Too many fights erupt between my wife and me because she thinks we're fighting and I don't.
Sometimes, we fight over nothing else besides whether we're fighting.
She was raised in rural Northern California, where talking loudly, emphatically, and in someone's face means that you're upset. I'm from New York, where it means that you're talking.
We New Yorkers and other East Coasters -- especially New Jerseyites, Philadelphians and Bostonians -- talk loudly, emphatically, and closely to everyone: servers, cabdrivers, best friends. But especially to our families, since they're where we got this from. (p.s. I don't mean Seinfeld "close-talking," which is so close as to appear to be a mental condition.)
I don't know for sure. But I'm guessing this cultural deviation developed in these places because you need to speak loudly and closely to be heard over all these other noisy and close people doing the same thing. But rarely, if ever, do such conversations escalate into fights, because everyone respects the primary rule: As long as the other person isn't beet red, you're cool.
Being East Coast in this manner helps you in many ways when you move to other parts of the country. You're considered tough, confident, and funny without even trying, and you surpass all your new peers in traffic and flea-market negotiating. But it's not such a great thing if you don't share your home with a fellow East Coaster.
My wife thinks this is not a cultural thing at all, just an a-hole one. According to her, I enjoy being unnecessarily confrontational and selfish, and hurting her is one of my favorite pastimes. Oh, and she will never fail to bring up Francis. (Of course, we had to befriend one of history's only native New Yorkers to never not be polite, reserved, and respectfully far away while speaking. There is always a Francis around to disprove whatever stereotype you're trying to prove, isn't there?)
The answer is simple, our therapist tells us. (Are you seriously surprised that we have one?) I try harder to appear less aggressive, while my wife tries harder to realize that I'm not angry when I seem to be.
Yeah, well that sounds simpler that it turns out to be.
What cultural differences come between you and your significant other?
Image via Kimberly Slipchuk/Flickr