Perspective. An important word. Your perspective is the position from which you view the world.

by Lee Baucom, Ph.D.

You formed your perspective over a lifetime. It starts with your genetic makeup, then your gender shapes it. Then your family experience shapes the foundations. Then, every experience you have in life either confirms or changes your perceptions and your perspective.

Is it any wonder that you and your spouse are going to see things differently?

As I point out the obvious, let me also point out how often we forget that little fact: we see things completely different than anyone else in the world.

We all have an individual psychological reality — we all have a unique way of seeing and understanding the world around us and the meaning of events that unfold.

The fact that we see things differently is really not the issue. The problem comes when we forget this is the case. We stop realizing we are seeing things differently and think that we are seeing things “the way they are.”

And when a spouse sees things differently, we become convinced that they are not seeing things accurately. This often leads to one of two actions:
1) Trying to correct their “incorrect” view,
2) Wondering what is wrong with us.

First, there is a difference between “incorrect” and “inaccurate.” We all have inaccurate views of reality. They may or may not be incorrect.

I perceive events from how they affect me. I view actions in their impact upon me.

You do the same. So, we are going to arrive at very different views of the action.

More than that, we generally tell ourselves stories that put ourselves in the best light.

I will admit it, I like to be:

–the good guy,
–and consistent.

How about you? Do you want to be the same?

I think most people do.

So, when I do something that is not so nice, I am going to tell a story that excuses me.

And I want to be right, so I am tempted to make sure the “evidence” backs me up. And I want to be consistent. So I look for ways that keep me thinking the same things about myself.

For example, if I believe myself honest and truthful, but then do something that is dishonest, I must find a way to justify that. Otherwise, I would have to change my self-perception. We humans don’t like to do that. We like to be consistent.

So what does this have to do with your marriage?

Simple. We most often forget that people see things differently when we are dealing with a spouse.

It is that assumption that “we are on the same page” that really gets us into trouble.

How many arguments are simply a reflection of a difference of viewpoint? Think of parenting differences. Sure, there are some “wrong” things that a parent could do. But there are far more that are simply differences of perspective and viewpoint.

Yet these differences can end up feeling like “right vs. wrong.” And that is where the problems arise. When we lose track of the fact that something is a difference of opinion, we label it a right versus wrong. And then the arguments deepen.

Or how about with money?

For some, money means freedom. For others, money means security. Freedom is all about what money can do for enjoyment now: free to go out to dinner, free to go on vacation, free to buy clothes, etc. Security is all about preparing for uncertainties: insurance, retirement, investment, etc.

Both are correct. And both can be out of balance. And even if a couple both lean toward one end or the other, what is okay for being secure or for enjoying freedom can vary.

No surprise that couples often argue about parenting and finances.

And when couples dig in that one person’s view is correct, and the other person’s view is wrong, the arguments are headed nowhere.

That does not mean that everything is alright. It does not mean that every parenting decision or financial decision is just a matter of perspective.

But that is true. It is a matter of perspective — even if the action is “dangerous.”

When couples are able to discuss what is behind the perspective, the couple has a chance of at least understanding each other. Not agreeing, but understanding.

How often do you assume that either you see things just alike, or that you are seeing things correctly?

Both get us into trouble. Assume you are on the same page, and you will quickly see where you are not. You will quickly discover the many places where you are not just on different pages, but in different chapters.

Assume you are correct, and you a) miss how often your perceptions are limited and b) close yourself off to greater and better options.

As I noted in the first rule, marriage is about being a WE. But I also noted it is not about being in a “mind meld.” Two individuals, bringing together their perspectives, is much closer to “reality” than only one person’s views.

But only if you acknowledge this and decide you will learn from each other, and you will seek to understand where your spouse is coming from.

  • Be open to the possibility that you and everyone else has a different view of reality.
  • Be open to the possibility that someone else’s perspective may actually be closer to reality.
  • Be willing to learn from the different viewpoint. You don’t have to agree to understand.
  • Be sure to explore why your spouse sees something differently.

Remember, you are different people with different experiences. That guarantees the specifics of how you view the world will be different.

Lee Baucom, Ph.D. is a best-selling author, therapist, coach and speaker, and has over a quarter of a century of experience helping couples and individuals learn to thrive in their relationships and their lives. He is the creator of the internet marriage program, Save The Marriage.

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