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Why Tiny Things About Our Partners Drive Us Mad

Lovers who’ve been together awhile tend almost universally to get maddened by what
look (on the surface) like certain absurdly small matters. An otherwise quite reasonable
荒谬的小事抓狂 哪怕是稍微理智些的人
and decent person might admit to a range of acute sensitivities around some of their partner’s
rather minor habits – and a tendency swiftly to lose their temper on encountering them:
they press far too hard on the chopping board; they don’t put their seat belt on until
after the car is started; in their handwriting ‘b’ and ‘h’ are practically indistinguishable;
they squeeze the toothpaste tube the wrong way (pressing at the neck rather than the
bottom); they use the word the word ‘tragic’ to mean ‘sad’; they leave drawers fractionally
open; when they drink a glass of water they never drink it right down to the end but always
当他们喝一杯水时 他们从不喝光
tip out the last few drops into the kitchen sink. Our reactions to such things can seem
而是把最后几滴倒进厨房水槽里 我们对这些事的反应总是过于激烈
wildly out of proportion. We may get extremely worked up – and then feel mean and possibly
也会感到极其生气 然后也会觉得自私或是可能有点荒谬
insane. In quieter moments, we may wonder how we could ever let such insignificant matters
冷静一会后 我们与其想怎么会让这么无关紧要的小事影响我们
get to us so much. Rather than tell ourselves we are simply idiotic (though of course we
are all idiots at heart), we should lavish thought and time on the logic of our tiny
points of ire. The little thing – the small irritant – is always a symbol of a large
and in truth very important issue operating in the background of a relationship, though
出现大问题 甚至严重问题时的信号
unfortunately it’s not always easy for us to put our finger on what the real issue is
and therefore to give a calm and accurate account of what is, in fact, probably a genuine
cause for concern. Ironically, we’re very generous about symbols when they turn up outside
讽刺的是 当这些事跟我们生活不相关时我们就不会这么计较
our own lives, particularly in art: at college we might write a thoughtful essay on what
尤其是在艺术方面:在大学 我们也许会经过深思熟虑写一篇文章
sunflowers meant to Van Gogh or why the colour blue was so important to Picasso. With these
artists, we are generous. We don’t think they were idiotic to get so obsessed with
我们对艺术家总是宽宏大量 我们不会觉得他们沉迷于这种小事是愚蠢的
little things. We expend our imaginative effort to trying to work out what the details meant.
We should take a lesson from this patient and investigative approach and do for the
我们应该从这种耐心的 探索调查的态度中吸取教训
important little details of our own emotional lives some of what art historians did for
the details of their canvases. For the vigorous pressing on the chopping board, it’s not
the potential damage to the wood that’s in essence important. We could probably meet
这其实才是重要的 我们也许一年左右
the expense of replacing the board once a year or so. But our partner’s overeager
就要花钱换切菜板 但是我们爱人过大的力度(在我们看来)
effort (as we see it) is a tiny moment in which we catch sight of a much more troubling
只是一瞬间的 就在那时我们捕捉到到更多问题和更大的缺点
and larger quality in them: a sense of indelicacy, roughness and lack of restraint. And we fear
粗俗 粗暴 不约束自己
this side of them not so much in their life in general, but in relation to ourselves:
通常来说生活中我们没有那么害怕他们这一面 但是涉及到我们自己时
the real fear is that they won’t realise when they are hurting us. Our worry isn’t
for the board, but for ourselves. With the seat belt, the real point at issue might be
我们在意的不是切菜板 而是我们自己 关于安全带 我们在意的也许是关于权利
around authority. We were always taught to put the belt on before starting the engine.
We obeyed. We have learned to do the ‘right thing’. Why then do they feel they can get
我们照做了 我们学着做正确的事 为什么他们觉得他们可以违背规则呢?
away with breaking the rules? What is this slightly arrogant, entitled sense of being
这种与别人格格不入的傲慢 荣誉感是什么?
different? The absurdly tiny detail of precisely when the seatbelt is fastened becomes the
carrier of a grand and in its way properly legitimate concern: will my partner ever understand
the fear of ‘doing the wrong thing’ and sympathise generously with it; will they stop
feeling they are above the rules? Equally important issues are – behind the scenes
– evident everywhere. The few drops of water the partner empties casually from the glass
are not about wastage (in a lifetime it might add up to one bathful only) but the fear that
they might treat us in a similar fashion and (without a second thought, after they have
他们也许会用同样的方式对待我们(不多加考虑 在他们耗尽我们的青春年华后)
drunk the best of our years) throw us away. Around the handwriting: their cheery Post-it
甩了我们 关于手写字:周六早上爱人贴在厨房桌子上的便利贴:
note on the kitchen table on Saturday morning ‘gone to buy bread’ (which could be pedantically
deciphered as ‘gone to buy head’) doesn’t genuinely confuse us. Rather, we resent their
这些不会迷惑我们 相反 我们气愤的是
lack of worry about being misunderstood. We resent the implication (embodied in this tiny
他们不会担心我们误解 我们讨厌这种暗示(体现在这些小事中)
detail) that they don’t have to take special care to make themselves clear to us. We see
in the note a lifetime of misunderstanding and loneliness. So we are right to worry.
我们在标签上看到了争执不断 孤独的一生 所以我们的担心是合乎常情的
The problem is the way we handle our worries. Ideally, we wouldn’t simply curse and get
问题是我们处理担忧的方式 想当然的说 我们不会只咒骂和生气
irritable. We would patiently transfer our attention and concern away from the minor
instance, the symbol, towards the real nucleus of our complaint, which we would lay out with
转移到我们抱怨的真正核心 那些我们会带着
care, sympathy and a touch of humour. Once the real issues in our relationships are raised,
关心 同情 幽默感的抱怨 一旦我们关系真的有了问题
the annoying details may be less difficult to live with, because, most probably, our
我们就很难容忍那些烦人的琐碎小事 大概是因为
partner won’t be indifferent to our articulated worries. With the riskiest symbols decoded,
我们的爱人不会对我们表现出的烦恼视而不见 最危险的信号解除了
love stands a chance of becoming ever more mutual, peaceable
爱就可能变得更相通 和平
and secure.
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