**This is a work of nonfiction based on actual events as told to me by an associate, who experienced them firsthand; used with permission.
“A leaky faucet was the straw that broke the camel’s back,” she said. “I was angry, exhausted, and fed up.”
My colleague and her husband broke up a few years back, and she told me it all started with a leaky faucet.
It was the small things, she said, that accumulated over the years that made her life miserable. The faucet’s constant drip, drip, dripping broke her down one plop at a time. Surprisingly, they were happy before the faucet sprang a leak, or so she thought.
“It had nothing to do with money or control,” she said. “It’s the principle of the thing. I’d be sitting in my chair, minding my own business, and that incessant dripping would start to get on my nerves. I tried to ignore it, but it was like nails on a chalkboard.”
“I know he wasn’t doing it on purpose,” she said. “But it felt like he was just trying to drive me crazy.”
The final straw came one night when she was trying to sleep, and the dripping kept her awake. She got out of bed, marched into the living room where her husband was watching TV, and announced that she was leaving him.
Of course, it came as a complete shock to him. They had been together for 20 years and never had any significant issues. Their finances were stable, and their child was grown and out of the house. They’d planned to retire in the next ten years and travel the world together.
But the leaky faucet had destroyed all of that.
“It sounds crazy, I know,” she said. “But the dripping caused something to rupture inside me, and I realized that we had both been sacrificing our happiness for the other person.”
“I know he loved me,” she said. “But I now know that love is not enough to build a life on.”
This isn’t the first time I’ve heard someone blow up their life over something seemingly small and insignificant. In my experience, the little things we ignore usually end up being our undoing.
Little things highlight passive behavior.
My associate struggled to understand where her anger was coming from at first. “It was just a faucet,” she said. But the unfixed leak put her husband’s passive behavior front and center, bringing up the resentment that has been simmering below the surface for years.
The little things show us that we’re not listening to each other or not present in the relationship. These are the things that highlight a passive attitude and a lack of consideration.
“Resentment is the result of a perception that someone has treated you unfairly. Although the person you resent may not have intentionally meant to harm you, their actions or words may cause you to feel intense disappointment.” — Kimberly Drake, PsychCentral
Contradictions speak louder than words.
Her husband promised to fix the faucet long before she reached the end of her rope, but he never did. Many people have a hard time when words and actions don’t match. And when it comes to relationships, we expect our partners to do what they say they’re going to do.
If someone says they love you, you want them to act accordingly. If they say your feelings matter, you want them to show it. You expect them to follow through if they say they’ll be there for you.
When expectations go unmet, it creates a feeling of betrayal. And over time, that feeling can build and build until it explodes.
Honesty isn’t always clear-cut.
Honesty is refreshing, but it’s now always welcome. Sometimes the truth can be painful, and it’s not always easy to hear. But if we’re not honest with ourselves and our partners, we’re not giving ourselves a chance to connect.
We all have different ways of handling difficult conversations. But the one thing that we all need to remember is that truth isn’t optional. That doesn’t mean you should go out of your way to hurt someone’s feelings. But it does mean that you must be honest about your feelings, motivation, and desires.
“As we gain more facility in knowing and expressing our personal feelings and views, we can learn to do so in a way that preserves interpersonal trust. We can develop the skill of going inside ourselves, noticing genuine feelings, and pausing long enough to consider whether it feels right to say something — and then most importantly, how to say it.” — John Amodeo, PhD
The little things matter
The little things can often be a big deal, whether it’s a leaky faucet or an unfulfilled promise. It’s easy to brush them off, but ignoring them can have consequences. The next time you’re feeling frustrated with your faucet or with your partner, ask yourself if there might be something more going on.
You might be surprised at what you find.
Do you think the little things in a relationship can be a big deal? Have you ever had an argument with your partner over something small? Share your thoughts in the comments below.