My wife and I had a short argument this morning about my "need" to have things in a certain place. And as I was trying to explain to her why it matters to me that things are in a certain place, I had an "a-ha" moment. And that is this:
My "need" to have some things in a certain place has more to do with how I stay organized. As opposed to my actually needing something to be in a particular place. For example, when I am getting ready in the morning, I have developed routines and habits so I don't have to think about every little step of the process. And part of that is always having the toothpaste, the deodorant, the hair spray, the lotion, my comb, etc. in the same place. That way, when I need any of these items I just, out of habit, reach for a certain place and there it is. Meaning, I don't have to think about it.
If something is not where I expect it to be out of habit, then I have to stop, think, look for it., etc. And that disrupts my routine, meaning that once I find it, even if it only takes three seconds, I have to sort of "reboot" to get back into my routine. And now, something that was about as "mindless" as walking, takes thought energy.
It really does not matter to me the particular place an item is - to the left, to the right, on the "counter" or in the drawer. What matters is that it is in the same place day after day.
So, if my wife (who has ADHD) uses something and puts it somewhere different, that would be fine, if that was where she put it every time. In that case, I could just develop a new habit. But my experience is, she'll put it one place one time, another place the next. And so what used to be mindless and effortless for me, now takes more effort in terms of "brain" power, and perhaps also in terms of time, if I need to constantly stop, look, find, and "reboot."
This also occurs in the kitchen. I do most of the cooking. And sometimes when I am doing three things at once, and have everything timed just so, and I need a particular spice or oil, or I need a bit of butter, or whatever, knowing exactly where those things are enables me to "automatically" grab them. If, however, I reach for the butter and it's not where it usually is, and especially if I have to search a bit for it, it can throw off my entire sense of timing in what I am doing. Or if the spice I always put on the far left is not there, and I have to actually look at the labels of several spice bottles to find what I am looking for, it can throw me off. I've even actually used the wrong spice when I picked up a bottle without actually "looking" at it, expecting it to be the spice I always put in that place.
I'm not suggesting my way of organizing is better, or that my wife ought to adopt it. I am saying it is a system that works for me.
And I realized that when my wife makes fun of me, or criticizes me, or belittles me, because I like things in a certain place because it helps me stay organized, it makes me feel bad. After all - I don't make fun of her for having to write things down so she can remember them, even things that I would never have to write down to remember, like "take out the trash" or "leave for work."
And when I realized all this today, in the midst of our argument, I lost it. I was really furious that I am spending all this time to understand how her brain works, and not get mad at, impatient with, or criticize how she does things. And yet, here she was, once again, rolling her eyes at me because I mentioned that I prefer to have something in a certain place.
It's a system. That's all. It's not that I am controlling. It's not that I am OCD. It's not that I need to have things a certain way. It's that I find it helps me develop habits and routines when things are consistently put in the same place.
So, when I told her all this - (granted, I was yelling and I shouldn't have been yelling, and I did apologize for that) - I think she actually heard me. That sometimes there is a reason I want things in a certain place, because it helps me stay organized. I said "Exactly - for example, that's why I'm not always having to search for my keys or my phone when I am leaving the house, because I always put them in the same place."
And I thought of two analogies that might help. When driving, there are lots of things we do out of habit. For example, in my car, to turn on the wipers I push the lever UP. I do it without thinking. In my wife's car, the lever must be pushed DOWN. And I never remember that when I am driving her car and it starts to rain. And it's always just a little "annoying" when I push the lever UP in her car and it doesn't put the wipers on, because I have to do it a second time, and because I always have the thought "Drat. I keep forgetting that in her car the lever needs to be pushed DOWN." It doesn't matter that this all takes only a second or two, it's a disconnect, and it kind of "throws" me.
Neither way is better - who cares if the level has to go UP or DOWN? It's the same amount of effort. The point is, if it was UP one day, then DOWN the next, then UP for two days, then DOWN the next, with no consistent pattern, then every time we put on the wipers we'd have to either do it by trial and error, or actually look at the lever to see which way to push it. There's something to be said for consistency.
The other analogy is the grocery store. When the milk is always in the same place, and I know where the milk is, I don't have to think about where the milk is when I need it. My habit is to go to the aisle where the milk is. When they move things in the grocery store, it frustrates me, because now I have to actually LOOK for the item I need, and when I find it, I have to learn the new place. Usually it takes several purchases of milk before the new place sinks in so that I don't have to think about it. And fact is, I know it frustrates my wife when they move things in the grocery store also.
I know - long post. I guess I'm just feeling frustrated that my wife doesn't understand that the way I do things isn't always because I'm "picky" or "controlling" and that it doesn't always mean I think my way is better. And I'm tired of feeling like she's putting me down all the time for using a system that helps me stay organized.
I'm working on differentiating when it really matters to me that things are in a certain place, and when it doesn't matter. When it doesn't matter, then who cares. But if it in fact does matter (to me), and it's something that might be hard for my wife to remember to do consistently (because I do know that that is something that is usually difficult for her), then maybe I work with her to come up with a solution. Maybe it means I always put away the dishes and/or the groceries. Maybe it means I move something when she puts it in a different place than I am used to putting it. Maybe it means I develop a different habit of pulling everything out that I will need to make a certain meal before I start, so that if I have to look for something it won't affect my timing. Maybe it means we label the drawers. Maybe it means we each use our own hair spray - and she puts hers wherever she wants, I and put mine in the same place each day.
Or . . . maybe I'm just being ridiculous and trying to justify myself.