I saw a post on Facebook about the right way to put on a bra. I did not click on the story but happened to read a comment as I was passing by. The comment said, “People put their bra on backwards and then twist it around?!” I stopped. “Ummm, there is another way to put on a bra?” I thought. I cannot even remember how or when I learned how to put on a bra. Nor has it ever entered my mind that there were other ways to do it. [Surely it is not a shocker that, as a woman, bras are part of my life . . . ?]
Funny how we take things we “know” for granted. Another example is when I first moved to Arizona and ordered a soft drink at a restaurant. I asked the waiter for a coke. She said, “regular or diet.” I said Dr. Pepper. She said, “You want a Coke or Dr. Pepper?” I answered, “Dr. Pepper” . . . and then sat in slight bewilderment. I had never thought about it.
In Arkansas when someone takes a drink order, it is normal to answer “a coke.” The server then asks, ”What kind?” To which I would reply, “Dr. Pepper.” I never thought of it any other way. I did see in movies people calling soft-drinks by other names: soda pop, soda, pop, soft-drink, etc, but it never really registered.
After I got married, I explained it to my husband. He thought it was one of the craziest things he had ever heard. “Why would you order a Coke if you want a Dr. Pepper?” Yes, I do now realize the irony but to us coke was what we called all soft-drinks. It just was.
This is a recurring theme in my life. As a speaker and attorney, I interact with a very large and diverse group of people so I encounter different perspectives, and different ways of doing, or thinking about, things - a lot. It keeps me on my toes. But it also reminds me that humans are a very diverse creation and cultures are the result of more than just ethnicity or religion.
That understanding is why so many questions I answer are multi-faceted and multi-leveled. It almost always “depends.” (Yes I am a lawyer but I spoke in “ it depends” long before I went to law school). It depends on culture, background, beliefs, situation, justifications, personal preference, and even personal decisions, among many other factors.
Understanding other perspectives, understanding how even the culture within a culture (family, state, country, region, etc.) can be different, is very important to me. Though I can have my own opinions, even passionate ones, it allows me to still see how someone else might have a different idea that is still completely rational.
This has come in handy in my marriage many times. One particular time was during the build up to the latest Iraq invasion.
My husband is from Iraq. My husband literally fled from Saddam’s Regime – forty days in a Baghdad basement, forty days traveling through the mountains, forty days hiding in the Kurdish area, before escaping to Turkey and then Jordan. Even with him sharing the stories, what he experienced physically and emotionally is beyond my comprehension.
It is no surprise my husband was very supportive of the invasion of Iraq. I, on the other hand, was a very active member, organizer, and speaker within the “anti-war” (I prefer “peace”) movement.
We were definitely on opposite ends of the debate. But we had also founded our marriage and relationship on both respect of our individuality and communication. So we talked about it. A lot.
He really did believe that an invasion of Iraq would make Iraq a better place and result in a rebuilding of the country. He often described his vision of an Iraq rebuilt like Germany.
I respected his sharing of his perspective – why he felt the way he did – even if sometimes it really was just a feeling without facts to support it. [I do not mean that in a condescending way. My husband often has “feeling” that he cannot analyze or verbally explain, but they are still valid – and usually ‘right on target’ upon reflection.]
I never believed an invasion would improve Iraq. I never believed Iraq would be the modern day Germany and Japan story. And that was one of the major reasons for my opposition to the war.
Though we can look back now and see who was right, at the time everything was really just an opinion. No one knew for sure how it would turn out – certainly neither of us.
I supported his right to have his ideas and he supported mine. But he also respected that I was “on the front-lines” (locally) physically and vocally advocating my perspective. He never felt threated by that. He never felt that I was disrespecting his opinion by my activities – and neither did I.
That is an important distinction. I often see couples disagree on issues without respect. I often see couples very upset because they cannot agree. I even see one partner demanding the other agree on an opinion – due to gender, education, or possible expertise [We are talking opinion, not actual provable issues like whether the world is round.].
While “boundary issues” (non-negotiables) are important for major issues (life/death, character, morals, etc) within a marriage, most things do not actually fall into that category. Not agreeing is okay. Finding a common ground is great. But we will not always agree. We have to decide how important individual issues are so we know what to let go. Being willing to entertain and respect another perspective helps a lot.
The reality is that there is more than one perspective, sometimes several, and even the same perspective can be based on completely different reasons.
On matters of opinion, it is always good to remember, “you do not have to be wrong for me to be right.”
Do you have any examples of things you thought "just were" and then found there were other ways?
Do you think spouses do, or should agree on everything?
How do you work through disagreements with your spouse? Anything you think is particularly useful or helpful for others to try/remember?