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An "Aha!" Moment
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Yesterday my husband and I went to visit our contractor to discuss the approach to building an addition onto the house we own and rent out (even though the tenant can't pay and we haven't the heart to evict her).

All was going well in the discussions until I went out to the car to get a paper and pen to draw out the diagram, because it was obvious that both men were talking, but at cross-purposes. Each man had to be right, and they were getting nowhere.

I came back with the items, drew the initial outline of the project, going as far as both men had agreed. The paper was seized eagerly and gladly and both went at it, hammer and tongs.

When I saw, once again, where the misunderstanding lay, I piped up with what turned out to be the solution (later in the day). Both men turned on me, snarling, to bug off and leave them alone. The attack was initiated by my husband.

I was shocked. This is my specialty--strategic planning--and my husband knows it. I expected to be treated as a co-equal in this discussion, as I am at work. This is my area of expertise, and I speak with authority and conviction and intelligence; i.e., like a man. Also, the problem was like a puzzle and I was hooked immediately on it for its own sake. (Big mistake: from relationship-oriented, as women must be, to goal-oriented, men's perogative).

They couldn't handle it. They preferred to bumble on for hours, rather than include a knowledgeable woman.

Afterwards, on the way home, I asked my husband what it was all about. He said it wasn't what I was saying, it was the way I said it. I wasn't deferential enough. I wasn't being womanly; I was one of the boys.

I work in a male-dominated occupation, and I'm never deferential, unless I'm speaking with someone who has more expertise/education/experience than I, and even then I reserve the right to my own insight. And I am certainly never "womanly" by which he meant (as he explained) subservient, apologetic, self-effacing, supportive of the male ego, patient, humble, etc.

I pretty much keep home self and work self separate, since there is too much conflict, but as husband becomes more and more into Parkinson's dementia, I have to assert myself against ill-considered projects with huge penalties for bad judgment (in this case, nearly $10,000 at stake). I expect more such conflicts in the future.

I do my best to shore up his ego, though when he attacks, it's hard. And I do my best to protect and prioritize our interests/actions though it's getting more difficult to do that and be supportive at the same time.

The "aha!" moment was that, in his view, I'm not OK when I'm being myself. Only when I'm being his wife/nurse/caregiver.

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