DEAR AMY: My husband and I have been married for six years. He is a Christian, and is active in his church. I am an atheist. While he tries to convert me on occasion, we have no problems with our religious differences. In fact, the conversations we have are some of the highlights of our marriage. My husband is not a tidy man. He rarely does any cleaning, but will help with the dishes or laundry sometimes, and that’s good enough for me. The one area that I have (slightly) nagged him about over the years is his car. I usually end up waiting for his car to get really bad, then go and clean it out myself, or pay to have it detailed while he is at work. I regularly ask him to clean out his car, but in six long years, he has never done it. Until yesterday. Yesterday, he suddenly spent two hours cleaning out his car. I was thrilled! Then, he told me why he cleaned out his car. Apparently, his pastor had needed a ride somewhere. After the ride in my husband’s car, the pastor gave my husband some great advice: Clean out your car. And he immediately did it. Amy, I am happy that my husband finally cleaned his own car. But I’m a little upset that after six years of me asking him to perform this small task, he listened to his pastor and not to me. Am I looking a gift horse in the mouth, or am I right to feel a bit slighted?

Bent Out Of Shape

DEAR BENT OUT OF SHAPE: One reason your husband has never cleaned his car is because every once in a while — when it gets really bad — a magical elf appears and does it for him. If he has been an especially good boy, the elf actually pays for the car to be professionally detailed while he’s at work! No wonder he has religion: because in his life good things just ... happen!

The way to stop “nagging” is to simply stop. Disengage. Most of us listen to people outside our families a little more closely than we listen to family members. This dynamic is why you can bug your child about something for years, but the minute a peer says the same thing, it becomes true.

Your husband is showing you that he understands that cleanliness is next to godliness. You should roll your eyes at the source of this sudden transformation, and tell him you hope it sticks.

DEAR AMY: My husband and I are friends with another couple. We usually get along great and have lots of fun . . . except when male friend, “Jack,” goes into braggart mode. Jack will start in on my husband, stating he can beat him at any game, especially racquetball. My husband made the mistake of asking Jack to play racquetball — more for exercise than competition, but he has stopped asking since the chest-beating started. Jack’s wife excuses his behavior by saying, “This is just Jack being Jack.” Jack blames the behavior on his competitive upbringing. It is obnoxious, annoying and happens too often. Jack went so far — once — as to call us both stupid, later apologizing. Any suggestions on how to get this to stop?

Had It

DEAR HAD IT: You can draw “Jack’s” attention to his behavior and see if he is willing to change (his apology to you means that he knows he crossed the line). People who brag are overcompensating in the most obvious way.

The next time he flies into full-braggart mode, you can try to slow things down and get his attention by saying, gently, “Jack, you know we would still like you even if you weren’t the best at everything? You don’t have to prove your greatness to us — we’re your friends.” Repeat, if necessary.

Kindness might be the way to kill off this terrible habit.

DEAR AMY: I was shocked by your response to “Not your Chum in Chico,” who didn’t like it when coffee clerks made small talk. Bah humbug! Why be such a grouch when people are just trying to be friendly?


DEAR DISAPPOINTED: I love pleasantries, but don’t like specific comments regarding what I am purchasing, or whether I look tired, stressed, happy or sad. I realize that clerks have a very tough and repetitive job to do, and that they are sometimes forced to greet customers in a specific way. I think that for most people, a smile, a simple greeting and then fulfilling the order competently is appreciated.


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