In psychology, cognitive dissonance is the mental stress (discomfort) experienced by a person who simultaneously holds two or more contradictory beliefs, ideas or values when performing an action that contradicts existing beliefs, ideas, or values, or when confronted with new information that contradicts existing beliefs, ideas and values.
Thank you, Wikipedia. I needed a term for the way my husband goes through life. He has this bizarre tendency to believe that I’m not actually correct when I am almost always correct. Several days ago, the weather changed abruptly, as it is wont to do in springtime. On this particular day, the temperature had dropped by half, from a lovely and seasonal 60 degrees to a cruel and wintry 30 degrees. Also, the wind was howling out of the north, with gusts up to 60 miles per hour.
As my hardworking, dedicated, and somewhat sleep-deprived husband was heading out the door at 4:30 a.m., I suggested he grab a winter hat. We try not to speak of it directly, but his hair no longer provides the same level of coverage that it once did. However, he felt strongly that he did not need a hat, that he would be perfectly content going through his day without that extra layer of warmth, blanketing his increasingly visible scalp. Though I suggested he have one on hand — just in case — he did not want to carry the extra weight in his backpack. Apparently, an ounce of fleece would have put him over the edge.
About mid-morning, my beloved sent me a text.
Him: It’s cold
Me: Bet you could’ve used a hat
Him: Why didn’t you warn me
Me: You’re going to hell
Me: If I was a witch, I would have boiled your arse into a potion a long time ago.
This is how you know you have a very strong marriage: when you both can joke and tease, without worry of misunderstanding, hurt feelings or anger. Or, this is how you know that you’re both very strange people who are lucky to have found one another because there is likely not another lunatic person out there, crazy enough to endure either of you. I’m pretty content with both options.
This was far from the first instance where my husband has experienced cognitive dissonance. I spend a good amount of time watching him try it his way, shunning the suggestion(s) I made in an attempt to make his life easier, better or more comfortable.
As a mother, I learned the time-honored art of doing 10 things in the time it takes non-parents to do one. The reasons for mastering this skill are many, but the most prevalent include needing to jam two days of chores into one toddler’s afternoon nap before your in-laws and/or CPS arrive, or providing a pre-schooler — who has given up the afternoon nap — with a snack, prior to a blood sugar crash that will come on with the speed and ferocity of the Tasmanian devil, whilst simultaneously preparing dinner and helping a kindergartener with homework (which shouldn’t even be a thing). We learn not just to multi-task, but to multi-task at the speed of pre-tantrum.
My husband? There is no economy in his movements. Even Rube Goldberg (the guy who created the art of making complicated machines that perform simple tasks in indirect, convoluted ways) would have been exasperated by my husband’s inefficiencies. Though he is welcome to spend two hours doing a 20-minute task on his own time, when we’re working together it’s just not an option. In fact, it makes me want to hit him with a frying pan. But I can’t. Because he’s used every one of them (and we have five) to make an egg, bacon and coffee. OK, maybe he doesn’t use all five, but the cast iron ones are really the only effective tools.
In the past couple of decades, I’ve spent a lot of time in the house. I have created shortcuts or work-arounds for nearly every required task. Some of it took a keen mind and skilled hands, but most of it was born of the need for several more hours in each day, which, to my great dismay, never seem to materialize.
When the people you live with sometimes resemble gremlins, hell-bent on destroying all the things that you hold dear (like sleep, cleanliness, and food), you become resourceful. And I am not stingy with the knowledge I have gained. On the contrary, as my husband will surely attest, I regularly offer up tidbits of wisdom. Things like, “It may take a couple extra seconds to put your dirty plate into the dishwasher instead of the sink, but when it’s time to do the dishes later, I’ll be much less likely to turn into a screaming banshee, saving you at least 10 minutes of me ranting about your lazy, thoughtless and slothful ways.” I can bring insight to any situation, even when I know nothing about it.
For instance, over the years, my adventurous spouse has dabbled in the art of winemaking, with any ingredient BUT grapes. He affectionately calls it prison hooch and some of the flavors have included parsley, carrot, and almond. I have been less than enthusiastic about his little hobby and was completely content when he seemed to abandon it — even though he has spent a small fortune on massive glass canisters and bottling equipment. I figured it had just gone the way of the other hobbies he had dumped a bunch of money into and then gave up, like model boat building or fly-tying.
But after a fairly long hiatus, he has taken up winemaking again, with a vengeance. This time around, I’ve decided to be supportive. I want him to know that we’re a team. Because after a couple of decades, I’ve figured him out. I’ve learned when it’s better for him to forge on without my assistance and when it’s better that I provide guidance. (Hint: it’s always better when I provide guidance.) I’ve also learned that left to his own devices, he will ferment these multi-gallon concoctions in my living spaces. For months. It’s almost as bad as when he grew mushrooms on my sideboard. Try explaining that to house guests and/or judge-y moms who think they’re better than you just because they’re not encouraging the growth of fungus in their dining room.
Anyway, each weekend, a new vat of wine-type product is being cooked on my stove. My children’s friends may or may not think we’re trying to live out an alternate version of Breaking Bad. I’ve been too afraid to ask. Or make eye contact. In order to provide a supportive environment for my loving spouse, as soon as the boiling and bubbling is complete, I force him and his special yeasts, siphons, cork setters, and casks into the back room of the basement. Because love means never having to say, “Get that shite out of my kitchen.”
So far, so good. Three types of wine are currently in different stages of fermentation and only one is blocking the entrance to my breakfast nook, where it has approximately four more days to be relocated before I accidentally carry it to the curb and hit it with my car. And though my husband doesn’t believe I will really do it, he also knows that I totally will.
I’m a little concerned that the broken glass might scratch my bumper, though. So just in case, I found this great DIY article from Popular Mechanics on fixing bumper scratches. I’m always prepared.