Saturday, November 29, 2008

Quelle Difference

Marriage is a complex and confuddling arrangement sometimes. But with all of the confuzzling befusion, I am grateful to have only a small handful of fundamental incompatibilities with The Lovely and Talented Mrs. Hults.

The most fundamental incongruity of our marriage manifests itself in many ways, but most notably perhaps at this time of gift-giving every year. I don't know what to call the mis-match. It goes deeper, but on the surface it's a "Gifting Disparity". Or a "Film Faction". I think it's about our approach to anticipation . . .

See, AK wants her gifts now. NOW. No shaking of the package, no speculation concerning it's contents, no sugar-plums dancing in her head. No anticipation. No hiding of the gifts or keeping of the secrets. And it's not just a preference for her. The things that I relish about gift-giving, the mystery and the delicious anticipation, would cause her great emotional stress. It took me awhile to accept this, but I've slowly come to embrace this as part of The Package. I don't understand it, but I accept it. I'm even learning to like it.

As I said, it manifests itself in many ways. Throughout the year this love-hate relationship with anticipation (I love it, she hates it) shows up in our opinions about movies. It's not that I like one kind of movie and she likes another. No. I like all movies and she likes none. Films are like rides in an emotional theme park to me. Some are wild, some are mild. But all of them take you for a lovely, harmless ride before depositing you right back where you started -- in the real world. I find that these short excursions provide me with inspiration and perspective on my actual life. They teach me lessons, they pump my adrenaline, they plumb for tears of sadness and joy, and they project me into exaggerated realities so that I can learn to be the hero my real-world family needs me to be. I'm sure TLATMH would enjoy this metaphorical movie theme park of mine. But her deep-seated need to NOT BE SURPRISED at any time in any way by any thing prevents it I'm afraid. Should she walk in on me watching a movie, in the final few minutes of deus ex machina plot resolution, she will riddle me with questions: "Who is he? Why is he doing that? Is she going to be OK?". Should she indulge me and settle down to watch a whole movie with me? 5 minutes into the film she's asking the same questions. And she's not asking due to curiosity, she's asking from desperation. Not knowing the ending is legitimately traumatic for her and tantamount to 90 minutes of mental and emotional torture.

I will not speculate as to how this condition of hers came about. And that's hard for me to promise. Because I'm a troubleshooting failure analysis problem fixing mikky fikky, you understand. I won't call it Mysteryphobia or a need-to-control. Nope. I won't. I choose not to.

What I've learned is that those would be the easy choices. The brave choice is to not make this difference between us a problem that needs fixing, but to instead appreciate this difference between us. While so many aspects of our personalities are similar (we never have heated political discussions or finance or parenting arguments . . . ) wouldn't it be BORING if we weren't really near-disturbingly DIFFERENT in some ways? So no, I'm not right and she's not wrong. We're different. She's different from me, and in this way she teaches me the very best, very hardest lessons about life and about myself.

Can you tell I'm still working on embracing the movie thing? Yeah.

But I'm getting there with the gifting. For example, this year, for X-mas, I have already purchased my "big" gift. I purchased it. She will hide it and wrap it, and I will wait until X-mas for it. The old me would have wretched and plotzed a purple brick at the very thought of this. No mystery, it's true. But it's not true that there is no anticipation. I WANT the gift, it's the big thing I want, but I don't GET it until X-mas. There is some hardcore anticipatin' going on here people. In fact, what I now get to experience is the good anticipation minus the lingering fear that she won't get me what I really want. That happens, even in the closest of relationships, and it's fine. When it's happened, and it's happened for each of us, we don't take it personally or blame the other. But it still leaves us without that THING we so wanted and spent all that time anticipating! By leaving behind my immature fantasy that my wife will always read my mind, know exactly what I want in exactly what way, fund the purchase, hide it, keep the secret and "surprise me" -- I've discovered a way to aleviate at least a little of my usual holiday season anxiety.

You know, I probably developed that fantasy watching too many romantic comedies.

I'm afraid I sound selfish, going on about what I want. And I know I sound like a whiner about the movies. Gimme time, I'll get there . . . . But I hope to write instead about the intricacies of gifting and that most important gift, the one we get our spouse. The more I "mature", the more I see that we have to let go of some fantasies in order to learn, change and still grow ever closer to our life partner.

How do you gift with your hubby/wife? And is it the same as it was in the beginning?




Blogger network_weasel said...

Gifting between my darling bride and myself is always an interesting process. We often do not buy anything due to wanting to use the funds for other projects, like the house, travel or our son. When we do exchange gifts it tends to be small items like cds or books from the other persons wish list. This is balanced by not waiting until birthdays or holidays for buying those things that we would like but not actually need. Those purchases tend to happen on the rare occasions when we see a deal on something we have talked about getting, we have the money and little or no debt.

1:23 PM  
Blogger richard dandelion said...

We are all about the anticipation/mystery/surprise. In fact, we have a rule: if you discover, ferret out, or even guess what the gift is you don't get it.

Works for us, but only because MK is a great gift-giver and I'm always pleased with what she comes up with (even if it wasn't what I wanted). Come to think of it, I never really want anything, so whatever she gets ends up being a pleasant surprise. (And it's always better than what I could dream up, anyway.)

2:04 PM  
Blogger Dy said...

We're not really good at it. We try, and thank heaven it's not a big part of our relationship. But we are getting better. Slowly. Painfully.

He will never tell me what he'd really like, and there are some things (shirts, shoes, power tools) that he's just very specific and won't specify to me what he wants, so I'd rather not go that route. I've bought him a few things that I thought he would *love* and was so excited (I am all about watching someone else open a gift they love - that's what gets me all happy), but before the paper hit the floor, he'd asked if I still had the receipt. Ack. (He's not being rude - we're just that upfront with each other.)

Which is ironic... b/c he asks what I want, I tell him, and then he convinces himself that he couldn't possibly get me something that practical or he'll end up as an awful holiday "what not to do" ad... even though I'm as upfront as he is. Weird.

But we gift each other generously and beautifully in a zillion other ways, every day, which helps bolster us for actual gift-giving occasions. ;-)

8:22 AM  

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Pupp Daddy Dog spends his days working as an entrepeneur and as a Dad. He is passionately in love with/obsessively neurotic about his family. Imagine Kicking Bird mixed with Albert Brooks. Oh, and throw in some Notorious B.I.G.


Alaska is the frustrated but caring cat at the center of our canine universe. All of us alternately worship, rely on and ceaselessly whine to her. Her need to control everything is confounded by the fact that she really pretty much does control everything, so in her few free moments, she knits and searches desperately for things to fuss about.



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