Karyn was looking thru a sales circular and noted that there were some electric toothbrush heads that were for sale. Karyn said, "look at the good price on these Oral-B toothbrush heads!" I looked at the advertisement and said, "yes, that's a great price but we don't have Oral-B anymore. (Actually it wasn't Oral-B but Phillips/Norelco but Karyn didn't correct me.) Remember it died and we bought another one?" "Yeah, but we bought an Oral-B again." I knew she was wrong. It was a Braun toothbrush. I knew that because I had just noted the day before that it was Braun. Braun is a German brand and I was looking to see if it was multi-volt, able to work in 111-220 volts. I was surprised when I looked at it that it was only a 110 volt. I thought that was unusual for a Braun. Every other Braun device I've had in the past was multi-volt. In fact, my electric razor is Braun and it is multi-volt.
I KNEW that I was correct. So, I said, "No, it's a Braun. Those toothbrush heads won't work on it. We have to get Braun toothbrush heads." Karyn repeated, "No, it's an Oral-B toothbrush, I know it is." I reiterated, "I know for sure it's a Braun."
What came to mind as those last words popped out of my mouth was a quote from Swiss psychiatrist Paul Tournier in his book, To Understand Each Other. Dr Tournier writes, "As long as a man is preoccupied primarily with being understood by his wife, he is miserable, overcome with self-pity, the spirit of demanding, and bitter withdrawal. As soon as he becomes preoccupied with understanding her, seeking to understand that which he had not before understood, and with his own wrongdoing in not having understood her, then the direction taken by events begins to change."
If Karyn and I had this disagreement 20 years ago, there may have been some sparks flying. Have you ever noticed that often, in marriage, that disagreements are over petty, mostly insignificant things? This makes sense because often you marry someone who is fairly similar to you. You generally agree on the bigger issues like politics, spiritual views, world views, etc. However, it's the little things that build up over time and irritate marriages.
Our responsibility in marriage is to seek to understand each other. A good marriage is composed of two people who grasp this principle.
We have learned that principle of trying to understand rather than seeking to be understood. I would say, that over the last years, that this principle was harder for me to incorporate into our marriage than it was for Karyn. It probably took me at least 10 years of marriage before I truly was able to comprehend what Tournier meant in his book. Twenty years ago, I would have jumped up from the couch, run into the bathroom, grabbed the toothbrush and brought it back with an air of superiority.
After all, I know that I am right!
What was most interesting about this disagreement (look at the picture above) is that we were both correct! That evening, as we were getting ready for bed, I remembered our disagreement from earlier and I looked at the toothbrush. It said both Oral-B and Braun on it! When I pointed that out it was hilarious!
It seems now, that most of our disagreements occur when we are both right. However, now, we aren't so tied into being right but in understanding, even when we know (or think we know) each of us is correct.
I'm writing this short blog today not to hold us up as some paragon of marital virtue but rather to share a simple principle:
It is better to understand than to be understood.
Just in case you're keeping track.... Yes, it was me that wanted to prove, in the end, that I was right.
Yes, I was right! and I was wrong...