My wife is an enthusiastic opera-goer and I have always tried to support her passion. However, we recently went to a modern production at a prestigious house in Europe, and while I enjoyed the music about as much as I usually do (i.e., a reasonable amount), I had to keep cribbing from the synopsis to have the vaguest idea of what was going on. I also found it prudish given the passions of the heart, which were supposed to be on display.
I made the mistake of letting my wife know how I felt and a terrible row ensued. She attacked my taste in unexpectedly wide-ranging terms and an uneasy truce then settled over the rest of our holiday. Now I feel she owes me an apology; she clearly feels I owe her one. Which of us is right?
— ‘Fafner’, via email
Well, if we are to take your account of this peculiar row at face value, it does seem as if your wife allowed her perfect right to disagree with you on an artistic level to rapidly degenerate into personal rancour and abuse. The question is, why? What was the argument really about?
Rather than either asking for an apology – all these weeks later, what’s the point? – or offering one, which I doubt would be sincere, I think you should be asking yourself why she exploded. Did she feel that you were attacking her taste when you criticised this particular production? Also, if her ‘passion’ for opera is something you have ‘supported’, despite being lukewarm about it yourself, maybe she suddenly felt, rightly or wrongly, that you’ve been feigning interest. And if opera is something you’ve been experiencing as a couple, perhaps for many years, it might be quite undermining to suddenly think that. Or it might be that your operatic beef was just a proxy for something entirely different.
Think back to the period immediately before this sudden detonation. Were there any other tensions at play? If I were you, I’d forget about apologies. I’d want to understand the real reasons behind her outburst. That’s the quickest way to banish discord, and re-establish harmony.
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