Theory #1: Gender and Marriage
After a year of practising family law, hubby says that divorces always happen for the same reason: one partner is crazy, and the other is controlling. When a new client walks in the door, it's just a matter of finding out which one it is. Your wife is crazy? Oh, hello, Mr. Controlling. Your husband is controlling? Hey, Crazy Lady. Gender is a useful predictor: most of the time, it's the wife who's crazy and the husband who's controlling. At first glance that seems counterintuitive to me. None of the women I know have controlling husbands. Lazy husbands, sure. Distracted, inattentive, unromantic husbands, yes. But not controlling ones. I know plenty of husbands, though, who would say that their wives are too controlling. (Okay, maybe those are just my husbands.) Perhaps the true lesson to be learned here is that when the husband is controlling, it leads to divorce, but when the wife is controlling, it's all for the greater good. (My mother-in-law and I had a good laugh at that idea. FIL and hubby were less amused.)
Theory #2: Performer and Audience
Bub's best friend is the kind of kid whose presence in the room is felt by everyone. He has a big voice, big emotions, and an enormous appetite for adventure. It's no mystery why the two of them connect so well: Adrian is like a roller-coaster and Bub loves going along for the ride. A bit more mysterious is the Pie's adoration. "Adrian is my favourite!" she sighs happily whenever she sees him, despite the fact that he has spent the entire time smashing swords with Bub. Pie at age two is not much different from my teenage self: she does not require actual interaction to sustain her love. If Bub is a giddy passenger on the Adrian roller-coaster, Pie is content to be spectator, enjoying the excitement at a remove.
"Adrian's a Performer and my children are Audience," I told his mother yesterday. In most friendships, I suspect, people are allotted one role or the other. Performance can take many forms: the Performer can be a class clown, a teller of anecdotes, or even a provider of wise counsel. The key is the element of appreciation. An Audience friend nods, laughs, and smiles, applauding enthusiastically while the Performer does his shtick. The engine that drives the friendship is the Audience's willingness to buy what the Performer is selling.
I'm a Performer at heart, despite the fact that I'm not especially funny, adventurous, or zany. I'm the kind of person whose teenage diaries contain occasional disclaimers from my BFF, scrawled in margins or on the back cover, warning readers, "I am not a mere sidekick, as depicted in these pages. I am a real person." I have occupied the sidekick role a few times in my life, but never very successfully. Being an Audience friend has taken me places I would never have gone otherwise, but my Performer friends have always had a tendency to move on (perhaps to a better Audience), and their departure has always been something of a relief.
Which do you prefer to be, in friendships or romantic relationships? Audience or Performer?
Monday, June 16, 2008
Theory #1: Gender and Marriage