NOTE: The names have been changed here, so if you think that you know who I am talking about, you don’t.
A couple of days ago I was thoroughly entertained for quite a while by listening to a co-worker of mine, Chris, bicker with his wife on the phone through the cubicle wall. They apparently had a problem with their well-pump last Sunday and he was out of the office on Monday to babysit a repair crew. The crew was apparently unable to fix the problem though and they had to have the crew out again. From what I gathered, the issue was that the pump was not shutting off and it sounded like, on the advice of these experts, they just “disconnected” the pump for the time-being so that it wouldn’t over-pressurize the tank (though it also sounded like they still had water in the house from the residual pressure). For some reason, they don’t know where their well-head is and Chris was planning on going home that afternoon to use a metal-detector and/or dig some holes in their yard to look for the well so that their repair guys, who were already scheduled for the next morning, could come back and do the work that was necessary (like replace a sensor or a switch or replace the whole submersible pump). Chris’ wife however was apparently unsatisfied with this plan for some reason (I can only hear one side of this conversation so I didn’t catch all the nuances) and she wanted Chris to call another company. Chris resisted this because they were already half-way down this road with this first company and he didn’t want to start from square-one with a whole new set of people (a nice, rational piece of male logic that makes perfect sense to me). His wife, Amy, wanted her husband to do all the leg-work and “talk-technical” with the specialists, but she wanted him to do what she wanted done the way that she wanted it done and under her direction and to her schedule and priorities. She wanted him to do the grunt-work while she acted as The Executive Manager making all the strategic decisions. The whole thing got rather heated for an office conversation with Chris refusing to do what he considered to be a waste-of-time and Amy refusing to do the “man’s-work” of actually calling and talking to the repair-guys. They went around and around with this for at least 20-minutes and I think that the final outcome was that Chris “won” in that Amy was going to personally go do whatever she thought appropriate to resolve this well issue and he was going to wash-his-hands of all further involvement with it (yeah, right – that’ll last for about an hour).
What this really does for me is emphasize how atypical my wife and I are by comparison. We seldom disagree to this level on anything and we never argue like this – not even in private – and certainly not in a public forum (which an open office is). I think that one reason for this is that unlike many people, we seldom take a stand against the other’s desires “on principle”. My theory (and probably my wife’s too) is that the “Domestic Tranquility” is far more important than “being right” or “winning” in any specific situation. If it becomes clear that something is really, really important to the other person each of us is willing to give way on the issue even if we don’t agree with the plan. I know that so-called “marriage experts” say that fighting with each other is normal, necessary and healthy – but no, it isn’t any of those things – and I say this after being happily married for over 30-years.
Although I haven’t heard any telephone arguments over-the-wall for a couple of days, I have been thinking more about Chris and his relationship with his wife. It seems apparent to me that in spite of being young and having a small baby, Chris and his wife Amy are headed for a divorce. The problem, which I can clearly hear in the one side of the conversations that I get, is that he has absolutely no respect for her as a person (and this disrespect is quite likely reciprocated by her-for-him too). It is just a Fundamental Truth that “love” cannot possibly exist without the prerequisite of basic “respect”. You don’t necessarily need to agree with the other person all the time, but you must be honestly willing to view their feelings and opinions as legitimate and worthy of your consideration. You must be prepared to fully accept the other person as your equal, if not necessarily in specific skills or knowledge, then at least in “Value”. If you think that you deserve to be “The Leader” in the relationship, or even if you claim that you can accept the part of “The Follower”, then quite simply – you are doomed.
Now, I know that it is currently fashionable to consider everything female “right” and everything male “wrong”, but I don’t necessarily condemn Chris for not respecting this particular woman. There are many idiots and assholes in the world and there are many people who I have no respect for either, regardless of gender. I have never met Amy but for all I know she could be one of those idiot assholes and she may well be completely undeserving of anyone’s admiration. What I do blame Chris for though is marrying this woman and not putting forth the effort ahead of time to figure out that – by his standards – she is unworthy of his respect as an equal and therefore literally unlovable by him. It is this lack of foresight with its horrendous personal consequences that is completely unforgivable, and in this they both share the blame equally. These two will probably struggle along for another 5 or 10 years fighting and bickering and making each other’s lives miserable and listening to friends and family tell them that it is all the other’s fault. They will spend a small fortune on marriage-counseling and also probably have another kid or two in the vain and unimaginably stupid hope that this will “bring them closer”; but the end is already inevitable – as it was before they even walked down the aisle.