Washing My Hands Carefully for David and Truce

November 20, 2008

Science is the art of figuring how things work. Technology is the art of using science to get jobs done. Ethics is the cloudy system of trying to figure out whether any technology we are using is doing more good or more harm in any particular endeavor. We are all fumbling in the dark in this regard.An old saying goes, “When in doubt, leave it out.” This means, if you’re fumbling around in the dark, and you’re not sure what you are doing, be careful where and how you are fumbling. I am taking a vow to fumble more carefully today.

I have been fumbling around with David and Truce, and suggesting that they talk to each other. My motivations have been questionable, so at the least I am probably being obnoxious, and at the worst, I may be acting dangerously. So I am backing off a bit, and I will suggest something that is less likely to do harm, and though less spectacular and not as cute, perhaps more likely to do a bit of good.

It is very difficult for people to get along with each other. We are driven by instincts and needs to form relationships and often to have children. We hope for the best and often act for the worst.

Technology is often simple to understand and difficult to carry out. I have been reading about how doctors (who know these things) should wash their hands very, very carefully. Failure to do so often spreads illnesses and even causes death. However, attempts to get doctors to wash their hands as well as they should have not been all that successful. If you have to go to a hospital (though I hope not), look this up and talk to the hospital and your doctor about it, as presumptuous as this sounds.

We are better at developing technologies of destruction than we are at developing technologies of wisdom and kindness. David suffered many problems because of a bad childhood. Many efforts to help repair the damage did not help and perhaps made things worse. Recently he found a therapist who studied his syndrome, called DID. The technology she uses seems to be doing more good than harm.

My wife and I will celebrate 43 years of marriage around Thanksgiving. How did we do it? We fumbled around in the dark. We will go see our daughter and her partner, and our granddaughter this weekend to be thankful and to celebrate more than 43 years of not killing each other.

John Gottman is a man who has been studying the technology of relationships. It’s less certain than even the technology of washing our hands properly, but he has made some progress in figuring out what makes relationships work: romantic relationships and parent-child relationships. A sign of a successful technology is that it can be studied and measured and repeated. Gottman claims that by listening to a pair of people in relationship talk to each other, he can predict with considerable accuracy whether their relationship will be successful. This sounds like technology that works fairly well because it can be measured, making it a little better than just opinion, something we all have plenty of.

Gottman has written books and teaches classes on how to build successful relationships.

David and Truce are two very intelligent and talented people-and I am fairly sure-good people, who have suffered a lot of turmoil and trouble in their lives, and have not been very happy or successful in their relationships.  I took it upon myself to suggest perhaps two such eccentric people would perhaps be a good match for each other. In part, I jumped to this conclusion because my wife and I are two eccentric people who had some success in our relationship. We never studied Gottman’s work while we fumbled through our marriage, but as far as I can figure out, we fumbled our way (as many successful relationships do) to methods of communicating and working with each other and our daughter that more or less matches what Gottman recommends. In trying to suggest David and Truce “date,” my hands are not clean enough. In suggesting that they pay some attention to Gottman’s suggestions, I think I am on safer ground.

I called what my wife and I did as parents, “Mad scientist parenting.” My daughter and her partner developed their own system of “mad scientist parenting.” It seemed to be working reasonably well, though it was based on different books and models than the ones we used, so I was respectful. A few weeks ago, Mommy (my daughter’s partner and birth mother of Random Granddaughter) was talking about some advice about communicating she had heard at her job (as a teacher). It sounded familiar; suddenly I realized she was talking about Gottman. “Aha!” I thought, “Our mad scientist parenting systems are coming together!”

I warn you: I may be quite mad.

So here is my conclusion. David and Truce may or may not be a possible good match for each other. I don’t know that I need to apologize, but I will wash my hands carefully before I give them any more advice or suggestions and I will leave them to their own devices. I will be so presumptuous as to say that as brilliant as they are (and again I say I think they are intelligent, talented, and good people), in relationships they probably are their own worst enemies. I will make my final presumption for now in suggesting that they read Gottman’s books and look at his web site; perhaps there is some technology of relationships that may prove useful for them. Otherwise, David and Truce: you are on your own again.

However, although I have not had spectacular success yet in getting people to donate to the “Keep David Alive Shareware Pledge Drive,” I think it probably does more good than harm. Times are tough for all of us. A dollar may be all you can afford; though I bet if you skip a snack or a beverage you don’t really need, you can really come up with a five dollar donation for the year. Truce sent $25 all the way from Australia; you can send $5 from wherever you are. If you read one of David’s blogs first thing when you waste time online you know it is worth it to you. The address is at the top of my blog.


10 Responses to “Washing My Hands Carefully for David and Truce”

  1. modestypress Says:


    Boy, this sounds like cult stuff, doesn’t it.

  2. I’m quite familiar with Gottman’s work, and in fact it was his very sound principles of interpersonal dynamics (they’re applicable, IMO, to any close relationship) that made me finally decide to break up with my ex, as we weren’t on the same page about the value of those principles.

    The problem is not understanding or accepting the principles, most of which are grounded in simple common sense. The problem is finding a partner who also understands their importance, and also who shares the same concept of meaningful ritual. I think that’s one of the trickiest ones to navigate — I agree that it’s very important, but it’s also one of the hardest ones to really come together over, as many people’s idea of meaningful ritual is narrow-mindedly grounded in holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, etc … and it’s rare for two people to invest those “ready-made” rituals with the same importance, or even with shared importance. People who share a faith-based practice have an easier time of it, I think, but even in that case there is often one participant to whom the ritual is more meaningful.

  3. modestypress Says:

    I think we’re in basic agreement here. In my family, it has been a continuing process of difficult work (now including Random Granddaughter, who has strong opinions on everything) on the relationship dynamics.

    One of the basic points Gottman makes is that people can’t deal with relationship problems and conflicts when they are too wrought up. Hence, RG has been told to sit on the “thinking step” to calm herself down when she gets too upset about an issue.

    Naturally, the last time she was upset with me, she sternly told me, “Grandpa, go sit on the ‘thinking step’ until you are calm enough to talk this over with me.”

    Someday, someone is going to find RG quite a handful.

  4. truce Says:

    I have never heard of Gottman. This quite possibly explains a great many things. I shall study it over the coming week and report back on my findings…

    There is no need for you to apologise or to wash your hands any more carefully than I’m sure you already do, Mr Random (I feel sure Mrs Random wouldn’t let you sit down to dinner with dirty nails, for example). Your intentions were admirable and are appreciated, even if David and I choose not to take your advice for various fucked up reasons of our own.

    Nevertheless, as I said on my blog earlier today, I’ll email you my skype, just in case, and then I’ll forget the whole thing 😉

  5. Average Jane Says:

    Somehow I never thought you had matchmaking in you. And I also thought you were too humorous for perseverance. How wrong could I have been..hmmm.

  6. modestypress Says:


    Thank you. Skype sounds like “swipe” to me. Obviously, I need to expand my knowledge of modern vocabulary.


    I have many things in me, despite passing my colonoscopy with flying colors. One of those things in me is humorous perseverence. That is why we will celebrate 43 years of incompatible marriage with Mommy, Mama, and RG next week as a not quite Thanksgiving Thanksgiving celebration.

  7. Average Jane Says:

    I wish I had some of your humourous perseverance. Alas, all I have is humourless cussedness.

  8. modestypress Says:


    They also serve who cuss humorlessly, especially if they read my blog from time to time.

  9. kmcdade Says:

    I interviewed Julie Gottman a couple of months ago. Good stuff.

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