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When Your Spouse Blindsides You

It happens at least once to every married person. Life seems fine and then you discover your husband put in for retirement without telling you or bought a $6,000 lawn mower for your quarter acre yard. Your wife spent $3,000 on a new wardrobe to look for a job, or she redecorated the living room in black and purple while you were on a business trip. You thought she was using birth control and now she's pregnant and delighted. He gets a wax job on parts you think should stay hairy.

You have been blindsided. You did not see it coming, and there is not much you can do about it now. What now?

This would be an excellent time to Assume Love. Your initial reaction is to what this change means for you. But if you ask yourself what would make someone who loves you too much to want to put you through an uncomfortable change do something this crazy, you may find yourself forgiving easily.

What makes a loving man retire without asking for his wife's input? A reason so compelling that no opinion, no argument would change his mind. As soon as you realize this, it frees your thinking. It lets you recall all of the clues that something was coming to a head at work or that something bad happened to friends who did not retire. If nothing comes to mind, at least it allows you to ask a loving question about what led up to it, instead of "What were your thinking, you fool?!!"

What makes a loving woman redecorate, badly, behind your back? A big need for a change. Is she keeping up with some twist in high fashion you have not yet heard of? Is she dealing with depression? Is she seeking to get your attention, convinced you appreciate none of her decorating efforts? Is she at the end of her rope for ways to convince you to stop inviting the guys over for poker in the living room? Once you ask about what a woman who loves you would do, you allow in all the rest that you know about her and don't immediately associate with paint and slipcovers.

Who needs a $6,000 mower for a tiny yard, denying his spouse all the other things $6,000 can buy? Perhaps someone with an unfulfilled passion for farming or a longing to relive a childhood experience. So what set it off this month? Was it a death of a family member or friend? Perhaps a son's reaching a certain age? Or is this perhaps an alternative to the $60,000 vehicle your spouse truly longs for, leaving $54,000 for your needs? You know lots more than comes to mind when you focus on the lawn mower instead of the person.

Stop. Assume Love. Ask yourself what might lead a person who loves you dearly and has not suddenly changed character to behave this way. When you see the real explanation, your reaction to it changes dramatically. It just might bring you a lot closer together, even if your wife's or husband's actions seemed outrageous at first.

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Patty Newbold is a widow who got it right the second time...

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