Archive for August 6th, 2012
Dan and Denise are dining in a lovely restaurant.
Denise: You like my new blouse?
Dan: It’s very pretty. I see it has a Polo label.
Denise: You don’t like it?
Dan: No, no, I do. I just noticed it has a Polo label and that costs a few dollars more.
Denise: I got it on sale. We don’t always have to buy cheap!
Dan (a bit louder): I was just commenting because we’re strapped for money now.
Denise (even louder): I happen to like it and I don’t need to be Ms. Poverty all the time!
Dan: I can’t even say what I’m thinking without making you angry!
As the waiter served them, they both felt the chill envelop their meal.
To some, saving a few dollars on clothes vs. buying brand-name might seem like a trivial issue, but Dan and Denise both grew irate as each tried to defend their values. Denise prides herself in her choice of clothes. She often receives compliments. Yet she’s very sensitive to Dan’s comments since she knows they are on a tight budget.
On the other hand, Dan is proud of his “classy” wife, yet he prides himself for keeping a balanced budget. During their conversation, Denise magnifies the importance of her ability to dress fashionably, while Dan magnifies his ability to save money.
Just as a magnifying glass exaggerates images, Dan and Denise’s thoughts are expanded irrationally:
Dan’s Thoughts: Our budget is tight enough. What if she continues spending wildly? We may not be able to buy a new car! If only she would admit her mistake and then stop wasting money on designer clothes!
Denise’s Thoughts: I know how to buy quality clothes. If it were up to Dan I’d be wearing rags! Next he’ll complain about my choice of groceries!
Using the magnifying glass, the issue is no longer about the Polo label or a few dollars more for a blouse. It has expanded as each becomes emotional, pressing their differing values.
The Road to Power Snuggling
Many values developed when we were young and often do not change. All couples experience some conflicts when they feel compelled to teach these ingrained concepts to their partners. Issues grow out of control when they “use” the magnifying glass to protect values.
Without the magnifying glass, Dan would think more about Denise’s happiness and less about showing his budgeting expertise. He’d think: Denise is happy with her blouse. It is pretty. We can afford a few extra dollars occasionally and she hasn’t done it that often. Let’s continue this lovely evening.
Without the magnifying glass, Denise would think: Dan is good at keeping costs down, including when he makes purchases. I understand his concern, even though I have no regrets in buying this blouse. I’ll listen to him and not argue.
The magnifying glass can appear with any topic such as dealing with in-laws, child raising, neatness, being on time, appearance, or eating patterns. Resolution of conflicts works best when one truly looks at the particular situation instead of dueling while trying to force their values on the other.
Your Weekly Homework
Together, think about a small disagreement that was magnified, leading to an argument. Discuss how recognizing each other’s values and putting issues in a different perspective could have maintained harmony. Understand that you can respect each other’s perspective, even when you disagree.