This weekend, my wife and I had an interesting discussion about my “selective hearing.” Apparently, my wife tells me many things that I promptly forget. She claims that I don’t listen to her. But that’s not accurate. I DO listen and I even hear and comprehend what she’s saying. However, if she questions me later about it, I often fail the test, and she gets mad. Not always, but sometimes.
She’s not much better, FYI. She forgets a lot of stuff I tell her, too. And yes, sometimes I get mad, too.
The reason we don’t remember many things we tell each other is because THEY DON’T MATTER. Part of our evolution as human beings has been to adapt to the staggering amount of information hurled our direction every single day. We quickly filter out the information that doesn’t make a difference in our lives because we simply cannot retain it all. So we pick and choose what to remember and what to forget.
If my wife asks me to pick up our daughter after school, I remember because that’s kind of important in zero degree weather. If my wife tells me that she went to lunch with a coworker, I’ll let that one go pretty quick (unless, of course, her coworker is tall, dark, and handsome and then I’ll remember that one forever).
If I tell my wife I wrote a funny line about the good-looking coworker she went to lunch with, she’ll forget that within a day. However, if I tell my wife that a friend of ours lost his mother recently, that tends to stick.
So when I say many of the things we tell each other don’t matter, it’s true. Some matter and some don’t. There really is no need to even TRY to keep everything in our heads. There is also really no need to get mad when someone else doesn’t remember everything we say.
But we do, don’t we? We get snippy or irritated when we swear we told them, but they swear they don’t remember. We take it personally because we adopt the misguided belief that if they love us, or value us, or find us important, they would remember what we told them. We feel that if what we say doesn’t matter, then WE must not matter, either.
I asked my wife, “Do I remember the truly important things?” She admitted that I do.
“So, is it ok if I don’t remember EVERYTHING we ever talk about?” She admitted that it was.
Right then and there we agreed that if either one of us started feeling mad because they other person didn’t remember something, we would take a step back and ask ourselves, “Does it matter? Is it important?” If the answer is no, we will let it go.
In other words, if it don’t matter, don’t get madder. I realize it is horrible, horrible grammar, but it’s our new motto (and it’s darn catchy).
Of course, if you’re the one who forgot, I have discovered that following up with a quick, “I’m sorry I don’t remember that, but you’re beautiful and I love you” also helps.