I Study Marriage for a Living
I Study Marriage for a Living in Marriage Conversation:
If someone asked you “what’s your partner’s biggest fear?” Could you name it?
The newest coffee shop in town was deserted except for a huge police officer sittìng belly out front sipping a small cup of decaf. I knew it was decaf because the box was checked on the side of the cup and I notice such things. It’s what I do for a living. The newly minted teenage help were being extravagant in their attentiveness to my smallest desires – “I’ll have a half caf grande semì dry shaving cream foam” and a chocolate cookie. They don’t even break stride and smiled as they indulged me.
I can’t help observing and sometimes it may seem that I have no interest in the person I’m with. Like my wife. She too is an observer and when I’m with her she notices when I’m not noticing her.
The question is: what is she noticing and what has that to do with our relationship?
Which of course is about my marriage and the quality of it, which I take responsibility for but often is beyond my competency. It’s a curve kind of thing – a learning curve and I’ve never learned to stay focused on what’s in front of me. My driving suffers. To call it A.D.D is misleading since I don’t have a disorder as much as I have a strong desire to attend to many things around me which at any moment may be more compelling than the person in front of me. You can see how that leads to misunderstanding between my wife and I. because she is interesting. Very. But she’s not as fast as the other people silently calling me to “look over here!” and ‘here’ ….
It’s possible of course that I have a dis – order. Order never really appealed to me and people who are orderly usually bore me. Not my wife. She hasn’t an orderly bone in her body but you know, engineers, programmers, math teachers. They focus on order while I’m following a leaf being floated by a breeze across the campus reflecting pool. I ride on its back and soon I’m ocean swimming alongside a great steamship in some tropical ocean sprayed by sweet salt water foam with girls dancing on the beach welcoming the tired hero…
So noticing who my wife really is, is a challenge and my life long addiction to noticing who others are doesn’t help
My mother actually taught me the art of losing focus. She lived sorrowfully in the past – ” I should have married Gus” – and longingly in the future – “Some day I’ll be with Jesus.” What she could not do was attend to her youngest son standing before her though of course she loved him beyond words, and, as it turns out, deeds. She was herself attentìon deprived and stuck it seemed in a marriage to a good man who bored her. My father never noticed. I notìced though and that little known fact accounts for my stumbling life long journey into the study of philosophy, then theology (I’d figure what was missing for my mother and then provide it. I’d be her teacher!). I left the church disappointed and disillusioned and took up the study of psychology (you guessed that was next didn’t you) – I could perhaps heal her deep wounds. Finally failing at all my attempts to give myself a healthy mother I left psychology and studied mythology – maybe the universal mother would comfort my wandering dis – ordered soul.
Which brings me to what I do for a living. Since I’m now hard wired to notice what some would find insignificant or even boring – the policeman drinking decaf – I’ve learned the truth of the old saying “the devil’s in the details.” For it’s in the little things that people reveal themselves. The policeman’s red cheeks told me of his stress and high blood pressure and maybe his longing for retirement, maybe his desire for a cabin in the woods.
I coach people who want their lives to make more sense than they are currently making, leaders who desire to be more powerfully impactful, couples who wish to realize the promise in their marriage. And it’s not the big things that need fixing. It’s usually not assault or affairs or gross negligence. No, it may be as simple as not noticing she likes her decaf with a little half and half.
Stephen W. Frueh PhD is a coach, consultant, writer and speaker. He can be contacted at email@example.com or 805 338 4286
“Healthy marriages make the world a safer place for children.”
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