When a girl marries, she exchanges the attention of many men for the attention of one.
As many women know, the physical presence of a husband (partner, boyfriend) does not necessarily guarantee the absence of loneliness. In the world of cartoons, one stock comic situation involves a wife trying to talk to her husband who is hidden behind a newspaper. There are endless variations on this theme which continues to be funny because every woman instantly identifies with it.
The problem isn’t that husbands read or that they endlessly read the sports page. The problem is that a wife is more dependent on her husband for affection and companionship, then a husband is dependent on her. If she has spent her day at home by herself or with only the children, then she has been waiting for her husband to come home to provide a little adult stimulation. Unfortunately, the time available for focused interaction is greatly limited by the many constraints of the daily round; but she is, out of necessity, patient. When, finally, there is time for the two of them to be together – but his attention is focused elsewhere – then he is physically with her but not psychologically with her.
A wife’s frustration with an inattentive husband is made even more acute when the object of his attention—for which she is, in a sense, competing—is something trivial and insignificant. If he is doing something important, then it is still unfortunate to be ignored, but it is more tolerable. However, if he is reading the funnies or watching television, there is no particular time urgency involved.
A preference for reading the paper instead of conversing with her makes it plain that conversing with her is a very low-level priority indeed. And it shouldn’t be a surprise if she eventually decides to seek the attention of other men.
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