Perspectives from the Potty

March 1st, 2012

Though we’ve been married for a little over a year, my husband and I just recently weathered the marriage milestone of setting up our first home together.  Right after our wedding, for reasons of finance and convenience, he moved into the condo where I’d been living during our engagement.  Since the feel and flow of that home was already established, we didn’t spend much time organizing kitchen processes or arranging furniture as a team.  At the time, I didn’t recognize the many concessions my husband probably made as he worked to make my living space his.  Unconsciously, I suppose I just assumed that what worked for me would work for him.

In early December 2011, we moved to a new place untouched by either of our decorating preferences.  Each bare room provided a new canvas for his or my unique feng shui style to shine through.  As might be expected, there were a few enthusiastic debates over which drawer should house the silverware and which side of the walk-in closet would be his or hers.  But the crowning moment came when we hung a bathroom shelf over the toilet in the water closet of our new master suite.

There I was, balancing precariously on the ball of one foot to hold the shelf against the wall so that my husband and I could debate the perfect height for hanging.  We had just about reached consensus when my husband blurted something absurd: “That’s too low, I don’t want to be staring into the toilet paper.”  Try though I might to understand his concern, comprehension escaped me.  I simply couldn’t imagine the circumstances that would leave him facing the shelf long enough to even notice the toilet paper basket living there – let alone spend time staring at it?!?  Awareness dawned as I stepped away and took in his body position.  There he was, head tipped slightly to the left as he assessed the criteria for water closet shelf height.  He was also, I realized, facing the same way he would when nature eventually called… and he was, indeed, staring right into the toilet paper basket.

Because the toilet paper basket has always and forever fallen behind me during my trips to the commode (our condo restroom was set up the exact same way), I never consciously recognized that my husband’s potty perspective yields wildly different scenery than my own.  Quite simply, nature calls for him to face the shelf and me to face away.  Neither position is right or wrong.  Both options just make sense given the equipment we were born with and the experiences we’ve had.  So poignant was this realization that I found myself, in the weeks that followed, extrapolating that idea to broader aspects of our relationship.  The more I looked, the more examples I found.  He grew up with chunky peanut butter and I’d always eaten creamy.  He wouldn’t dream of buying pre-packed lunch meat and I wasn’t even aware that the deli at our local grocer sliced to order.  Camping out was a staple of his childhood vacations and my dad defined “roughing it” as a stay at the Best Western.  Financially speaking, he prefers building up and maintaining a substantial savings account – even it means spending on a credit card – and I’d do just about anything (including emptying our savings) to avoid credit debt.

When we married, my husband and I knew enough to expect that our perspectives would differ at times.  Every day, we choose to identify each difference as an annoyance to tolerate or as an opportunity to see things from a different point of view.  For example, while my husband could feasibly shift his potty perspective to match mine, he probably wouldn’t be quite so comfortable doing things my way.  Further, it’d be quite a mess if he expected me to shift my potty perspective to match his.  I’m just not equipped to do so.  When we are able to avoid the temptation to hold our own perspective as the “correct” one, our bathroom floor is likely to stay a little more fresh and pleasant.  So it is in the world outside the water closet as well.