The Watchtower of Destruction: The Ferrett's Journal - Illogical, Captain
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Gini was complaining to me for no good reason. Thankfully, I knew it was no good reason. Which was why we had no problems.
See, I had left the dishes in the kitchen sink for too long. I generally can go about a day, maybe two, before putting them in the dishwasher, assuming they're not totally crudded up with food. These are the dishes that I've made a bagel on and have a smear of butter, some jelly, and some crumbs. Not much. And though I will put them away, generally when I'm tidying up the kitchen in my every-couple-of-days full-kitchen tidyings, it's not something I do automatically.
"It's completely irrational," Gini said, "But those dishes in the kitchen are really pissing me off."
"Okay," I said. And got up and put them away, and made a note to try to put them directly in the dishwasher the next time.
Gini could have adopted a different approach. She could have come in and informed me how she had clearly thought this through, and having the dishes in the sink as a staging area is clearly an illogical thing to do. It leaves an unsightly mess in the kitchen, and why waste the effort when I could just put them straight in the dishwasher?
But had she done that, then I would have counter-responded with the information that the dishwasher is sometimes full, so I can't put them in straight away, and considering that I put away all the dishes when I tidy up I might as well do everything in one shot - and most importantly, the mess in the kitchen isn't that unsightly. It's two dishes in a sink. Not bad at all.
She would have then responded with her counterarguments about the appropriate level of effort for kitchen-cleaning and mess-making, and I would have had my counter-counter arguments, and there would have been counter-counter-counter arguments about the counter, and who would have won? Nobody. Even if she had gotten me to do the dishes, I would have felt resentful, she would have been sullen because she had to fight to get me to do the right thing.
Yet thankfully, my wife's damn smart. She recognized that what she had was not a collection of tightly-logical, inviolable logic, but rather a preference for a given way of doing things that is actually a judgment call. And by saying, "Look, this silly thing irritates me for reasons that may or may not be defensible," it takes the focus off of whether her feelings are justifiable and puts the focus on how I want to make her feel. Which is, of course, awesome at all times.
Thing is, I've been in relationships where every argument was about how the other person was justified. You want to have fights? Let's discuss how the toilet seat should be by default, which way the toilet paper hangs, how often you should clean the shower. And you can develop an intense series of elaborate justifications as to why your preference is innately superior, then hand them all to your partner with the full expectation that they will - nay, must - agree with your irrefutable logic...
...But when your partner starts picking holes in your theory (and generally they're pretty legitimate holes created by differing levels of tolerance, such as Gini's "mess" being my "that's just the way a kitchen looks sometimes"), then you have to defend your theory, and they're backed into defending theirs, and wham. Argument. A conflict that usually drifts quickly into, "I'm right. Acknowledge how right I am."
Because Gini is actually a rational person instead of an irrational person trying to put a veneer of logic on something she dislikes, she was able to say, "The core issue is that it bugs me. Can you stop?" And because I love her and put a priority on trying to do things that don't bug her, I will put effort into trying to stop.
Yes, there are partners who would abuse this loophole were it given, arbitrarily shutting me down for every annoyance. But again, Gini's a rational person. She doesn't come in here to settle every minor thing, just the things that are vexing her far out of proportion to the effort it would take me to fix it. Which is why I love her. (And if it turns out that the effort is actually more than she knows? Well, we can negotiate a settlement.)
But humans? Most of the time, we react from the gut, and then come up with rationalizations as to why our gut dislike is actually a Sherlock Holmesian chain of irrefutable conclusions. I do it, Gini does it, and so does everyone else I know - we're a pretty backwards race, when it comes down to it, biologically wired full of mental shortcuts that save valuable processing power but don't always work properly. And as such, it's a useful tool in a sane relationship to occasionally say to her, "Look, this is illogical, but here's my emotion. It exists. What can we do about it?"
Julie and I strive to do this. And we're getting there.
It's not helped by my tendency to hear "Doing X makes me unhappy." as "Doing X is wrong. If you don't stop at once then we're dooooomed!"
But I'm working on that too.
Trueness. I, too, have an issue with that, but I think most people do.
Deborah Tannen wrote a book back in 1990 called "You Just Don't Understand" about that very subject. In retrospect, it put I think too much inappropriate emphasis on "Women are like this, men are like that," but the essence of its message was, "Sometimes people say things to solicit solutions to problems, and other times they just say stuff that's an opportunity to reinforce your bond with each other, and it's really important to learn the difference." I know it saved my relationship with my partner because right around that time, '92 or so, we would have these horrible screaming and crying arguments that went nowhere and got nothing resolved, and when we both absorbed the advice to be mindful of whether the issue was problem solving versus venting, the scales fell from our eyes and it's been conversational smooth sailing ever since.
"Look, this is illogical, but here's my emotion. It exists. What can we do about it?"
So what do you do if the other person then turns round and says "Well stop being illogical and upset over nothing, go sort yourself out"?
|Date:||May 25th, 2009 02:00 pm (UTC)|| |
You definitely have to have a good, solid working relationship based on respect. It's not a card that one partner can play all the time and expect to have work in a kind of mindless, kneejerk manner.
There is definite give-and-take about it. Each of us gets our own way on some things, but not on everything.
We both love and respect each other enough that we want to try and make each other happy. Sometimes it requires compromise. If we both want something that is in direct conflict with the desires of the other, then we have to figure out how best to suit both our needs.
|Date:||May 25th, 2009 01:24 pm (UTC)|| |
I remember being VERY pregnant, getting up to the bathroom in the middle of the night, and FALLING IN to the freezing cold water, and needing my husband to wake and help me OUT again (low center of gravity here) and being VERY CLEAR that the toilet seat stays DOWN< DAMMIT!! No discussion or rationalization.
But yes, we usually are able to be rational with each other and talk about what 'bugs' us.
I always seem to hear stories about women falling into the toilet. I don't get it. Don't you look before you sit?
If a guy gets up at 3am to take a dump and the seat is up we do this newage concept of checking the position then making adjustments if necessary. I can't remember even once hearing a guy fell in. Your bathroom could be pitch dark and you should still be able to tell by using the sense of touch.
This is something I strive for and generally do pretty well at.
I actually noticed it because my ex-boyfriend was the other type. He used to bitch about everything from the way I hung the towels in the bathroom to how I cleaned off my car, arranged the dishes in the dishwasher, refilled ice trays, etc.. His way was the right way, and there was no arguing. Whenever I'd point out how silly and stupid this obsessive compulsive controlling behavior was, he'd start up with crazy justifications, and if I didn't play along in the justification game, he'd decide that he'd "won" and tell me to "fix" whatever I did wrong.
We used to just bicker like crazy about it, then a dear mutual friend was like "I hate to say this, but 1. it's crazy how much effort he puts into this trivial discussion, 2. don't you feel like he completely disrespects you? and 3. I'm not sure he'll ever be willing to see your point of view, because at the end of the day, you're in your early 20s, he's in his late 30s, and he's been doing things longer than you have, so he thinks you're wrong because you lack the experience."
After a while, I kind of did a mental check on all the OTHER things about our relationship that ticked me off, and I decided it wasn't worth it.
Though the ultimate finale to my reasoning for ending things with him was thus:
I no longer felt any desire to do things that made him happy. Not particular sexual kinks, not special little surprises, not even complying with our usual routines. I didn't want to make him happy. And everyone deserves to be with someone who want to make them happy.
And as a final happy note - my current boyfriend and I are very open to explaining the logic or non-logic of any given emotion...
I think that's a solid example of how a bad relationship could, and probably should, end.
Let me get this straight. Something was bugging her and she outright told you? She didn't drop hints, go all passive agressive, give orders or just be mad for no reason. Oh my god, never leave this woman.
I have watched way too many sitcoms.
Please accept a free virtual drink for this comment. And bartender - keep 'em coming.
My husband has Tourette's with accompanying OCD.
This post practically IS our relationship. :D
|Date:||May 25th, 2009 02:58 pm (UTC)|| |
And as such, it's a useful tool in a sane relationship to occasionally say to her, "Look, this is illogical, but here's my emotion. It exists. What can we do about it?"
What if a partner refuses to acknowledge that irrational emotions are even worth dealing with? I tried the "Your actions/your tone of voice/what you said have upset me. I know you didn't deliberately set out to upset me, but you did. Can we talk about this?" They countered with "Well I didn't mean it and that's just irrational" and refused to speak of it again.
I think it doesn't matter how much someone wants to communicate, if one half can't meet halfway, then it ain't gonna fix. You're lucky that both of you are willing to work at it.
(But I'll keep in mind the rationalisations thing. I'm sure I've done it, and I have a feeling it has to do with some sort of power struggle in a relationship where things aren't balanced.)
|Date:||May 25th, 2009 06:00 pm (UTC)|| |
Oh, yes. Both partners need to be willing to give and take with mutual respect. Ferrett has an irrational dislike of relining the garbage cans after taking out the full bags. I can argue with him that it's part of the job and badger him into doing it, or I can recognize that it's just one of those quirks and that I have quirks of my own, and reline the cans. He acknowledges that it's silly, I acknowledge that he has the right to be silly about some things, and we go on from there.
If someone won't meet you in the middle? Game over.
|Date:||May 25th, 2009 03:01 pm (UTC)|| |
It's amazing sometimes how uncooperative and irritable I can be with people who want to tell me that I'm doing something 'wrong' around the house or that something 'needs' to be done when I can't personally see or feel the need or urgency.
But if they once stop to think and then just tell me that it would make them *happy* (or happier) if I did thing 'A' this way, or took care of thing 'B' as soon as possible... I'm on it.
This is assuming the basic qualifiers that the request requires a reasonable amount of effort and they are people I normally respect and care about, but I try to avoid sharing living quarters with the kind of people I don't.
I guess this is the 'pro-active' version of your story: I once shared a house with a couple. He and I were relatively casual around the house, me most of all. But his partner was an exceedingly smart and sweet Swiss girl who was undeniably a little OCD about housekeeping. We both adored her and wanted her to be happy, and she tried hard not to be too obnoxiously white-glove about most things.
She figured me out.
One day I had been doing my semi-regular shaving routine. I believe I tried to clean up after myself, but I don't remember doing anything special or out of the ordinary. But shortly after I was done, she went into the bathroom, and then came out and headed towards me. I braced myself.
And then she sweetly, graciously, and sincerely, *thanked me* for making sure to take the effort to clean the sink and make all the little stubble hairs go away before she had to see them. I had to do a quick sarcasm check, and found absolutely none.
I was flabbergasted. I don't think anyone ever *thanked me* for anything like that before, and told me how much it made them happy. End result was that even though it's been -years- since we all lived together, whenever I do my shaving ritual I -still- make sure to soap up and hose down the sink after I'm done. And in the back of my mind, while I'm doing it, there's still a little voice in the back of my mind that's saying, "This makes Heather happy!"
Fortunately she was smart enough not to abuse or over-use this power, she saved it for only those things that peeved her most. Overdoing it would have felt like manipulation, which nobody likes. But I still marvel at the impression it left upon me and how I *still* care about "making Heather happy" long after she's gone from my household and now just a long-distance friend.
|Date:||May 26th, 2009 12:51 am (UTC)|| |
Re: Pro-active maneuvering
See? We do the thanky-thing. This, too, is a good thing, and I probably should have mentioned that as well.
It took me a long time to realize that me thinking I was right about a given issue wasn't what was most important. I'm getting better at recognizing when it's just better to keep my mouth shut when I think somebody is full of it instead of getting into an argument that gets everybody upset and accomplishes nothing. There are also times when I'll do something just because somebody wants me to even though I may think it's a goofy thing to do.
May I have permission to print this for future reference? It's awesome!
It is freely-licenseable advice. Go to.
I have this book called "Nonviolent Communication" which is not as negative sounding as the title. It's not violence in the sense of punching as destructive confrontation. It discusses how to communicate with others with non-judgmental language, and differentiating feelings with needs. I've always sort-of blurred them.
