Selective spousal hearing

A gardener friend looked over my flower beds and made a pronouncement: Two shrubs were too big and must be moved in autumn.

I expected my husband, who was standing nearby, to balk at the idea. "Once it's in the ground, it stays" is his motto, and because he is chief hole-digger and hard-labor guy, I usually leave things alone.

The subject of shrubs had come up between us before, and I had mentioned that several bushes needed relocation. But after my friend's visit, my husband said, seriously and without a trace of irony, "It's getting too crowded in that bed. We'll have to dig those shrubs up in the fall."

This is a phenomenon I call "selective spousal hearing." And it's not limited to the male of the species. On occasion, I have been guilty of tuning out my husband's ideas that don't always fit with mine, only to embrace them when they come from someone else.

This behavior is not something to brag about. After all, I married Richard for his sound judgment and solid reasoning, among other qualities. So why would I discount his advice, only to take it from someone else?

I don't know the answer, but it seems to be a common experience among married people. Perhaps it's the sheer number of our partners' schemes we have endured, or skepticism bred by our spouses' previous mistakes. Or it's an adolescent impulse to resist advice from those closest to us.

But I think most wives would agree: It's tough to always take seriously a person who asks, on a weekly basis, where his socks are.

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