Best of 2017 b

From: J.M.

Date: 5-28-2017

Subject: [When spouse uncomfortable with one’s barefooting]

My best suggestion would be open and honest dialog. Try to find out why it bothers her. It’s probably rooted in some kind of fear of rejection or ridicule, or of the inconvenience of being thrown out of a place for being barefoot.

It may also have taken her by surprise, depending on exactly how you communicated it to her in the beginning. If you were extremely explicit, saying “I go barefoot everywhere, even in stores and restaurants,” then that’s one thing.

If on the other hand you just said, “I go barefoot a lot,” to a person with a shod mindset, that probably means, “Oh, he doesn’t wear shoes at home or maybe around the yard, or on the beach, that sounds okay. And a beach wedding sounds lovely!”  And then the reality set in when she found herself walking into a restaurant with a barefoot mate.

If that’s the case, then her first instinct might have been to just be embarrassed, not just that you were barefoot, but that she’d misinterpreted what you’d said, and to duck her head and cope. But as romantic love projection fades, and time rolls on, that sort of coping becomes less and less viable, and the real concerns and issues come to the surface.

Even if you were explicit in the beginning, depending on how “in love” she felt at the time, romantic love projection can make a person accept a lot of things they normally wouldn’t. It can actually blind you to who the person you’re projecting onto actually is. It typically lasts about six months to two years, before the mind can’t continue to hold up the self-ruse, and that is when you finally meet the real person instead of your own fantasies that you’re projecting onto them. It’s why most relationships end in about that time-frame, psychologically speaking.

Anyway, the point is that you need to communicate, openly and deeply and with a mutual agreement to try as hard as you both can to set aside your preconceptions and assumptions about each other. If you’re not 100% sure what she means, ask questions until you are, and vice versa. Be very open and honest about your own feelings and motivations for going barefoot, and ask if she is 100% sure what you mean. Active listening is important there… if she can paraphrase what you said accurately, she understands, and vice versa.

The other thing that’s hard to accept going into any dialog like that in a relationship is that the stakes are always high.  If you can’t accept going in, that the ultimate outcome might be a realization that it really is a marriage-breaking problem, then you won’t be able to be open and honest and establish a real dialog, a real connection.  Now, chances are it won’t be that big of a problem, but that’s the attitude you need to have going in, if that makes sense.

In any case, I wish you luck.  A lot of couples go through this very thing as retirement looms.  They realize, “Oh my gosh, we’ve really only spent two hours a day sort of tolerating each other’s conscious state for the last XX years. What if we can’t actually get along 16 hours a day?”  Though this is more focused than that, around barefooting, it’s still kind of the same thing. And the answer is always dialog.