Lesson Number Ten

Where should we be best behaved?

One of my patients admonished his son about his bad behaviour.

Come on Jamie, you don’t do that at school.

Daddy, there are rules at school.

Well, what did they teach you for the rules at school?

Be good, be kind, be neat, and be nice.

Why don’t you do those things here?

Daddy, those rules are for school.

I am so often struck by the fact that individuals use a very different set of rules at home than outside of home. Or, more precisely from my practice, they seem to behave better in the outside world than they do with their partners.

A number of years ago I was lecturing, and posed a question. “If it is your wife who is going to be wheeling you around in a wheelchair when you are older, why are you treating your secretary – who isn’t going to be wheeling you around – better than your wife?

Responses to the topic were invariably interesting. I would go into the room and wait for the comments to begin when I said nothing. Eventually one of the braver souls would ask me to expand on the topic – and I would reply that there was nothing much more to be said. However, why was it that individuals did treat their secretaries or work colleagues – or even their friends – better than they treated their partners?

Of course, the answers usually devolve about the thought that, we regard our partners as extensions of ourselves – and therefore are more careless with them. We don’t feel we have to be on good behaviour with them. We don’t, therefore, feel that we have to be careful about what we say.

For me, the opposite is true. My best behaviour should be for my better half – not for the outside world. After all, I will be depending upon her one day. Besides which, if I have chosen to marry her because I love her, why should I be badly behaved with her, and better behaved with those I had not chosen to marry?