A few years after we married, with his encouragement, my behavior started to shift. I would never experience shame the way other people do, but I would learn to understand it. Thanks to him, I started to behave. I stopped acting like a sociopath.
And thanks to me, he started to see the value in not caring as much about what others thought. He noticed how often guilt was forcing his hand, frequently in unhealthy directions. He would never be a sociopath, but he saw value in a few of my personality traits.
He learned to say “no” and mean it, especially when it came to activities he was doing purely out of obligation — family visits or holiday gatherings he didn’t enjoy but couldn’t decline. He started to recognize when he was being manipulated. He noticed when emotion was clouding his judgment.
What a pair we are. Certainly, there have been setbacks. He isn’t always patient. I’m not always on my best behavior. And on those occasions, I leave a token on his desk to let him know when I have been up to no good (minor mischief like sneaking embarrassing items into a line-cutter’s grocery cart). The token I leave is an innocuous trinket, a Statue of Liberty figurine from a key chain. Anyone else who saw it wouldn’t think twice. But he knows what it means.
Whenever I leave the figurine on his desk, it means I’ve done something wrong. The second he sees it, he comes to find me, gives me a kiss and slips it back into my purse. Often, he doesn’t ask what I’ve done, but if he does, he knows he can trust me to be honest. And I know the same, so I never stray too far outside the lines.
Which is why his denial of his office crush was so confusing.
For the first time in our relationship, it wasn’t my interpretation of the truth that was causing a shift in our marriage; it was his. Believe it or not, I could appreciate the cause of his dishonesty. On good days, I was almost entertained by it. His clumsy white lies were like a toddler’s, and nearly as endearing.