Sunday, November 15, 2009

You Think It's Easy?

Bill and I have been together 45 years. Some friends ask us “How do you do it?” Well, I’m here to tell you that it is not easy. It is ALWAYS a work in progress.

What happened this morning is a perfect example. Bill wanted me to show him how he could get into his Facebook page. He has never been able to get into his Facebook account on his own. I’ve always had to show him.

Where he has the problem is he receives notifications of activity in his Facebook account by e-mails sent to his AOL account. With AOL you have to copy the Facebook notification and paste it into the browser. Bill has never understood the cut and paste commands of Microsoft. Simply put it is “Control C” to copy the HTML string and “Control V” to paste it into the browser. Bill cannot connect those dots.

So this morning Bill shows me what he is doing and wants to know why it isn’t working. He paints the HTML string in his e-mail notification and hits “Control C.” So far, so good. But here is the problem. He puts his mouse in the browser and hits “Enter.” It doesn’t work. He gets frustrated and starts yelling at me. I try to tell him that he has to position the cursor at the beginning of the blank area in the browser and hit “Control V.” But, he won’t let me get that far. He cuts me off. He says “Wait!” “Hush!” I say “Bill, I’m trying to tell you how to do it.” He says “Shut up! That’s why I don’t like to ask you because you always do this!” I said “What am I doing? I’m trying to explain to you.” But, he cuts me off again in the middle of my statement.

This goes on for several minutes, escalating into yet another shouting match. He turns off his computer, and goes rushing out the house slamming doors on his way, yelling “Leave me alone!” Now he won’t speak to me for at least a day or more. The length of the silent treatment depends on how mad he is. The length of time could be as little as two days to two weeks.  It ends when I make the first move.  Yes, I have to apologize.  That's the only way we will resume our relationship.  Bill never admits a mistake.  He has the George Bush syndrome. 

I’ve known Bill for 45 years. I have lived with Bill for 45 years. This is his pattern. When we met I was 22 years old and he was 35 years old. He was the “daddy.” He had all of the answers (or at least thought he did.) Early on in our relationship I almost always deferred to him. But as I grew older and gained more knowledge, especially in fields that Bill had little or no knowledge I didn’t defer to him. When we entered into those areas in our relationship, Bill would mock them as unimportant and “not worth anything.” Even as I built a successful banking career (in back office operations) Bill would denigrate my work as “silly office work.”

Now granted Bill has many talents. He built our sunroom in PA from scratch. I wouldn’t even know where to start. He is an electrician. He is a plumber. He built our brick wall and patio in PA. In short, Bill can do a whole lot of things that I can’t do. I am not mechanically inclined at all, Bill is. My “talents” are in other areas. I can cook. Bill can’t. I’m an excellent gardener. Bill is not. I can write. Bill can not. I’m a photographer. Bill is not. In short, we compliment one another in our skills and interests. I've always felt that was a big plus in our relationship.  However, it does not come without costs.

But here is the problem, with the new technology Bill finds himself having to ask me for directions. He hates to ask me for any kind of knowledge that he doesn’t have. After 45 years of denigrating my skills and knowledge, he finds it very difficult even to admit that he isn’t the expert in some areas.

For many years he even used to mock me for my use of a computer saying “I don’t know why you waste your time with a computer.” He said I wasn’t spending enough time with him (his usual complaint in our relationship.) I moved my computer from my home office to the kitchen so I could spend more time with him. That wasn’t good enough. The computer was banned back to the basement.

It wasn’t until a few years ago he discovered that the computer could be of use to him. Gradually, over the past few years I have taught him how to use the computer. He can open his e-mail and send e-mails. He does it in a rather convoluted way but it gets done. He also can scan the Internet. All this knowledge didn’t come without a lot of angst and frustration though. Teaching Bill to do anything requires a great deal of patience because of his sensitive ego and having the “kid” (the “kid” turned 68 years old last week) teaches him. One thing he has never mastered though is the cut and past command of Windows. He’s never had his Helen Keller Moment (“The Miracle Worker” scene with the water pump and bucket.)

