In Olof’s first marriage, his one misgiving about his wife is that she came from a background where communication was never done directly. Trying to figure out what she wanted always felt like a jigsaw puzzle to which he seemed to be perpetually missing the edge pieces, and the big flower piece in the middle as well. Over time, he learned to read cues, pick up on nuances, and fine tune his intuitive skills.
After they divorced, he told himself that if he ever married again it would be with someone with more direct communication skills.
Come back wife with poor communication skills. All is forgiven.
Olof, who is never ever mean, has occasionally suggested in the nicest possible way that he has not a single teeny weeny doubt about how I ever feel about anything, including and especially about him.
Fortunately, 99% of what I feel about him is hugely positive. He’s just the funniest, kindest, most generous guy you can imagine. It’s his insane death-defying work hours that keep him from a 100% approval rating. “Olof,” I keep saying, “No one our age, which is to say, your age, can work the hours you do and hope to live to retirement.” He does seem slow to get this message.
Olof, for his part, says that it is too frightening to imagine that I was considered the neat one in my former marriage. And equally incomprehensible to imagine me as the quieter one. I don’t want to start any fights with my former husband who lives locally and with whom I get along well. But my ex could be a taddy bit directive (and by his own admission, a total slob, although he preferred the word “casual”); he genuinely wanted to help me realize my potential. Olof, on the other hand, has always assumed I was as good as I was ever going to get.
In Olof’s and my marriage, ironically, I’m usually the one trying to figure what Olof is thinking. He will never offer an opinion about anything personal unless asked. Nay, begged. No, implored. He’s never said so but I think from his viewpoint, offering solicited or unsolicited opinions about any aspect of a wife is a mine field to be avoided at all costs. He can visualize the grenades imploding on the serenity of his personal life, the conflagration of hard-earned husband points, even though I maintain I am never ever vindictive. (Well, not towards him, anyway.)
He, the former communicative one, confesses he has a hard time seeing himself as the less communicative one. And as for me being the “neat” one in my former marriage, he says if he were our former cleaning lady, he would have shot himself. (The kids sometimes try to maintain that they grew up in poverty. Olof demurs, adding, “but you did grow up in squalor.”)
I have endlessly tried to assure him that I wouldn’t ask his opinion if I didn’t really want to hear it. I value his opinion more than anyone’s so if I ask him if I screwed up in a certain situation I genuinely want to know his view. Even if it is totally wrong. Even if any sane individual could see that I was right and the other party was an irrational numnut.
Olof denies it, but there are times I could swear I hear him muttering under his breath: “Beware of what you wish for.”