One of my more disagreeable faults is my irritability. I lose my temper easily; I “speak in a mean voice” as my daughters describe it; I become impatient and act annoyed; I feel anxious about something, so I snap at my family; I feel criticized, so I lash out.

One of my more disagreeable faults is my irritability. I lose my temper easily; I “speak in a mean voice” as my daughters describe it; I become impatient and act annoyed; I feel anxious about something, so I snap at my family; I feel criticized, so I lash out.

Dozens of my resolutions are aimed at helping me to be more calm, cheerful, and lighthearted – everything from Turn out the light to Make my bed to Quit nagging to Quit drinking (more or less).

One thing puzzles me. When I know I’m feeling crabby or anxious, I make a special attempt to stay calm, and I do a fair job of mastering myself. I’m not 100% successful, but I’m certainly better than I was before I started my happiness project.

But sometimes, I’ll be feeling normal enough, and some comment will come flying out of my mouth, with a harsh edge that surprises me as much as anyone. I don’t think I’m repressing huge amounts of rage, I think I’m just irritable. But where does that irritability come from?

In my case, I think that a potent source of anger is my desire for control, or perfectionism. I feel angry when people (like my husband and children) don’t do what I want them to do, when I want them to do it, how I want them to do it. And I feel angry when I don’t have control, or can’t do things perfectly, myself. Even with little things.

For example, my husband has an idiosyncrasy that, although relatively harmless, really challenges my patience: he doesn’t give information. If I ask, “What are you making for dinner?” “What time are we meeting your parents?” “Who was on the phone?” he just doesn’t answer these questions. Odd, right? He’s not hiding anything, he just doesn’t answer. In the past, this made me crazy, and now I’m trying my best to let it go – or even joke about it. Whether or not he should change, he’s not going to change, so I should just let it go. But it does push my need-for-control button.

Whatever the source of the irritation, this kind of harsh interaction is quite unpleasant, both for me and the people around me. It puts a pall over a perfectly pleasant moment.

I think I need to step up my mindfulness. Yipes, mindfulness! So important to happiness, so challenging to cultivate.  When I recognize that I’m feeling edgy, I can make the effort to master myself.


  1. Wait a second. There is a
    Wait a second. There is a difference between letting things go that are not especially important. But when your spouse routinely witholds info, doesn’t it seem like he may be challenging your need for control in a passive-aggressive way? Or is he just being rude? Not responding to a question that affects you personally, such as “What time are we meeting your parents” is different from questions that you may ask out of curiosity (nothing wrong with that, unless it’s overly intrusive). Suppressing your requests for info from your husband doesn’t seem like a recipe for happiness, more like frustration and total lack of communication about why this is occurring. Isnt’ he responsible for communicating with you? Not doing so seems a little more serious than an idiosyncrasy. I don’t know either of you, so if I’m not being fair because I don’t have the full picture, I apologize. But the way you write about it sent up a big red flag for me. I’d be interested in your response.

  2. Hi!


    1) I am exactly


    1) I am exactly the same and it *is* frustrating. However,
    2) I agree with the above comment

  3. Could be the way you ask him
    Could be the way you ask him these questions. Your tone may carry with it the irritability you are experiencing. Husbands will tune out if this is the case. He knows this will further irritate you and make you angry, so you end swallowing instead of getting the info you need. In many situations, it isn’t what you say, but how you say it. A nice prescription for Xanax may help – no joke!

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