Once upon a time I saw a behavioral therapist to help me work through some stuff. Her name was Dr. Sarah. Eventually I figured it out, developed some tools to manage my issues, and our time together came to an end. On that very last visit, I got what is probably *the* best advice I’ve ever received. I’m certain my marriage wouldn’t have survived this long without it.
The Boss (my wife) and I had gotten into an argument. I said or did something. She got upset. I couldn’t understand why she was upset. It didn’t seem like that big of a deal.
And that’s what I told Dr. Sarah. I said “I don’t understand why she’s upset. If she had done the same thing to me, I wouldn’t care at all”.
Dr. Sarah listened, thought a minute and then let me have it.
“Who gives a s**t what you would do?”
Needless to say I was a bit taken aback. She continued:
“At what point did what YOU think is logical, and fair, and rational become the yardstick by which the universe is measured? Who made you the judge and crowned you king of what’s right and wrong, reasonable and unreasonable? When were you signed up to validate how other people feel? Thank God we’re uncovering this, because I’ve been walking around for 40 something years having my own feelings, never knowing how they measure up to your standards.”
OUCH! Dr. Sarah was as wise as she was direct. She wasn’t done.
“Have you been spending all this time trying to convince her to think like you think?”
“How’s that been working out for you?”
“Well then if you’ve decided to be with this person, I strongly suggest you quickly stop doing that, learn how to respect her feelings, and find a more effective way to reach some common ground”
It took many more years for these truths to sink in, but I believe they have served me immeasurably. I’ve come to realize that when she (or anybody, especially an adult) has an opinion or feelings about something, it doesn’t matter how insane or illogical it seems to me. As strongly as I feel those things, I realize she feels the exact same way with equal strength. That’s her reality. To her, I’M the crazy one.
I’ve realized there IS no universal objective truth. There is no 1+1=2 math. When it comes to feelings, if someone thinks 1+1=3 – IT DOES. If you try to convince them otherwise, you will fail. Very badly. If you do that often enough or for long enough, you will destroy your relationship with that person, perhaps permanently.