Perspectives and perceptions

Based on a discussion that came up during therapy, which itself was prompted by discussions with friends, I wondered: what’s considered “too much” fighting in a relationship?

I googled it and some site said the average couple bickers or fights 87 times a month, which doesn’t mirror my experience at all. I wouldn’t be comfortable in such a relationship, as I prefer a more low-conflict life.

However, if you asked me, I would have said that my husband and I rarely fought during most of our marriage (though when we did, it was hurtful to both of us and shook my confidence in the marriage each time, which is probably a sign that it was unhealthy.)

I asked him and he thought that we fought a lot, up until about four years ago when we both changed for the better.

Interestingly, we both agreed about how often we fought: three or four times a year. By my perception, that was infrequent fighting, but by his, it was a lot.

There are reasons that explain why we have different perspectives, in many ways based on how much conflict we experienced at home while growing up. And I can say that we haven’t fought at all since his cancer diagnosis, for a number of reasons. I think the main reason we fought more in Michigan (even if from my perspective it wasn’t often) is because life was so much of a struggle for us there. It was hard not to let that boil over into our relationship.

But I realize there’s another factor at play in what shapes my perspective, and I realize that it affects more issues than just fighting in marriage. I tend to look at things through the proverbial rose-colored glasses a lot of the time.

It surprises even me to recognize that about myself, especially because I was often pretty negative when I had untreated depression and beaten down by how hard our lives were in Michigan.

Another example of me choosing to see things in the best possible light, minimizing difficulty, is with my MS. If I’m squatting to scoop cat litter or tuck in the bed sheets and I fall on my butt, I don’t consider it a “fall” that should be reported to my neurologist. My husband thinks that I should. Instead, I just consider it a sign that my quads are too weak and I need more weight-bearing exercise.

I think I’ve mentioned before that deep down, I don’t think I’m going to ever end up in a wheelchair. There were times when I let my fear get the best of me and I was afraid of that. But the truth is that I don’t believe I’ll ever get that bad. I don’t really think I’ll lose my sight or the ability to drive.

Is that naïveté on my part? Maybe. I’m sure that few people ever do predict that they’ll get that bad (aside from some of the woe-is-me people in the online MS groups.) But I’m convinced that the odds are on my side: about 85 percent of people with MS never end up in wheelchairs.

Maybe my perceptions in general aren’t wrong. Maybe my husband’s perceptions aren’t wrong, either. After all, our perspectives and perceptions are based on both our experiences and our deepest beliefs about ourselves. They’re not exactly objective.

For now, I’m happily sticking with my belief that I’m not that sick and won’t ever become so. Given how mysterious multiple sclerosis is, I think attitude and self-perception count for a great deal. If someday I’m proven wrong, I’ll see it as a new challenge and adapt to it. I’m also choosing to view that our marriage was mostly good but it became great when we both made changes.

Our perspectives and perceptions color everything we do, every relationship we have. Two people can look at the same event from a completely different vantage point and see something different in it. Mine just happens to be one that minimizes how bad things are and views the past with a gauzy filter over it.

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