One of the basic contradictions I’ve been trying to figure out is the difference between how I saw Amy and how some of my friends saw her. As is always the case for me, though, I’m not able to fully understand something unless I have words for it. This morning, I think I finally figured it out. Hang on, because this one is definitely going to be a bumpy ride. 😉
So, I saw her differently. Given the almost 15 years we were married, that’s probably not a surprise to anyone reading this. It was a surprise to me, because I’ve always been big on discerning the truth about people. I asked Amy to marry me in no small part because I was convinced I knew who she really was (incidentally, she would probably say she accepted in no small part because she was convinced she knew who I really was). Suddenly, here were some of my closest friends telling me that they knew all along that she was more concerned about herself than about others. That didn’t match what I knew about her. Some of them gave examples of behaviors of hers that convinced them. In each case, I remembered the behavior. However, I could think of specific examples that convinced me that the behavior in question was a temporary slip rather than a universal tendency.
That left me in a very difficult place. It seemed to mean that either I had made a mistake in what I had discerned about Amy’s character, or I had a basic disagreement about her with some of my closest friends. Given the divorce, the choice might seem obvious, but it wasn’t. Admitting to myself that the friends were right required finally seeing what I had missed that had been so obvious to them. Without seeing that detail, admitting that to myself would feel like “letting myself off the hook” for missing something that I still couldn’t see.
So, what changed this morning? Did I finally see something I had missed early-on in the relationship? Not really. I’m still convinced that I discerned correctly given what she showed me well before the wreck. The mistake that I was making was the assumption that the “level of graciousness” is a fundamental personality constant across all people. My own level of graciousness varies according to who I’m dealing with. Given that she (like most other people) saw me as a completely different person post-wreck, I was “starting from ground zero”. That’s what I didn’t “get”. I was expecting the understanding of a long-married wife, but it was closer to a newly-met person. Imagine the difference in “level of graciousness” one would show a spouse (what I expected) versus what one would show a newly-met person. I didn’t realize that then, and so my expectations were wrong.
The other part that I didn’t understand well (and this stemmed from our lack of communication and my resulting assumptions) was the level of difference in opinion we had about some of my friends. Had we talked more about things (and if I hadn’t been so conflict-averse), I would have at least understood (that’s assuming I wasn’t able to convince her to agree with me).