I Just Have To Ask My Wife

Who are you really talking to?

I’ll get back to you. I just have to ask my wife.

Sure. Let me see what my husband thinks.

That sounds fantastic. I just have to see if my wife agrees.

Many conversations that we have with other people include our spouses as the last word. In discussions regarding anything from setting up a chavrusa (Torah study partner) to making an appointment for therapy to going to the gym, we often relegate the final decisions to our spouses. Usually, our spouses are not the ones learning, undergoing that therapy, or exercising. Yet they enter those discussions anyway.

Our decisions regarding how to manage our resources, including our time, money, and energy impact our spouses and our families. Consequently, decisions are not usually made for ourselves, or by ourselves. They sometimes need the input of our spouses for technical and logistical reasons.

There is more to it, too. When we encounter people, we don’t usually interact with them in a vacuum. When we meet new individuals, the information stored in our heads about other people we know can help us make sense of that new person. We often give weight to information based on how early in life we began to accrue that knowledge and how important that original person was to us. The frontrunners in both of those realms are usually our parents. So, when we meet someone, we can unconsciously let our understanding and relationships with our parents impact our interaction with that person.

This extends beyond the newness of a first meeting. Even if we become well acquainted with that person and he is no longer “new,” our interactions with him might be largely impacted by how we interacted with our parents. This often happens with our interactions with spouses. Husbands and wives still sometimes unknowingly take the stead and place of Mom and Dad in relationships.

One way this can be manifested is when a decision or commitment needs to be made. Resolutions and commitments often require the approval, reassurance, or disapproval of our parents. Checking and discussing with a spouse can serve that purpose. A spouse’s unknowing representation of a parent provides a welcome respite. She can provide that agreement or disagreement, encouragement or disbelief for us instead of our parents. She is more accessible, in our own age range, and in a more equalized relationship.

That parent/ spouse exchange is especially important in a decision regarding a commitment of time, money, or both. The way that we deal with spending those resources can have its origins in our earliest years and might have been impacted by our development throughout life. We might desire our parents to give their blessing or shake their heads at our spending of our money or our time or feel ambivalence that can be traced back to them.  Instead of struggling with our ambivalence regarding money or time, we can seek the advice and permission of our parents – represented by our spouse.

The top down processing of our parental influence on our interactions with other people stretches beyond our spouses, too. We can see part of our parents and our interactions with them in shul rabbis and rebbeim, teachers and therapists, employers and employees, and friends and family. Sometimes being in touch with who we are really dealing with when we interact with someone can be enlightening and illuminating, or difficult and challenging, or a mix of all of those.

Think about it…or go ask your spouse!

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