Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Nonnegotiable # 1

Nonnegotiable: My failure to read your mind is not an excuse for you to be rude.

Inspiration: This evening, UPS tried to deliver a signature required package that I had been expecting, but no one was home. The driver left a note with contact information. I got home a few minutes before my wife and kids did, so I proceeded to call the number on the form to arrange for pick-up at the UPS service counter in town.

As the call was being placed, my wife came in with the kids, returning from dance class, and asked me what I was doing. I explained briefly and continued with the call, but I missed the auto attendant's prompt, so I had to restart.

I get the prompt to enter the package tracking number, and my wife grumpily asks me another question demanding my immediate attention, so I have to restart the call again. She starts shepherding our three year old to the bathroom, and she's directing her there in an bossy, stressed out tone.

I restart the call, and I get interrupted with a yell from my wife to bring her a pair of scissors as quickly as possible. I scramble to find a pair, recalling that I had placed a pair in the dishwasher because they were somewhat messy. I bit the bullet and got them out and brought them to her because it seemed like an urgent situation to her. She needed them to help the three year old get out of her Halloween costume, which she had worn to class.

I then get the call completed and arrange for the pickup tomorrow. I ask my wife is she had a bad day with the kids, she said no. I asked her if she was angry, and she said that she was, admitting that the anger was directed at me. She complained that I had not stopped what I was doing to help her with the kids, something that she had expected me to do without asking.

I would have helped her if I thought that there was some circumstance that was truly requiring my assistance, but at the time I didn't sense that. The subtext seemed to be that I am supposed to be there at her beckon call when I am home, anticipating whatever her immediate needs are. She's free to have whatever expectations she wants. She is welcome to have feelings anger when she feels that they are not met. I will not tolerate rude treatment, whether it be repeated interruption of a phone call or being spoken to disrespectfully.

In nice guy mode, I would have groveled for her forgiveness. Instead, I removed myself from the situation and went to the bedroom to regroup because I could feel the reptile brain kicking into high gear. I pulled back and put my thoughts to writing, distilling the boundary above. I now realize it is moments like this that make me feel like I can't have an existence of my own. If I am not at work, I am an accessory to my wife's universe. It is my responsibility to break free of this.
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