Wednesday, June 15, 2011


Andrew is having difficulty parting with books. Not that he's bid adieu to that many; thus far only six bags have actually left the house. The others are sitting in heaps on the living room floor. But he gets credit for clearing out the pile in one corner of our room. And the bookshelf that's falling apart now has nearly empty shelves. Andrew notes that progress is being made.

My husband is a fan of Francis of Assisi, who gave up all his wealth to serve Christ through the poor. Perhaps this is because Andrew struggles with the issue of detachment from worldly goods. It does not occur to him to throw out old Starbucks receipts, much less abandon magazines or books he might read a decade from now.

Me, I am at the opposite end of the spectrum: I can throw out anything. And so for us keeping stuff is a part of that group of things that require marital mindbending: Andrew hates hot weather, while I dread the cold; he prefers late nights, while I am a morning person; he likes fried wontons, and I gag at the grease. Much as Andrew and I are one, there is always an other-ness about him that defies my comprehension.

I think a solid appreciation of the other-ness of one's spouse is a prerequisite to a good marriage, much as an acceptance of the other-ness of God is necessary for faith.* We fall easily into the trap of assuming that people think (and therefore should act) like we do. And the closer we are to people, the more we think this. It helps to remember that when others don't act the way we expect it's not always because they're inconsiderate or thoughtless or stubborn or whatever pejorative comes to mind. It's often that they've committed the sin of not being us. Their minds work differently, and different isn't always what we want.

But being attached to Andrew in marriage means I am attached to all of him, not just the parts that reflect me or the side I understand or the things I like. Staying attached to him sometimes means letting go of precious things, like getting my way or proving I'm right. And thus the paradox: detachment -- the ability to let go and step back and see what is going on, objectively -- is a prerequisite for healthy attachment.
If I had three wishes, I'd use one to spend five minutes inside someone else's brain to see what it's like viewing the world from a different perspective. I probably wouldn't choose Andrew's mind, though; I might find out things that, in the interest of continuing our attachment, he's wisely kept to himself.

*It struck me recently that one major difference between the Psalms -- I was reading #17 -- and most of the impromptu prayers we hear these days is that the psalmist, while trusting wholly in God and loving him fully, wasn't under the impression that God was his pal. He understood that friendship with someone who can create a universe is categorically different than being buddies.


  1. So, so true. More marriages would weather the rocky spots if both partners had your attitude. And I love your last paragraph and totally agree! There are song lyrics and poetry about being inside another's head, but I know I don't want to be inside my husband's or have him in mine!

  2. This post spoke to me today. Thank you.

  3. My husband Rick and I have been married 34 years and your column today was right on target. We are total opposites but some how through God's grace we have made it - that and a sense of humor. Thanks for the humourous insights this morning. I so enjoy reading Lotsa Laundry.

  4. I've been struck by people's tendency to take others' differences as a personal affront. It's kind of a failure of imagination, to believe that other people see the same things the same way as we do. (Said I as I type away in the middle of the night while my husband has been sleeping for three hours already.)

    The fact that we (as a duo) spend a good four hours each up and doing while the other is zonked is, I think, a plus. But that's just me.

  5. Murr Brewster says it for me, too. The differences create the necessary space in our relationship that would otherwise deteriorate into a sick co-dependancy, too much into each other's stuff. Our differences creat a lot of "hands off" arenas, and that's good!! Your post was excellently written and very thoughtful, as always.