Thursday, February 01, 2007

Detour and Do Not Not Enter signs

I encountered two stories this past week that were thought provoking. They make me think about how to interact with a significant other. It's true that you have to learn to pick your battles. I still struggle all the time with when to let things go, when to speak up to voice my feelings and wants, and to be more empathetic.

The first story is about when Hula and Drummer first moved in together. They shared one tube of toothpaste. Soon, Hula found one thing annoying about Drummer's habits, he did not squeeze the toothpaste from the bottom and would leave the cap off. Leaving the cap off was the biggest problem because the top layer of paste would be dry and gooey after being exposed to the air between brushings.

But Hula didn't want to nag or complain about this. Instead she devised an experiment. She started leaving the cap off as well to see how Drummer would react. With both people leaving the cap off, the toothpaste became crusty and unusable. Once he finally noticed the problem, it gave her the opportunity to come in and suggest a solution. They now only buy toothpaste that has a snap cap and sits upright so that the toothpaste always settles towards the cap.

Of course, this example left me with many questions:

- What was he doing before they moved in? Wouldn't it have been dry then?

- This is not such a big deal to me. Some might call it avoidance, but I simply would have bought my own toothpaste.

- One of my ex-boyfriends didn't squeeze from the bottom either. I pointed it out but never explicitly asked him to change his ways. When I stayed at his place, I'd simply squeeze all the toothpaste up and move on. He'd watch and laugh, probably thinking I was quirky. It was a little thing that I didn't see as a big deal.

The second story is about a co-worker, Savant. Her husband just came back from a business trip to China. She was showing me this strangely painted golden pig stature that was given to him after he bought a platinum and jade necklace for her at a jewelry store in China. She was curious to know what the story was about the pig.

Savant then told me that the reason she was trying to find meaning in the statue was to restore some satisfaction after not getting the necklace. You see, when he packed for the return flight, he put the little pig statue in his carry-on bag and the necklace in his checked baggage. He was all excited when I arrived home to give her the gift. But when he opened the suitcase, it was gone.

That's when I had a strange look on my face and started, "But doesn't he know..."

"Don't go there, we don't go there," Savant lightly said.

"Yeah, it's just that I thought most know..." I tried to continue.

"Nope, that's not something we bring up. Aren't you excited about my golden pig?" Savant said this as she happily waived it in front of me. That's her upbeat personality for you.

I left it alone. I did express my sadness that she'd never get to see the necklace. She joked about me helping her imagine what it looked like. Anyone would know she was disappointed that her gift was lost. Neither of needed to say how thoughtful and loving his gift was despite the outcome.

She's been married for some 15 years. Whenever she shares stories I always wonder how one figures out these relationship lessons. My immediate reaction to such a situation would have been advise my partner what wrong decision he made rather than show my appreciation at his thoughtful gesture. When he asks her if he has more hair than a guy on tv, she reassures him he looks great. My honesty is good, but I see how it probably is not necessarily what people need to hear all the time. I need to remember to be supportive and not judging in those moments.

No comments: