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|You Say Tomato... - Tomato 1|
And of course there's the category of people who want to get things ticked off a list, who invariably get partnered with people who want to sit back and consider all the options. I'm reminded of the familiar joke—it's a wife's joke, you'll see—about the woman who describes how she and her husband divide up their duties: "Wally sees to all the really big projects, like how to bring peace to the Middle East and what to do about global warming, while I handle the small things, like the kids and the house."
I began to see how much time couples spent, not only berating each other for things they couldn't change, but making contrasts in temperament into negative stories about how the partner wouldn't change. It seems that we incorporate the dilemmas and struggles and inborn constitution of our partner and too often come to think it says something—invariably something negative—about our own unfortunate fate in this life. As the self expands into the field of the couple, we begin to depend on the relationship to provide security. And instead of what we feel we so richly deserve, we get this particular, limited human being, a person stuck in the entryway, reading the mail.
I'd known Carla for only several months, but I knew well the look she gave me as she and her husband, married now for 12 years, sat on the green sofa in my office. The husband, Dennis, was defending an outburst of his that had spoiled their Saturday night. He was an impatient man, short-fused. Her look, just the tiniest roll of the eyes while she sighed, signaled her aversion: I didn't know, she telegraphed, he'd be such trouble.
We had to go over the events: she said this, he said that. Saturday night, he'd become irritated when she'd asked if he was certain he knew the route into downtown Philadelphia. He'd been insulted. The insult swelled into a rant. He defended his outburst—the provocation he had to endure, the willful criticism from Carla, unacceptable coming at the end of such a long, hard day. Then, naturally, we heard a little speech from Carla, about how she'd come to be burdened by Dennis's upset: he was irrational, while she was the soul of steady pragmatism; he was sensitive and sullen, while she cultivated good cheer. Or so it seemed to her.
He said she was rigid and picky and narrowed by mundane tasks. He was the one to have exciting visions for the two of them. He was the one to imagine that adventurous Saturday-night trip to the opera in Center City. And while she was the one to book the tickets, where would they be without his passion, his capacity to think outside the box? Each was asking the other to admire who they essentially were, yet here they'd ended up, looking at each other across a growing divide.