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Opinions of Wednesday, 13 June 2018

Columnist: Paa George Sebastian

Distorted Perception: Measuring your spouse against faulty standards

A few weeks ago, a friend of mine asked me to accompany him to his property in an upscale gated community. His property was at the roofing stage. After a tour of the lovely family house, he asked that we go and see how his property will look like when it is completed. We, therefore, went to an adjacent house that was ready for move in. We went with the Site Foreman.

While in the kitchen of this other house, I asked my friend if he noticed the room sizes varied from one house to the other. The Foreman promptly responded in the negative. I felt that was not possible. This kitchen, even with all the wall units and décor in place ‘looked’ bigger than my friend’s kitchen. That got him thinking as well. He looked at it critically and agreed his space ‘seemed’ a wee bit smaller.

By this time, we had effectively confused the foreman. He was not sure about the spacing again. This specific house was in a curve (a corner plot as they call it) and therefore had a bigger plot side. The foreman confirmed the owner paid a little more for that. So with that information, we concluded the rooms were equally bigger than my friend’s. We were convinced. We asked for the Foreman’s measuring device and took the measurements. First, we took that of the kitchen, then the hall and the master bedroom. We felt if we found any discrepancies in these measurements, we could conclude it was possible the other rooms were affected.

We walked back to my friend’s house, and at the entrance, it was obvious his hall was smaller. We felt claustrophobic. We set off with the measurement; first the kitchen. We were shocked to find out that his kitchen was some inches bigger. That left us speechless. The extra spacing, the foreman, clearly heaving a sigh of relief, announced, would be taken up in plastering and the floor tiling. ‘By the time we are done, the room sizes will all be the same between the two houses without an inch difference.’ He beamed. We measured the hall and the Master bedroom, and they were all a tad bigger.

So why did it look different? Why did my friend’s house look a wee bit smaller? I could have been wrong, but how come my friend did not pick my error? Why did the foreman momentarily get confused? We found the reason, or I should say the answer, in something that was more of psychology than physics. The answer was in Perception and illusion, though if we had applied a bit of Mathematics, we would not have embarrassed ourselves.

You see, when we went into the ready-to-move-in house, it was painted; it was painted white. The Fridge, the kitchen cabinet and the cooker were all white. The tiles on the floor were predominantly white, and the ceiling as well. All the rooms were painted white. With the building in a curve, and no other building obstructing its eastern windows, some of the rooms were lit up by the rising sun, especially the kitchen. It was around 10am. That blend of illumination created an illusion of spaciousness, while the dark, unplastered, poorly illuminated rooms in my friend’s house gave an illusion of a cramped space.

We both laughed it off, with the foreman laughing the most; the integrity of his firm was at stake.

A few days ago, I was going through my phone looking for a particular picture when I found the shots from that day in my friend’s house. I took shots of the exact measurements as we took them since we did not have pen and paper readily available to record them. What hit me after going through the pictures is what I want to share with you. Luckily for you, it is neither in the field of Building construction or engineering. It is in the field of relationship and marriage.

You see, I had the option of seeing two separate houses. Aside from the land size variations, affecting the individual prices, everything was supposed to be the same in the final analysis. After each house was completed, it was supposed to be identical with all the buildings of that particular plan in every way possible, until the owners moved in and, at their own discretion, changed a thing or two here and there.

I had looked at the ready-to-move-in house and it was so perfect it had made my friend’s house looked ugly. I did not just limit it to the outlook; I questioned the honesty of the contractor regarding the exactness of the dimensions of various rooms in both houses. Without any science backing my assertion, I made certain utterances based on pure perception. This perception of mine was simply a product of illusion triggered by illumination. I judge one room smaller because it was dark and poorly lit, while the other room was judged spacious because it was bright and lit up with natural light.

Here is what I learnt when it came to how we judge people, especially our spouses. We are all not ‘constructed’ at the same time under the same set of circumstances by life and nature. For some of us our families, social connections and age, ensured that we actualized before others. By actualization, I mean we became successful, mature, connected, be on course with our career, and had life figured out in ways that made us the ready-to-move-in kinda house.

For some others, life is still evolving; they are a few legs away from self-actualization. They have their student loans to finish paying, save enough to rent a place, and still working as a contract staff with very little disposable income to throw away on basic luxuries of life. For some, they are yet to get their first breakthrough as entrepreneurs, they are yet to get their MBAs, and all that we can think about when we think of a perfect husband or wife.

