Binocular Vision

I’ve been intrigued with the idea of binocular vision for a while now.  According to the dictionary, the definition of binocular vision is as follows: vision using two eyes with overlapping fields of view, allowing good perception of depth. Pretty cool concept to think that our eyes work together, each seeing a slightly different picture, but overlapping to give the world we see around us depth.  I’ve done the experiment before where I just look out of one eye, and it does make things very one-dimensional.  Or the trick where I look at one fixed spot and close one eye, then close the other, and I can see how the spot seems to move a little bit depending on which eye I am looking through.  Only when we are looking through both eyes do we see depth.  Amazing stuff.

A couple of years ago, I read the book How to Improve Your Marriage Without Talking About It  by Patricia Love and Steven Stosny.  In the book, they have a slightly different definition for binocular vision as it relates to marriage: the artful ability to see your partner’s perspective as well as your own.  Wow.  I don’t know about you all, but I’m pretty sure that my perspective is the right perspective, especially when it comes to how to raise our kids or how to load the dishwasher the correct way.  Don’t even get me started on folding the laundry.  Everyone knows there is only one right way to fold a towel.  Then I read this passage from the book:

The nice thing about binocular vision is that you don’t have to agree with your partners perspective.  The key is to focus on your partners feelings instead of the facts.  You don’t have to agree with the facts of your partner’s point of view, as long as you give importance to the feelings associated with it.  (Page 125)

One of the biggest things I’ve always wanted from my relationship it to feel validated, or to know that my opinions mattered.  It was a hard pill to swallow to realize that that meant I had to do the same for him, and an even harder pill to swallow to realize that I hadn’t been using binocular vision in our relationship for a very long time.  Maybe not ever.  This idea of binocular vision as it relates to this man of mine has really been an eye opener (pun intended).

Here is a real life example of how this got put into play this past summer.  Imagine us enjoying a great family day at the zoo.  We were sitting on a bench watching the boys playing on this big wooden play structure.  They were having a blast, and it was a nice picturesque scene.  Here is a snippet of our conversation:

Him: We should think about changing the sleeping arrangements for the boys.  I think they are getting big enough to have separate rooms.

Me: I agree.  We could move the biggest boy downstairs, and the smallest boy into our room, and we could move back into the big room that they are sharing now.

Him:  Yes, that would work.

Me: Maybe if we move back into the big room, we could expand the closet so we could actually hang clothes in there.

Him: Expand the closet?!?  How would we do that?

Me: (I very patiently explain to him how we could expand the closet)

Him: So now you want to remodel the whole house?!?

Me:  No, I didn’t say the whole house, I said that one closet!  (I can feel my blood pressure start to rise along with my voice.)

Him: We already have the water heater that needs to be replaced and the plumbing in the downstairs bathroom that you’ve been on me to get repaired, and now you’re wanting to add remodeling on top of that.

Me: I haven’t even mentioned the plumbing or the water heater.  WHAT ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT?!? (Yes, I was talking quite loudly.)

Him: I’m done talking about this right now.  You’re getting upset and we’re in public.

At the point it is no longer the sweet picturesque scene.  I was spitting mad that this man of mine would not even entertain my idea about the closet.  I felt like he was shutting me down and not hearing me at all.  And who was he to just end the conversation?  Then the thought of binocular vision came into my head, and without really wanting to, I begrudgingly took a moment to think about it from his perspective.  I had a moment of insight, and this is what I imagined him thinking:

I work all the time to make enough money to support us.  Then things like the water heater and the plumbing happen, and it’s like throwing money down the drain.  Then this wife of mine wants to add remodeling projects into the mix.  Where is that money supposed to come from?  

I was already angry when I had this glimpse into why this man of mine might be reacting to me the way he was, so even though I used binocular vision, it wasn’t like some magic elixir that calmed me down right away.  I was able to take a moment by myself to calm down, and then I went back to him and asked him if I was on the right track about how he was feeling.  Once upon a time, that same conversation would have just ended with me being angry, and I would have stored it away in my bank of hurts to be rehashed whenever I needed to. (Remember my playground?)  Even though I may not agree with his perspective, being able to see his perspective is pretty huge. It gives our relationship depth.  It’s using both eyes to see, rather than just seeing it through the one eye of my perspective.  I try to keep my binoculars on a string around my neck now so I have easy access when I need them.

Looking through binoculars