The four steps, when used in "self-expression" mode, work like this:
1. To observe without evaluation, judgment, or analysis,
2. To express feelings which these observations evoke,
3. To express needs connected with these feelings,
4. (optional) To make a specific request of another person to help meet an unmet need, and to enrich life of everyone involved. Essential in this is that the other person is to be left free to honour or decline the request.
(excuse the re-edits, I had limited time to write a good comment)
Edited at 2009-05-25 04:05 pm (UTC)
|Date:||May 25th, 2009 06:13 pm (UTC)|| |
Erik and I are both fastidious, so we don't have these problems.
But my parents used to argue about two things: My mother was always late and my father was always timely. My mother also kept everything and my father hated "clutter" and "junk," (which a lot of it was.)
Erik and I are both timely and we both hate clutter. If it has no purpose, out it goes, (to recycling or "Greencycle" if possible.)
OK - I WANT your wife on so many levels....
So do I!
Unfortunately, I win. (I can, occasionally, share, but even then you probably don't get the whole "living with the glory that is her" thing.)
This is so true.
It's akin to the arguments I sometimes see where a person is trying, without success, to argue that a particular bad movie is a really good movie, when what they are really trying to assert is that they like it. It turns into "I'm right. Acknowledge how right I am."
I have learned that if I admit that I love something terrible, but that it IS terrible, it tells me a lot about people. If someone thinks worse of me because I am arguing that something horrible by any sane objective measure is in fact quite excellent, well, I would expect that, because that is a stupid thing to do. If someone thinks worse of me because I like Van Helsing and watch it often, that's their problem; I fully acknowledge that it's a horrible movie, no matter how much it delights me.
Anyway. I digressed. I am sorry. I agree. There are some things that just annoy me or Sargon for no reason. We try not to do those things, not because we think that the other person has a logical point, but because the effort required to alter our behavior is very small compared to the amount of relief the other person experiences.
If Sargon tried to tell me that all fruit is disgusting and that bananas were created by Satan to plague mankind and that I was stupid and wrong to eat them, I would tell him to get fucked. And, in fact, for years, I told him to get fucked, because he could not separate "I dislike that" from "You should dislike that, too, and there is something wrong with you if you don't."
When he started asking me politely not to eat them around him because the smell apparently really, really bothers him, I stopped eating them around him. I think he's weird, and I don't understand how he can smell a banana peel three rooms away but not smell the giant flowering shrubbery right next to him in the driveway, but if you ask politely, that sort of thing is not too much to ask. I will do for love what logic could never compel me to do.
I like bananas, but I can also smell them being peeled from 3 rooms away. For me, cooking fish is the smell that requires a closed door or two. (And I, too, mostly don't smell flowers.)
Oof, this is the problem my boyfriend and I have all the time. This plus the "how could you?" sort of arguments you mentioned before. It's hard.
Look, this is illogical, but here's my emotion. It exists. What can we do about it?
Sometimes humans need to stop and say "Here's my emotion; it exists...and it shouldn't it. It is wrong that I feel this way about this thing."
(I'm not saying the dishes scenario is an example of this, I'm talking about in general.)
I guess in a functional relationship you have to make some kind of trade off between the questions of "are they happy?" and "are they right?"...
|Date:||May 26th, 2009 02:48 am (UTC)|| |
If I'm remembering correctly...
This reminds me of your thoughts on the issue of "sometimes people just want to complain" where it is important to realise that and not always point out how to fix whatever it is, but just to go with it. Other times solutions are what's needed and telling the difference is the skill. It seems like a similar situation of seperation of emotion and logic.
there is absolutely NO debate on which direction the TP should face. The only logical position is with the flap in the front. Otherwise, you can sit there for days trying to find the goddamned edge. The bigger issue is WHY can't it be changed by anyone other than myself? Ever.
And the default position for the toilet seat? all the way down. Lid and all. That way it's an inconvenience for everyone AND the dog/child doesn't get into the toilet.