It is in these disparities that we are all most often caught up pulling the same stunt I pulled out; judging two different scenarios as though they have been on the same path of life at the same time under the same set of circumstances. And we do not say it because one is completed and the other is still under completion, no. We say it to actually challenge their ability to ever achieve the same feat of completeness others have achieved. Like me, my query was simple; the rooms were not of the same sizes. How do you fix such a problem? Pull the whole house down and rebuild it with the correct measurement? Nope. For some people, their men or women are not the same as other men or women; simple. Nothing can be done about it. We write them off with such fatalism, we leave no room for any form of a potential remedy.

What we fail to do, like I failed to do, is to actually take our time to take the measurements to be sure. You judge him to be worse off than the man you met recently. If you measured them both, you would probably realize that man is Ten years older than your man; ten years of head start in every aspect of life all things being equal. He has had his plastering of a good MBA, and his Kitchen Cabinet of Rising through the ranks sorted. He has his white paints of social connections on point, and he has a unique location of being at the top. The sun rises on him, creating the aura of a demigod.

Your man is ten years younger, still building; still under construction. You judge him unfairly when you have not even measured his life plans. What are his educational goals? What did he get for his last performance appraisal at work? Where does he spend his evenings and spare times? Who are his friends? When he cannot make the time you need, what else takes that time? Where does he aspire to be in future and what meaningful, measurable goals and steps is he taking to move this from a dream into an executable project?

If you took time to measure, you will be surprised to know, the man, whose future prospect you are questioning, may be on the path to greatness…just like the man you met. In ten years’ time, he will be exactly where that man is. That will be the exact time he is ‘completed.’ For now, it is easy to judge him small because surrounding circumstances cast a gloom around him. Without the right trimmings of white tiles, funky paints and fancy wall unit and decor, he comes out as something small and choking.

You judge her by the women in your life; she is not as polished as they are. She does not exude confidence, neither does she command authority. When you look at her, you see a girl with a lot of work to be done on her. You try to be condescending by ruffling her hair and telling yourself, every girl goes through that phase. What you can’t deal with, however, is the fact that she is not deep enough; something you ‘feel’ she would never attain. When you are with her, you feel this constricting emotional claustrophobia that threatens to choke the life out of you. She is like a dark lair of an ancient creature that is at loggerheads with light. She will never be like the girls of the world; the girls who have roamed the face of the earth like Lucifer when he appeared before the Lord in the story of the Sabean Called Job.

What you fail to see is that she is a product of your perception, falsely created by an illusion. That is not her reality. If you actually took time to ‘measure her’, you would see that if she goes through the exact experience each lady you see and has ever undergone, she would come out exactly like them.

You find her naïve and too lost on the workings of the world. You forget she is Twenty Five years; she cannot think and act like a Thirty-seven-year-old woman on an ordinary day. When she is thirty-seven years, with all the experience life may throw at her, you would sit back and realize you judged her all too quickly. Now she may not appreciate your fears, anxieties, dreams, heartbeat and adrenalin triggers like other women in your life do. However, when she is exposed to what these women are exposed to, in the way and manner in which it has happened to them, you will find in her a marked resemblance to them. You do not expect someone to be of close semblance to someone else when they have not gone through their exact experience.

She is not the final product; she has more plastering, tiling, paint works and lighting works to be done on her. For now, even though she may be a world of potential, because she is still a work-in-progress, you are tempted to judge her through the exigency of her gloominess. But what you fail to realize is that with the same measure of determination and experiences, we are all bound to actualize in the very similar ways. Our plot numbers in life may not be the same, so the story may differ in their narration, but all of us will turn out to be the same – blockbuster.

Do not unfairly compare your spouse to someone, by just looking at the façade, with all its distortion and illusions, without being fair to look at the individual uniqueness of their growth stages and the circumstances surrounding that growth. Do not run down your spouse because of someone you met; you have no idea their own building struggles. If we are in God’s hands and a product of His machinations; if we are all to a good extent a product of what we sow, then know that in the end, we are likely to turn out similar if we put in the similar efforts under similar circumstances. We may never be the same, but it may be difficult to tell us apart from other great achievers because we would all be in the same class. Our individual achievements may differ, but they will all be great and awe-inspiring, nonetheless.

Get to know your spouse. Get to know their measurements. Get to know their life’s journey and their progress. Ask about the ‘what’ of their lives; the ‘how’, ‘where’ and ‘when’. That gives you a good picture to run with. If you cannot trust what they tell you, measure it yourself. Convince yourself that if they claim to want to rise to a certain place in life, they are working towards it. Get to know the process. It is only in this that you would be rest assured knowing it may not look like it should, but everything is on course to producing exactly the greatness you see next door, in your own house.

Are you struggling to measure your partner accurately to determine if there is hope for your relationship in the long term? Get in touch and let’s talk about it.