It hit me while watching a rerun of The Big Bang Theory. Understanding and Action are two different things.
The dialog (for those of you who don’t want to watch the eleven second video):
Leonard: Does anyone know anything about internal combustion engines?
The other three: Of course, simple 19th century technology.
Leonard: Does anyone know how to fix an internal combusion engine?
The other three: No. Not a clue.
The point was clear. If three Ph.D.s (and Howard) know the inner workings of an engine but can’t fix it, where is the solution to the problem of the broken engine? Understanding doesn’t translate into action. White boards filled with formulas, theories, and solving for X will never get the car moving if they don’t have the capacity to put wrench to bolt.
Conversely, action without understanding is futile. I don’t understand internal combustion engines and it’s pretty safe to assume that the best set of tools will help me to dismantle the engine block without any clue as to where the problem might reside. My action, no matter how sincere or energetic, leaves me stranded on the side of the road just like Leonard, Sheldon, Raj, and Howard.
Maybe Howard’s mom would make me a brisket.
Part of my gripe about my past experiences with marriage counseling is the focus on understanding each other and the complete lack of a call to action.
I’m going to keep this one-sided since I don’t know Husband #2’s motivations or thoughts and don’t want to speak out of line on his perspective.
We would sit there, talking about our side of things (me wanting to gnaw off my leg to escape) and barriers would be built. “You said this.” “You did that.” “You are bad.” Just beating after beating after beating. What I understood at the end of the session was that I had hurt Husband #2 very badly.
But what now?
Where was the timely, healing education needed to bandage and help repair the open wounds? If trust was broken, where were the instructions on how to repair it? If all that I did was contaminating our relationship, where were the pointers, directions, smacks in the head to get me on the right path?
How was I to contribute good to the relationship when all I did was wrong? It was extremely frustrating, to say the very least.
If we had been given calls to action, would it had helped? I don’t know. I can guarantee it wouldn’t have hurt the situation any more than all the talking about our problems.
So lacking any calls to action from therapy, I’ve come up with a few of my own:
- Tell him once a day something that I respect about him
- Thank him once a day for something he handled that I preferred not to handle myself
- Hug and kiss him spontaneously a few times a day
- Do him a service, like making lunch for the two of us
- Ask for his input on a decision I needed to make
- Share with him something private about me that no one else knows (like a dream)
- Express my pride at being his wife
- Focus on him when he talks, without interruptions from the outside world
- Touch his face in the morning before getting out of bed
- Do something (like pick up my shoes) that I know bothers him if undone
- Involve him in the daily bills and running of the household
- Leave him a small gift on his desk
Some of these items would have been outside of my nature, but would have meant a lot to Husband #2.
Nothing huge or earth-shattering…
Or maybe just powerful enough to break down the first barrier.