At the risk of hearing how stupid I am (without the benefit of being married to you! ;>), I don't always find the strap across the pocket to be a problem. I think it all depends on how you use the pockets. The only things I keep there are a water bottle, map case, small first aid kit, and 1 or 2 energy bars. I actually find that I like how the strap "closes" the pocket that the small stuff is in and, if I'm reasonably careful about how much I tighten the one over the water bottle, find that it isn't any particular annoyance.
For me, the pockets aren't a problem because I don't carry much outside the pack and don't need to get into them every few minutes. I can see how, if your style is different (say, with a lot of photography, and the camera's in the side pocket), they can be an annoyance.