Moving Target Syndrome

28 Dec

Every so often I am involved in conversations that go something like this:

Wife: “You know why we never do anything? Because we never plan to go anywhere. Trips don’t just happen, they need to be saved for and planned.”

Me: “OK, how about this – it is late December now, how about if this June we plan to drive through Europe like you have been wanting to do for years, then in August of next year we could fly into Boston and drive through the US like you mentioned last week?”

Wife: “But the kids HATE driving in the US because all we ever do is drive forever to spend time with people who they have never met.”

I respond to her statement by pulling together elements that I have reason to believe will hit the right target feelings for her. The goals are S.M.A.R.T. (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-bound), they address the need that she was talking about and they include specific trips that she has brought up in the recent past. Despite all of that, she points out challenges rather than getting on board. When she talked about the exact same trips they were a dream, but when I brought them up in response to her complaint that we never plan anything they suddenly seem impossible.

She then points out that trips like that cost a lot of money. I told her that I have been saving specifically for things of that nature, among other things all of the Christmas presents that I just bought for her and the kids came from that account. At that, she asks if I ever think about getting the house fixed up.

To review –

Statement A) Trips need to be planned

Response to A) Here are some plans

Counter-response) Those won’t work

Statement B) Trips need to be saved for

Response to B) I have that covered

Counter-response) Do you ever think about getting the house fixed up?

My responses never hit the target. Is that because the target gets moved, or is it because I’m responding to her words without properly interpreting the underlying subtext? It seems that even when I think I have completely covered her possible concerns, she goes off on another tangent that makes our previous topic irrelevant.

When I bring this up as another case of “Moving Target Syndrome” she says that she has never understood what I meant by that. This makes me feel like Sheldon Cooper having a conversation with Penny. We each keep missing the other’s point. What can I do about this?

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One Response to “Moving Target Syndrome”

  1. Domanda January 14, 2013 at 7:24 pm #

    No idea if you do this already, but here’s an idea. When she expresses a wish that something happen (a trip, work on the house, whatever) ask her whether she wants you to just listen and dream along with her, or if she actually wants you to do something about it (such as make suggestions on where to go.)

    You and I are both literal and logical and when presented with a problem want to DO something about it, but I’m learning that that’s not how everyone is. Perhaps asking if she has a specific outcome she wants from her musings — maybe she wants a vacation itinerary, maybe she just wants someone to listen — possibly could help?

    Love you!

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