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When you are at your wit's end

Jacob Ninan

John had come back from work in the evening, and was sitting in the living room sipping a cup of tea which Anne had brought him. He had had a typical day at work, and when he came home he wanted to unwind and relax for some time. He asked Anne how her day had been, and she said it had been OK. Now John hadn't made any plans for the evening, and was wondering what to do. Then Anne came and sat next to him. He asked her what was on her mind. She snuggled closer to him and said, "You never buy me anything!"

John was aghast. "What! How can you say that?" he said. "Just last week I bought you a new dinner set, and what about all the things in this house? What's wrong with you? This is not fair," he continued. He was getting angry. Anne was taken aback at his outburst. Though she was usually quick with words, she didn't know what to say because she didn't want to make John angry. She was feeling terrible because John was getting angry with her. When she didn't answer, he was getting more angry, saying, "How can you make such statements and then keep quiet? You have to take back these words." Anne didn't know what to say, and she got up and went off to the bedroom. John was sitting there fuming, wondering what had gone wrong with his wife. "Doesn't she even have any hesitation for telling lies like this?" he wondered. "I just can't understand her. She was very nice to me one moment, and then suddenly she comes out with this. How will I ever get to know her?" He wanted to talk to her immediately and find out what her problem. But then he thought that this was not perhaps the right time.

Their dinner was a 'cold' affair, and both of them went off to bed without saying anything more. The next day he was still perplexed and worried, and he didn't know what to do. he finally rang up Phil, a good friend of his in the church who was also mature and knowledgeable in marriage matters. When Phil heard about it he said that it was most likely that Anne didn't mean her words literally. He suggested that there must have been something that was bothering her and she was just trying to lead up to that subject when she got put off by John's reaction. Phil told John that women sometimes talked from their feelings, and that husbands ought to recognise such occasions and try to see what was causing such feelings, instead of catching hold of words and flying off the handle. For example, words such as 'always' and 'never' get used on such occasions and they should be understood as 'feeling words' rather than literal truths. Phil said that perhaps when Anne said that John never bought her anything she was hinting that she would be delighted if he bought her something special.

John said that this was too confusing for him. How could he be expected to read her mind and understand that she meant something else when she said something? Phil laughed and said that this was one of the items of special expertise husbands develop as they got to know their wives. He also said that it was not something impossible for men to learn and that John would learn it quickly if he set his mind to it. John felt happy to know that at least this was not such a serious problem as he was imagining!

A couple of days later when things were fine between them, John told Anne that he was really puzzled about why she had said he never bought anything for her. He told her that he was sorry he had got upset with her. He explained that he just was not able to understand what she was trying to tell him. Anne replied that of course she didn't mean that he had never bought anything for her! She said that any wife would feel happy if her husband bought her something special. She had just been to her neighbour's house where her friend had shown her the lovely dress her husband had bought for her. This had made Anne feel somewhat nostalgic, and she was thinking how nice it would be if John bought something like that for her!

John explained that men were somewhat dumb when it came to understanding feelings, and how much better it would have been if she had told him plainly what was in her mind. He would have loved to buy her a dress or anything else that would have made her happy!

Do you think they lived happily ever after? Oh, no! Like all other couples, they had a lot more to learn along the way. But as they learned to recognise that they had a lot to learn, they became less and less agitated whenever they couldn't understand each other!

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