On The Asking of Questions
by Sam Wilkinson
Please, read this article about a relationship that fell apart, as it will provide the context. Then, answer this simple question: was the collapse of that relationship her fault, his fault, or their fault?
Meanwhile, let me tell you a story about two people on Twitter who did a remarkably fantastic job of speaking past one another to such an incredible degree that it boggles the imagination. One of those two people was me; the other was a popular writer whose political writing is widely known, widely appreciated, and by some, widely reviled.
This person and I both read that same article on the same day. We came away from it with very different ideas of what it said. Her immediate response to it was this:
I dunno; seems to me that it’s good to end a relationship with someone who won’t meet you halfway on important stuff.
Twitter gives us immediate access to those that use it. It also limits reply to 140 characters, great for people making jokes, bad for thorough explanation. Confused by her reading of the article, I tweeted back, asking:
I read the article…what does the meeting halfway comment reference?
I legitimately did not understand the “meet you halfway on important stuff” reference. It did not register in my brain. After all, the article explains that the man had moved halfway across the country to be with her. Wasn’t that meeting more than halfway? The article explains that after she rejected his (almost certainly premature) wedding proposal, that they had remained a couple. Wasn’t that meeting more than halfway? The article explains that even after writing a national article entitled “I Don’t,” in which the woman explained her disdain for marriage, the man stuck around. To me, it looked as if (based admittedly upon the incredibly limited information we have from the article) he had done a valiant job of meeting halfway. She replied:
He believed the relationship should only be conducted on his terms, to the point of refusing marriage if not on his timetable.
Again, I was confused. Yes, this is an accurate telling of what happened per the article, but it left out the part where she had refused his wedding proposal because it did not fit her timetable. So I went forth with this line of questioning, replying:
didn’t she do exactly the same thing? Did a halfway exist between those two?
I should note here that I believe the question to the answer that I originally posed is that the collapse of their relationship was their fault: he remained hurt by her rejection of his proposal, and she never fully recognized this. Yes, she cried, and yes, she apologized, but from the article itself, we learn that she believed she had convinced him that “he didn’t believe in marriage, either.” Maybe. Or maybe saying that was a defense mechanism against the entire situation. The possibility of this conversation occurring between this author and I crumbled though. Her reply to my query was this:
Yeah, I didn’t think you asked the question out of actual curiosity, but it’s been answered.
I tried several times to reply in such a way as to promote a further conversation, but I was dismissed to the dustbin of trollery and with every passing moment that I thought about her last reply, I fumed further about its implication. In her career, I cannot imagine the amount of abuse that this woman has taken: from conservatives, from social conservatives, from sexists, from bigots, from every imaginable troll under the sun. But in this specific case, my intent wasn’t to troll. I wanted to know how, exactly, she had read the article and drawn that particular conclusion. How was he refusing to meet halfway? How is it good that this relationship ended when the two participants seemed to have strong feelings for one another? And how on Earth could this be his fault? Their fault, sure, but his and his alone?
Twitter is bad for this sort of back-and-forth that I was seeking, because Twitter isn’t a cup of coffee and two chairs and a table and an opportunity to listen to the other person. This then, in the end, was my mistake. I expected to have a conversation in an environment in which having one was an impossibility. The format promoted this fight, not necessarily the words themselves although perhaps even there I erred in some unknown way.
Still, it might prove interesting to discuss the original article. I’m happy after all to admit when I’m wrong. So the original question stands: what happened between those two? Was he at fault for refusing to come halfway? Was she at fault for not contracting with him? Or were these just the things that sometimes sadly happen?