Lateral versus vertical thinking
Lateral Thinking: the solving of problems indirectly and using a creative approach.
Vertical Thinking: approaching problems in a selective, analytical, and sequential manner. It could be said that it is the opposite of lateral thinking.
Take the two definitions above and imagine them in the same house, attempting to navigate life together. Neither party is wrong. Both have the same destination in mind. However, their route and mode of transportation is entirely different.
My husband and I have been together for 18 years. These years were not given to us. We have earned all of them. Two career changes, five moves, three remodeled houses, one birth, and a graduation. We’ve walked through death, mental illness, addictions, and a lengthy separation.
There have been lots of laughs, many tears, and a sh*t ton of arguments. About once a month, one of us—if not both—is ready to throw in the towel. The thing is when its good, it’s incredibly, amazingly good. But when it is bad, it’s knockout, blow-up bad. I got into this marriage with this unbelievingly wonderful man, thinking that at its worst, it would be like unicorn poop. Not desirable but still filled with sparkles, magic, and amazing make up sex.
In reality, we get divorced about twice a month.
I think our biggest struggle is how differently we think.
We simply do not speak the same language. I’m all heart and impulse, with the idea that life is meant to be lived messily. He’s all head, extremely logical, and systematical. He eats with such intent that it ensures the last bite is saved for last. I prefer to eat dessert first because life is unpredictable, and I don’t want to die with regrets. He plans for a future, a future I am constantly rearranging.
He says, “The car is out of gas. Why didn’t you fill it up yesterday?”
And I say, “I don’t plan that far in advance.”
I come home in a tizzy, ranting about some part of my day. He automatically wants to come up with a solution or already has one. I don’t want or need a solution. Me being all worked up is simply part of my creative method. He spends hours planning his projects to avoid mistakes. I spend hours correcting my mistakes and call it an educational process. He insists on knowing the why and how and I prefer to figure it out as I go along.
I have told my husband he will likely die the most unfortunate death because there will be a steel beam flying directly at his head. I will scream, “Duck!” He will reply, “Why?”
And bam! Just like that, I’m a widow with a Dodge Charger and a half-remolded house.
Our days together can be exhausting, and I often wonder if all the effort is even worth it.
Then I think of the good times.
Oregon…sand in our toes and sun in our eyes.
Vegas…laughing till the sun came up.
Belize…where we thought love was all we needed.
I remember the really hard stuff we walked through together, and I think there isn’t another man I’d rather do this life with.
So how does a bird live happily ever after with a fish?
Spoiler alert—I don’t have the answer, but what I do have is experience. I’ve learned there is a time to talk and a time to listen. I’ve discovered that being happy is better than being right. That when I need that man to hear me, I give him a gentle touch and tell him “this is important.”
We now know the importance of letting the small stuff slide. Like how I load the washing machine or how he insists on watching the same movie over and over. He tries not to offer up his opinion unless I ask for it. I remind myself he’s trying.
We now understand that when we disagree, we must pause before we can find a solution. I’ve realized that, sometimes, a good friend is more suitable for the talk I need to have. I admit when I am wrong without reluctance, but I do not wait for him to do the same. His apologies look different than mine. I no longer expect him to read my mind. I remember I did not marry a psychic. The action does not mean less just because I had to ask him to do it.
I stopped planning out our conversations in my head. My husband does not have the same script, and expectations of what he should say or do will only lead to resentment. Lastly, the most powerful lesson I’ve learned is that he is not responsible for my happiness nor I for his. We by no means do any of this perfectly. I let him have bad days, and he lets me have mine.
Together we are learning, forgiving, and growing.
I have accepted the fact that we will never fully understand each other’s language. I believe the rewards of life do not come without effort. As long as we are both willing to do the work, then there is a relationship worth saving.
I finally stopped trying to teach a fish how to fly, and he stopped expecting this bird to swim. We found a space somewhere between the river and the sky.
It’s far from perfect, but it’s all ours, created out of necessity and love.