We humans are a curious lot. We often seem obsessed with trying to figure out how things work and why things are the way they are.
So, old Isaac Newton gets conked on his head while sitting under an apple tree and begins asking why the apple fell, all the while avoiding the more important question of why would anyone try to take a nap under a tree that has the potential of dropping 347 apples on your head.
That “more important question” is the one that Mrs. Newton often asks herself about her absent minded husband.
He bursts through the back door eager to share with her his “discovery” of gravity.
He is met by a stone-faced Mrs. Newton, who says with an agitated tone, “Fig! (that’s what she called him). You’ve got a plum-size knot on your forehead again. Have you been napping under the apple tree instead of gathering the apples like I asked you to?!”
With a look of shock he says, “But I’ve made an amazing discovery!”
She looks at him with incredulity and replies, “But I’m supposed to make apple pie for supper tonight!”
And they part, mumbling under their breath, “He/she just doesn’t make sense to me sometimes.”
As ridiculous as it my seem, I’ve seen arguments just like the imaginary one above drive couples to such utter exasperation that, to them, the only solution is divorce court. Often, when couples are performing their version of “the argument dance” during a counseling session, one or both of them will say, “I just don’t understand!”
Two quick examples, which everyone can identify with, will suffice to illustrate my point. The wife will say, with a gush of emotion and a far away look in her eye, “If just one time he would surprise me with flowers on a day other than my birthday or anniversary, I would melt into his arms.”
Or the husband will say with uncharacteristic passion, “Why is it that she always wants to talk to me during (pick one) the final two minutes of the game/the bottom of the ninth inning/the last 5 laps of the race? Can’t she just wait a minute?!”
And they will both react by exclaiming disdainfully, “I just don’t understand him/her.”
Occasionally they will turn it around and say, “He/she just doesn’t understand me!”
But guess what. That’s not what they are really trying to say. I mean, is there any man in the United States that doesn’t understand that a woman likes to have flowers given to her for no special reason? We’ve heard about it in every marital self-help book for the past 30 years. Books like: I Am Earthling. What Planet Are You From?, or What every man should know about women but doesn‘t have the sense to ask about, or Face It – You Married a Slob. Oprah has a program devoted to the subject at least twice a week. Dr. Laura spouts about it over the radio. It’s in every FTD commercial. And of course Dr. Phil throws in his two cents worth.
And as intuitive as women are, I can’t believe they don’t understand that when a man gets that glazed, demonic look in his eye, and is yelling at the top of his lungs at the T.V., he is not interested in talking about anything.
What couples mean when they say “I don’t understand” is, it doesn’t make sense to me.
By implication they are saying, “That doesn’t make sense to me, so why should I do it?”
Then, in therapy they look to me and ask, “Why are they (my spouse) like that?”
When I first started working as a therapist, this question would paralyze me with fear and intimidation, feeling I had to have insight into every human behavior and come up with explanations that sound like I’m intelligent. So I would rattle some inane psycho-babble and nod my head with gravity. And people would say, “Oh.” But in their minds I’m sure they were saying, “What kind of inane psycho-babbling idiot is this?”
Now that I’m a full-fleged member of AARP (the American Association of people Referred to as Pitiful), I’m finding it much easier to just be honest with people and return their perplexed gaze and say, “I don’t have the foggiest idea why they are like they are.”
What I find myself saying more and more to couples is, it doesn’t have to make sense to you.
The important thing for all married couples to remember is that when you married, you made a commitment to your spouse to respond to them in a loving, gracious, and kind manner. That commitment is more than just idle words spoken. It should mean something to you! It should motivate you to please your spouse, period. And, as long as what your spouse wants from you is not unhealthy for you or immoral, you ought to do it – whether it makes sense or not.
The Bible tells us that a man should dwell with his wife according to knowledge (I Peter 3:7). It says nothing about it making sense. One of the main tasks of marriage is to study and learn about your spouse and the things that will make them feel valued.
All you have to do is gain the knowledge of what pleases and what doesn’t please your spouse and then make a decision as to whether or not you are going to respond to that knowledge.
If you’ll practice this, you’ll be amazed how much simpler and satisfying married life can be.