Friday, 8 April 2022

Reducing life's annoyances

I recently read a couple of books by American author Cynthia Lett about how to deal with exasperating family or partner behaviours which get on our wicks: effectively with a combination of positive reinforcement and puppy training (2009; 2014; effectively one book). The preface to her 2009 book primed the reader well: it is not how others behave, but "how we react to these irksome individuals plays a key role in how we survive, and maintain sanity, in the world" (Lett, 2009).

We know who Cynthia is writing about: the person who is convinced that there is a battalion of invisible servants at home. That person who drinks juice out of the bottle; who puts uncovered, uncooked meat on top of raw vegetables in the fridge; who thinks someone else will magically intuit that emptied items need replacing without the act of putting them on the shopping list; and who leaves dirty laundry anywhere but in the laundry basket. Effectively behaving like a child who believes that someone else will clean up their mess.

However, having read both books, I was quite surprised at (a) how petty so many of the issues are, and (b) to the very light level to which those issues were redressed. Cynthia seemed to assume that, if we clearly explained to our significant other (SO) the consequences of their own oblivion/ laziness/ belief in cleaning fairies, that our SO would voluntarily do something to change their behaviour.

Having been married for many years, I felt that Cynthia was rather naive. Most of the time, our SOs simply do see that their behaviour can possibly annoy us. SOs remain certain that the behaviour which needs to change is OUR reaction to SO food hygiene, practices, or processes. That as far as our SOs are concerned, there is no need for them to change. It is we who need to change.

For example, when it comes to dinner, there will be no dinner for me to come home to unless I cook it. I have tried many strategies over the years. I have asked. I have set up a roster. I have explicitly delegated dinner. I have asked for a takeaway order to be arranged.  I have even tried passing on process instructions (in case uncertainty is the issue). However, the delivery of a dinner that both of us can eat has been rare in over twenty years. My SO is unfazed, unrepentant, and unworried that - when I get home tired after work and he is not working - that I still need to cook. He seems to see my getting home late and cooking as my problem.

A lack of dinner does not worry him: if hungry, my SO will simply eat a packet of crisps. Or a tin of tuna. Or a tin of chickpeas. He also knows that I cannot simply eat a packet of something: that, as I get migraines, my intake must be balanced, so cannot come from a tin or a packet. And that too is my problem. 

This sounds terrible: I am not implying that my SO does not do other things around the house: he does. It is this particular habit of always leaving food preparation to me that I had hoped to resolve via Cynthia's books (Lett, 2009, 2014).  

However, they were are an epic fail in this area, yielding no solutions, nor strategies, providing no solutions to kick-start reluctant cooks into making a regular contribution (Lett, 2009, 2014). Ah, well. 

Next time. 



  • Lett, C. W. (2009). That's So Annoying: An etiquette expert on the world's most irritating habits [ePub]. Skyhorse Publishing, Inc
  • Lett, C. W. (2014). Modern Civility: Etiquette for Dealing with Annoying, Angry, and Difficult People (2nd ed.) [ePub]. Skyhorse Publishing, Inc


  1. Feel your pain! I know this situation well. I bought a fancy 1 day cookery course as a birthday present for my SO. It worked well, but only for about 4 meals. I have heard My Food Bag is a good solution to this irksome niggle. When the recipe and ingredients look lovely, are ready assemble and minimum effort is required - cooking might prove to be be irresistible. I haven't tried this out yet, but will.

    1. Thanks for your feedback, Unknown! I would be very interested to hear whether the MFB works!


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