My wife and I have an ongoing issue in our marriage with backpacks. Well…actually communication and agreement around backpacks. She believes that when a backpack has two compartments stacked on each other, that the one farthest from the person’s back when they are wearing it is the back of the backpack. Unfortunately, what she calls the back of the backpack is the part that I naturally refer to as the front. This makes for confusion on a semi-regular basis when we have to “translate” for each other so that the other understands what we mean.

Now, this may be a trivial matter, but it keeps me aware of how often couples don’t really understand what the other is communicating because we live out of our own perspectives and naturally assume that others see it the same way.  I see an even more entrenched myopic vision on life doing marriage counseling because after years of being with each other, spouses make even more assumptions about what the other person means. By the way, my unofficial survey of people finds the majority agree with me, but don’t tell my wife that.  After all, like most people, it’s hard to imagine that I could be wrong about something that’s just so obvious (to me).  Really, it wouldn’t matter anyhow because it’s just the way she sees the situation and, probably, nothing will change it. This makes me think of John and Judy Gottman, a psychologist couple who have done tremendous research on couples and marital satisfaction. One of the central issues for them is that the majority of issues and differences in a couple can’t or won’t change. Couples satisfaction is based more on whether we believe the other partner has made the effort to understand and respect our differences.

My wife and I are also both psychologists and, quite clearly, we are significantly different on many issues, the backpack just being one silly example. It takes effort on our part, as with any couple, to maintain interest and appreciation for our differences and to bridge the gap of understanding. People often wonder what it is like in our home when we fight. I tell them that it probably isn’t so different than many, but that we may persist more in fumbling forward until we understand and appreciate one another and have found a compromise that moves us forward together.

So, when it comes to backpacks with my wife, my front will always be her back.  And while I don’t agree with her, I love her and can translate the differences.  If you need help understanding your partner, marriage counseling can translate the differences.