When it comes to understanding women I often feel that my engineering background is a handicap. My entire career has been based on evaluating data, solving problems and looking beyond the obvious to find a root cause. All of which seems to be completely useless when it comes to dealing with my wife.

I feel exceedingly fortunate to have the wife I do. While there were not an overabundance of applicants for the position, I had already decided I wanted a wife that would act as a compliment to my skills. This meant that she needed to have strong interests in the social sciences, history and humanity. All of that describes my wife. It also means that the way she thinks is radically different from the way I do.

I’ve noticed that the way my wife and I want to be treated when we are sick is radically different. When I’m sick I want the world to leave me alone. Don’t talk to me, don’t visit me, just leave me alone to be miserable. It’s not a surprise that when I take care of someone, I treat them exactly the way I want to be treated.

When she’s sick, my wife wants to be pampered and have someone with her at all times. Just as I do, when she takes care of someone who’s sick, she treats them exactly the way she would want to be treated. She will happily spend time with me, read to me and do anything in her capability to make me feel better.

I’ve discussed this with a few friends and come to the conclusion that this is really not a male/female thing. It’s a matter of personal preference and this mismatch is fairly common between couples.

Early in my marriage my wife became very sick. At the time I was egocentric enough to think that everyone thought the way I do. When she asked for a bell, I thought it was a great idea. I could see to her needs without invading her the privacy that I knew she would want.

During the next few days the bell seemed to ring constantly. I made milkshakes for her, I read to her, I sat quietly and held her hand. All the while I had this feeling of unease because, to me, it felt as if I were invading her privacy. She got well and I made sure the bell disappeared. Since then, whenever my wife has gotten sick, she tells me I should buy another bell.

Over the last month I’ve been sick and because of pain, limited to reading or listening to audio books on my iPad. My wife has been doing her best to take care of me and stay out of my way.  She spends time with me by watching reruns of TV shows and making sure that I have food that I’m able to eat. She has worked very hard not to ask me how I feel or if I’m taking my medicine.

I recognize how much effort this has been to her. Between her desire to nurture and my desire to be left alone, she has tried very hard to treat me exactly the way I want to be treated. She hasn’t even complained about my grouchiness.

I replaced her bell yesterday. She’s certainly earned it.

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