~ [deleted account]
"If she doesn't get it after being told multiple times, it's not a lack of understanding, it's a narcissistic lack of empathy." ~ thiskateuntamed
"Narcissistic is right. In all of this, the only thing that affected her was how she was a victim by getting yelled at."
"Her feelings matter, his don't. Things that inconvenience her matter, things that inconvenience him don't." ~ Sarke1
The OP has not returned to share what he plans to do. But if he heeds the advice he was given and his wife fails to alter her behavior or even discuss it, he has some big decisions on the horizon.
*If you enjoyed this article, you can read more like it by clicking on the AITA link below.*