This past week I received a call from a girlfriend. 

She said, “I just really need to share some of my frustrations with my husband.” (She’s been married about 12 years). 

I said, “Sure, what’s going on?”

“Well, it’s about the refrigerator. My husband will open up a can, eat half of it, and put the open half in the refrigerator. But instead of eating what’s already open, then he’ll open up something new, put those leftovers in the fridge, and then I can’t find my stuff. Now he’s mad at me because he says I’m always yelling at him. But I’ve been so frustrated for so long and I’m tired of repeating myself. 

I am trying to eat healthy, but I can’t find my foods because his stuff is taking up so much space. And none of it’s even good to eat anymore! It’s going bad but it’s in my way. I mean, if I was him, I’d be eating what was already open, but he won’t do that. We can’t find anything and we throw so much food away. You know, when we moved here he had stocked up on so much food and we just had to give it away or throw it away. Hundreds of dollars in food when we moved. I’ve asked him for input and solutions and we don’t have any. I’m just tired and frustrated and nothing ever changes”.

Active Listening

I told her I was really sorry she was so frustrated and that certainly my husband and I have had some similar challenges and conversations. Then I started using my active listening skills, repeating back what she had told me, and then asking some questions.

“So if I’m hearing you correctly, there are a few things going on here. You’re tired of throwing food away, correct?” 


“Do you have a food budget?”

“Well, no”

“Oh, ok. I find that with my husband and I, that since we have a budget for the amount we spend on food, I get less upset about food waste. It’s already written into the cost of what we’re spending on food. We try to decrease it of course, but it’s inevitable, so we plan it into our budget. Also, do you have glass containers for your leftovers?”

“No, why?”

“I’ve found that leftovers taste better and stay good longer when you put them in glass instead of plastic. I almost rarely use plastic Tupperware anymore and I certainly don’t ever put cans in the fridge, even with plastic wrap on them the food starts to taste metallic.”

“Oh, okay, I’ll have to think about using glass instead.”

I continued. “It sounds like you’re also upset by how much space his items are taking up? Is that correct?”


“Do you have bins or labels or dividers in the fridge? Space for specific items so that you can always find what you’re looking for?”


“Oh, well we do, and it means that it’s harder for leftovers and condiments and things to take over the fridge. I can always find the vegetables because that space is labeled and reserved for “veggies”. 

“Oh, well, maybe that would help.”

“Do you clean out the fridge regularly? Do you have a schedule?”

“Oh no, I mean he doesn’t throw it away, but I don’t either.”

“Oh, well, I have it on my calendar to clean out the fridge of leftovers and things that are going bad the night before trash day each week. Even if I miss a week, our fridge is getting emptied of clutter every two weeks and I’m asking my husband, ‘Do we want to keep this or not?’


I recapped my suggestions, she was excited and hopeful about some of the positive changes that could happen in her kitchen – and her marriage – and we hung up the phone.

Ladies, how often does this happen? Have you ever heard another woman say, my husband is “mad at me because he says I’m always yelling at him, but I’ve been so frustrated for so long and I’m tired of repeating myself.” Have you been that lady?

Yet, there were some very simple and inexpensive solutions to her challenges. Challenges that had been plaguing her marriage and her sanity FOR YEARS! 

Boundary Issues

Do you spot the boundary issues?

“I’m tired of throwing food away. It’s so costly.” But do you have a budget? (Financial Boundary)

“I’m frustrated that I can’t find what’s mine.” But do you have bins? (Space Boundary)

“I’m tired of food going bad so quickly.” But do you use glass? (Time AND Space Boundaries)

“I’m frustrated with the clutter in our fridge.” But do you have a deadline for throwing things out? (Time Boundary)

What are the biggest frustrations you are facing today? I’m here to tell you, don’t sweat the boundary issues (and they’re all boundary issues)

I bet that all of your biggest frustrations come down to boundary issues in some form, which means, that all it takes to fix them is to get creative in your boundary-setting! Setting and adhering to boundaries is a skill that anyone can learn. Once you become skilled at it in one area of your life, you can’t help but have stronger boundaries in ALL areas of your life. Then, it’s no longer a “husband problem” (you can’t fix other people) but a “boundary problem” (solutions are within your grasp).

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