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Saturday, January 19, 2013

Who Did I Marry, Again?

Today my wife called me during her lunch break. The conversation got around to reasons to take off "personal time" allowed by the company, and somehow, we got onto the subject of my death.

Me: "Well, if I die one during the night at least you won't have to take any personal time."

Her: "You mean you'd expect me to go into work?"

Me: "Sure."

Her: "Okay, Mr. Spock."

The last was, of course, a reference to the 2009 Star Trek movie, in which Spock, asked what he needed, emotionally, after seeing his planet destroyed, replied, "I need everyone to continue performing admirably."

We're all wired a bit, or a lot differently. When we marry that is often a plus; after all, opposites attract. But after a few years of living together, the strain of always being around someone who is in many ways extremely alien to you can get wearisome.

When that happens, the normal tendency is to imprint our own reactions onto our spouse. Instead of paying attention to who they are, we blank out the observed differences and fill them in with what we would do, or what we would like to see.

This can actually work pretty well, if we understand and accept what's going on. If your ego is not screaming "Look at ME!", then having your spouse assume what's comfortable to cover up what's not is understandable as a coping mechanism - and can lead to self-examination that may lead to change.

But if you have to be the center of attention, and insist on being accepted, warts and all, then you can run into some pretty big problems. You can't force someone to like everything about you. You can force them, through emotional blackmail, to pretend.

It's not that you should live a lie when your spouse assumes things that aren't true. It's about understanding what's happening, and using that understanding, and your intelligence, to focus on what's important, and let some things pass.

In the end, it's really all about a word that rhymes with marriage.

That word is compromise.

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