Written by: Amy Dalke
My husband, Larry, and I have contrasting likes/dislikes; and we have disparate perspectives towards any number of issues.
For instance, he has read two books since we’ve been married. I have read at least twenty since November.
He will not eat vegetables, except for the occasional raw carrot or crunchy green bean. I would carry a veggie tray in my purse if it would fit.
I tend to go with my gut when making decisions. He analyzes facts to their death, and then makes decisions based on logic.
I often speak before I think. He measures his words, after careful thought.
I am impulsive and impatient. He can wait something out until I’ve forgotten my initial passion for Whatever It Is. (…come to think of it, I just realized that might be his strategy.)
Suffice it to say, our differing opinions can occasionally lead to disagreements.
Take Friday night for example.
[Preface] A group of friends decided we would all go skiing in New Mexico for spring break. (Larry and I were both part of this initial discussion.) The Skilled Planners/Organizers in our group did their research, and found that there are no homes available at Angel Fire (or nearby resorts) that could accommodate all 17 of us. Following a string of back-and-forth emails, describing and discussing our various options, it was finally agreed that we would go to Keystone in Colorado instead.
I confirmed that the Dalke’s were still on board. The deposit was paid. And so on.
Since we had already agreed to go skiing, I didn’t think this new “change” in geographical location really affected anything.
It did…at least it did for Larry, that is.
(I mean, in my defense, Colorado and New Mexico are both somewhere between Texas and California. How was I supposed to know they were about six hours apart?? And what is six hours, when you’re already traveling thirteen?)
I may have mentioned this venue update to Larry at some point last Wednesday, but his ears don’t always catch my words. There are times I truly believe this is a learned skill. But I digress. Nonetheless, he claims the updated ski trip location was brand new to him on Friday. (I reserve the right to revisit this situation one day to make a point about how he doesn’t ever listen to me.)
So…back to Friday.
We were going to hang out with our friends (the ones we are going skiing with) that evening, so earlier in the afternoon, I thought it would be good to quickly discuss the ski trip again with Larry. I knew he wasn’t exactly doing back-flips about the re-routed, lengthened drive; therefore it was my job to remind him that it would be awesome if he refrained from complaining the whole evening about skiing, and driving to ski, and all the other things anti-ski-related.
The fact is, I don’t like it when things are out of sync. What I mean is…I generally take a positive approach towards most matters, especially if I know others have opposing thoughts. Larry, well…sometimes I think he likes to offer dissenting viewpoints. I am an approval addict, so I want everyone to get along, with delight and contentment. Those who know Larry can vouch for me when I say…he’s not exactly Pollyanna; he doesn’t really worry about pleasing other people. He views life through more of a skeptical eye (which God often uses as wisdom and discernment, so this is not all bad, mind you). However, I cringe sometimes when he freely voices his dislikes with seemingly pessimistic attitudes. Sometimes I feel like I need to walk behind him, and whisper, “He’s really not always this critical…he really is a nice guy.” (As if Larry needs people to like him.) (This is pathetic in more ways than we have time to talk about today…)
My failure to communicate about the ski trip revisions (or his failure to listen to my attempt) created a bubbling brook of irritation and resentment between us. Granted, I’m fairly certain his anxiety and frustration levels had not soared like mine had. I went into Friday evening prepared to deflect any of Larry’s negative opinions…(and to win him over to my amiable outlook). He went into the evening prepared to be attacked (by me), because of his contrasting sentiment. In other words, I had clearly sent the message that it was not okay for him to disagree. (I know. Ridiculous.)
To spare you the details, let’s just say there were a couple of accusatory words exchanged between the two of us over the course of the evening. And that was not awkward at all for our six friends around the table. I could have graciously spared them all, except I have this annoying tendency to insist on the last word. I can’t Just. Stop. My. Mouth. This might be okay if Larry didn’t have this same problem. Only one of us can have the last word, and both of us insist on it. All of this excitement on a beautiful Friday evening, around the dinner table. (Next time, I’ll give you a heads up, and we’ll sell tickets.)
Saturday morning didn’t come with any sweet apologies from my end. In fact, I woke up with the mindset that I would not give in…because obviously, Larry was the one who owed ME an apology. All the day long, I replied with short answers, sarcastically bitter “um-hmms”, and purposefully obnoxious sighs. One of my top 5 immature actions of the day was when I walked the long way around the kitchen island, just so he could not (even inadvertently) touch me. Well that sure showed him. (Oh please.)
The day’s highlight reel was capped off by date night with our best-friend-neighbors. Let me just say, date night was the LAST thing I wanted to do. I’m not a good actor. If I am not happy with someone or something, it’s nearly impossible for me to just slap on a cheerful grin. I probably don’t have to tell you that it’s completely fair to feel sorry for our dinner companions. Lord, have mercy.
For the second night in a row, we were That Couple. You know the one who nitpicks and jabs at each other all the time, and argues over every little thing…with no care for their company, or their surroundings? I may be a tad dramatic here; it’s not like we had a war of words throughout dinner. Yet I definitely wore my attitude like a jacket I refused to remove.
Larry made one comment to me, in the middle of our feud, which struck me to the core. While I arrogantly aired out my frustrations about HIS shortcomings, he asked me:
“Did you ever consider that my interests, and my opinions, may be different from yours? And that…just because I’m different, that doesn’t make me wrong?”
Well, when you put it like that…
Not once did I factor into this situation, a few little things I know about Larry:
1) He hates to be cold.
2) He is highly prone to altitude sickness.
3) He doesn’t really love to ski. (see number 1)
4) Driving for long distances is not his ideal way to spend 4 days…mainly because he gets motion sickness Very. Easily.
Since I wanted to go…then I expected him to be equally enthusiastic. When he wasn’t…it irritated me. I thought, “Why does he always have to be so negative?”
There are 53.2 moral lessons I learned through this weekend’s saga. I realized I should pay more attention to detail (this may have all been avoided, had I not assumed Colorado and New Mexico were equidistant from Houston.) There was also a lesson or two about pride: if I could have humbly retreated from my adamant high horse on Friday evening, then I would not have wasted all day Saturday in a sulk fest.
My biggest take-away, though, is that there is much grace to filled into the gaps of our differences. Just because I like something, doesn’t mean Larry should like it, too. I can see it one way, and he can view it from another…without one of us being “wrong”. It probably isn’t that amazing to be married to someone who assumes you share their opinion at all times. (And if you don’t, well…you better change your mind quickly.)
Instead of being so hell-bent on “fixing” his cynical negativity… maybe I could spend some time dealing with that part of me that needs him to just fall in line with whatever I decide I want to do. My gut hurts as I type these words, because the pride in me fears your judgment: “Seriously, I didn’t realize she was so selfish.” “Poor Larry…she seems kind of [insert that “b” word].”
I am hoping that next time Larry and I have a disagreement, I will careful look at both sides of the “story” before I allow my emotions to spill out over the dinner table.
I think I’ll work on a major perspective shift:
…instead of focusing on the imperfections of my husband, I just might focus on changing his imperfect wife.
I’ll let you know how this goes…
p.s. here is irony at its finest: our Sunday school starts a new book next week: Love & Respect: the love she most desires, the respect he desperately needs. Well, then. Looks like I’m getting some up front and center opportunities to change…