Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Two Sides

There are at least two sides to every story. Unless a blog is authored by multiple contributors, it generally presents only one side of a story from the perspective of the author of that blog. If one were to believe all that is in my blog, one might think that W is the bad guy, and I am the victim for that is how I often write. Yet this is not a fair representation of our situation. W and I both have good and bad sides. Unfortunately, these days we both seem to be showing more of our bad sides and the good.

I was taken aback last night to hear how W sees our situation and perceives the same events that affect us both. You would think we lived in different homes, different marriages, different worlds. You would not recognize, if you were to hear his side of the story, that this was the same couple as the one spoken of in my blog. It is something like the story of two blind men both touching an elephant but coming back with vastly different descriptions of what an elephant is like because one was touching the elephant’s trunk and one was touching the elephant’s side. Both could accurately describe the part of the elephant they had touched, but neither had the “big picture.” W and I are like that in that he and I seem to see and judge our relationship based on different things so we have vastly different opinions of how the relationship is working and how much effort each of us is putting into it.

In one example from the several raised last night at counseling, were his and my differing perceptions of how he took care of me on the day of my recent surgery.

W’s side:
I took great care of TS that day, and completely turned my usual routine on its head for her.
I stopped and picked up lunch for TS on the way home from surgery getting her exactly what she asked for at one of her favorite restaurants.
I sat with her for a while when we got home, but she didn’t talk to me much so I don’t think she wanted me there.
I was gone no longer than 30 minutes to get her pain medication.
I tried to do my very best to be there for TS and get her whatever she needed.
I even managed to get some laundry done that day while caring for her.
I misunderstood when N came and told me TS needed a pain pill, and I got her one as soon as I came upstairs an hour or so later.
I made dinner that evening without complaining about it even though she was rude to me when I asked what she would like, and she wouldn’t tell me but made me guess. I was quite worried I would guess wrong, but she seemed pleased with what I made.
I apologized when I forgot to get TS the glass of water she asked for and got it as soon as I remembered.
TS didn’t seem as grateful as I thought she’d be that I spent the whole day doing things for her.

My side:
If I had known how things would have gone I would have asked my mom or cousin to care for me that day. It wasn’t horrible, but it wasn’t what I wanted in a caretaker.
It was nice that W got me lunch at one of my favorite lunch places that day. I appreciated that.
When we got home, W got me settled in the recliner with my lunch and sat with me while I ate. He spoke very little to me.
After he took my lunch dishes away W left for about 90 minutes to run a few errands including getting my pain medication.
When he returned, W spent the rest of the afternoon in the basement until dinner time grew close.
After I told W I would like him to make dinner since I wasn’t feeling up to it, W asked me what he should make for dinner. Having asked him this on many occasions, I gave him the same answer he always gives me, “Whatever you choose will be fine.” He turned around with an exasperated look on his face and sighed. I wish he had just accepted that on the day of surgery he would be completely responsible for providing dinner.
I had no idea what W was doing in the basement because he never told me he was doing laundry. I assumed he was on the computer as he usually is when I go looking for him. I didn’t go looking for him that day because I didn’t feel up to it.
At one point, I asked N to go ask W to get me a pain pill or to at least tell me where he put them so I could get one. N returned and said that W said he’d be up in a little bit. I felt that the need for a pain pill was important enough to take care of immediately not “in a little bit.”
At one point, W asked if there was anything he could get me. I said that I’d like a glass of ice water. He got distracted and didn’t get it. I wondered if he’d forgotten, and felt that I was not quite as important as he keeps telling me when he begs me not to separate from him. Quite a while later he finally brought me my water and apologized for forgetting.
W didn’t seem to understand my frustration that day with how things were going. It seemed that asking for one day’s attention is too much.

So there you are. Two sides to the same day’s events. Both parties feel justified in being a bit miffed at the other. Both parties feel like they did the best they could in the circumstances. Both parties do not understand why the other party feels as they do. Two sides, neither completely right nor completely wrong, but just seeing the situation from two different perspectives.

What’s the point here? Well, I guess the point is that we have grown so far apart we don’t see things the same way at all, though truth be told I believe that’s been true for many years. I wonder if it is a hurdle that we could get beyond, and yet I just don’t feel like I even want to try at this point. Then I berate myself for being selfish for not wanting to try to make it better anymore. Then I think but what if we do make it better, what will make it stick? Why would I think this time would be any different than all those other times when we’ve tried to make things better, and it has always basically ended up with me finally just shutting up and accepting that W is the way W is? What if I don’t want to accept him as he is anymore? What if I want something different in a relationship? Should I be stuck here because 20 years ago I made a bad decision, and because I kept on making bad decisions for many years after that? Does anyone else see that I just keep going around in circles here?


oldbear said...