So back to real time now. Bill just took off in his Jeep for who knows where. He’s mad. He’s frustrated. He knows that I’m trying to help him but his ego prevents him from accepting my help unless I somehow figure out to get that information to him so he thinks he figured it out himself. He wants the information but is incapable of hearing it from me, The Dummy.

He’ll get over it. He always does. But in the meantime I will have to endure yet another period of the Silent Treatment. This is where the “working on the relationship” comes into play.

Recently I had an e-mail from a friend of mine. She was depressed because of her living situation with her husband (her 5th.) She said she wanted to go to sleep and never wake up. That, to me is going to the extreme. I had another good friend of mine who committed suicide because she was going through a period of depression and felt there was no way out. A permanent solution to a temporary problem. I suggested to my friend that if she felt her husband really loved her then she should try to work it out. She should try to get through the bad period of their differences. I've had 45 years of experience in this area of relationships.  I find that if you really care for one another you can get past these temporary situations, even if they keep repeating themselves time and time again.

No relationship is perfect (except for perhaps the Ronald and Nancy Reagan relationship.) If your wife, husband or partner is worth it (and mine is), then just plow through the situation. Try to make it better the next time.

I care a lot for Bill. He needs me. I need him. I will never find another soul mate like him in my lifetime. When something like this happens (and it always will), I just think of how lucky I am not to have a partner like another friend of mine who I visited earlier this week. His partner has 160 personalities. He said “And that’s just the ones that I know about!” Can you imagine? Now that is something that would drive me over the cliff. No thanks. I’ll take Bill anytime, stubborn, super sensitive ego and all.


  1. I can't say I'd stand for tantrums an storming off in a huff. But then if I'd stood it for 45 years, it would be normal, wouldn't it?

    Maggie and I have been together for 19 years come Tuesday. My answer to the question, how have we lasted, is communication, communication, communication. Assuming the other one knows what we're thinking is certain death in a relationship

  2. You are right Kim. Communication is essential in any successful relationship.

    I lost track of the times I left Bill in the past only to feel sorry for him and go back. It is as much my fault as his. It's very complicated.

  3. Ron,

    You have to cut and paste notifications? When I get them in my email I just click on it and it takes me to my Facebook sign in. I sign in and I am right at the message.

    What happens if you let him struggle with these things on his own?


  4. Lar,

    He can't handle it. He's never been able to figure out the logic of a desktop let alone cut and paste. Bill is the classic example of the difficulty of teaching old dogs new tricks.

  5. Ron,

    It must be in the wiring. Each of us have circuits that make some things easy and others hard. I've seen the improvements Bill did at your old home and Bill has skills in an area I've never been fully about to grasp. I've tried and I've struggled and in the end never been good at even putting a couple boards together nicely. Then there have been things I have taken too easily where other's shake their head and ask how I do it. We need to not knock others where they can't and those who can't need to swallow their pride about asking for help.

    I guess Lo and I have survived together for over 48 years because some time ago we agreed we were individuals and didn't try to be the same. We did the things we could do and liked to do rather than fall into any traditional idea of who should do. We also made decisions together, but we always deferred to the other's expertise where it existed.


  6. Lar,

    You are right Lar. We are wired differently. Bill built the whole sun room, roof and all. I wouldn't even know where to start. I have trouble nailing two boards together.

    Both of my brothers have a natural talent for carpentry as did my father. I have none. Zero. Yet neither one of my brothers is interested or has a talent for growing things. I do. Ironically by father had talents, carpentry and growing things. Apparently he didn't pass along his genes intact for these talents.

    One big talent I have which Bill has none is my organizational skills. Like you, I can look at a messed up situation and know instinctively how to straighten it out and to get things running smoothly. I didn't realize I had this talent until well into my adult life when my bosses pointed it out to me. I asked why I was always getting the jobs to clean up messes. They told me "Because you know what to do." And I do. You understand because you have the same talent.


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