Hi TS, it is very standup of you to acknowledge that there are two sides of every story. Most of us blog-veterans can kind of keep that in the back of our minds as we read, but this is a poignant example of the elephant paradigm.

I think the questions you ask (rhetorically?) at the bottom are good ones. I think you have considered the leae or stay question carefully and I think you know whats best for you and N, and have chosen to leave.

It may be tough on W, who knows it may be unfair given that he sees things way differently than you, but you make a BUNCH of REALLY good points at the botttom of your post.

You dont deserve to pay forever for a mistake, you do seem so far apart that its unlikely to reconcile well, and given the past history you might have problems again if you do get things fixed for a while.

Sorry this is so hard on you, and on W. I hopeit is not too hard on N, and that W will try to build him and you up even though you guys are probably splititng up.

Good luck, PAX, sorry, OB.

Anonymous said...

I just hope that the two of you can try and make this work out as amicabally as possible. i am sorry you have drifted so far that to see things from each other's perspectives would need a strong pair of binoculars. Hugs and warm wishes Hon.

Rob said...

"Should I be stuck here because 20 years ago I made a bad decision, and because I kept on making bad decisions for many years after that?"

I guess the question bluntly is do you feel that both of you are capable of changing and making your marriage work for the long haul. You both have gone through years that were lacking in close communication with each other. It may be a tad naive to feel that this can all be corrected practically overnight. Look, you both are not mind readers. The only way that you both will be 100% on the same page 100% of the time is for both of you to make a concerted effort to explicitly state what is on your minds to each other - at the time that you feel these emotions - not keep them inside and brood about them, only voicing them much later when it is too late. No one says that this will be easy and no one says that this will work out unless you BOTH are determined to give your very best efforts towards each other, allowing as well for setbacks but not getting discouraged. Good luck to you both.

trueself said...

OB & FL,
Thanks for the support.

To answer this:
I guess the question bluntly is do you feel that both of you are capable of changing and making your marriage work for the long haul.
No, I do not feel that both of us, perhaps not either one of us, are willing (capable maybe, willing highly doubtful) to make the changes necessary to make our marriage work. I am pretty sure that W will not make long term changes to meet my needs better. I am very sure that I am tired of putting up with him the way he is, and I believe I would have to be willing to do that to make things work just as I have for years.

Emily said...

Dear Trueself

I was quite struck by this post, which I thought was very honest and fair-minded.

I honestly think all relationship, even good ones, have these irreconcilably different points of view.

I actually think most people are "incompatible" with most other people on at least some issues, over any period of time. People have different personalities, different priorities, different personal pasts, different opinions, different points of view.

The marriage writer John Gottman says that all marriages, even good ones, have both some solveable problems and certain issues that are perpetual because they are basic to the personalities of the two people and very resistant to change. The key to the unresolvable ones is finding ways to live with the issues, work around them, keep talking to each other, keep connecting, not getting stuck in opposite corners.

I think an awful lot in a relationship is about the feeling created between you - approaching these differences, even irreconcilable differences, with generosity, assuming the best intentions rather than the worst.

When a relationship is good, when the feeling between you is good, these differences can be frustrating, but they're not terminal. And they are made up for by all the little ways in which you show love for each other and reach out to each other. When its turned bad, when at least one person just plain wants out, every difference seems like another endless chasm, another reason to leave.

In your position, I would be tempted to try to give the marriage another year. Not another year as it has been, but another year of genuine attempts to change it in order save it. And I would really throw everything I had into trying. Keeping up with the counselling. Listening to each other. Being forthright about what needs to change on both sides. And finding out if W is able to maintain a willingness to change for those 12 months, bearing in mind that he may well have similar needs for you to change.

Then if I really saw no significant, long-term changes that were sticking, both in W and in the dynamic, I'd leave with a better conscience, knowing I'd truly done what I could.

But I'm not you, Trueself. It's your life, not mine.

Anonymous said...

I am not sure why my comment came out as from anonymous

trueself said...

It wasn't anonymous until I switched to the beta version of blogger last night. Not quite sure why that happened in the changeover.