Does he share your POV?

movie cameraPOV — That’s film-industry shorthand for “point of view shot.” When the camera shows what a character sees, that’s their POV. We see the scene through their eyes.

Wouldn’t it be great if we could occasionally see our date’s POV? To access his perspective, how he sees things? And wouldn’t you like to share your view finder so he sees your perspective? It certainly would make relationships — especially the beginnings of one — much easier.

I think we typically assume the other person shares our POV — that they see and interpret events similarly to us. But the truth is, two people rarely share the same perspective about any given conversation or event. In fact, our perceptions are so unreliable “that studies have shown that individual, separate witness testimony is often flawed and parts of it can be meaningless. This can occur because of a person’s faulty observation and recollection, [or] because of a person’s bias….”* It’s common for two eye witnesses to have very different stories with only a small overlap.

So while you and your date shared the same experience, you may have very different — perhaps 180-degree disparate — impressions of what happened.

My ex and I would frequently have different memories of an event or conversation, but he would usually chalk it up to his having a bad memory. However, in our divorce mediation when he said, “We’re living like roommates” I was shocked. My perspective was we were living in a loving, supportive, sexual relationship, not without hiccups, but nothing I thought was insurmountable. This was the first time I realized we had divergent experiences of our marriage and relationship. (See “You live a rich fantasy life.”)

In a quarrel with a guy with whom I’d had a 3-month relationship, I again had the revelation that two people can have extreme views of the same situation. One of his numerous accusations was that we only partook in activities that I wanted to do. Feeling I ensure both parties have equal say in determining activities, I asked for an example. “We only see movies you want to see.” It’s true that I don’t like to review movies I’ve seen recently, and I’d watched many more than he had, but I felt we always decided on the selection jointly. I wouldn’t ask him to participate in something he didn’t want to do, and I expected the same from him. I was stunned that he felt I was so inflexible and selfish. During his litany of other examples of my many character flaws it was clear we had 180-degree points of view on many experiences.

I had to ask myself if I could continue in a relationship knowing that we shared so little perspective on events and motivations. His interpretation of my behaviors often — I now learned — was that I was selfish, insensitive, condescending and overbearing. I can’t imagine why anyone would want to continue a relationship with anyone they perceived this way, but he said he did. I, however, didn’t want to continue with someone I felt would always be interpreting whatever I did in the worst possible light — the opposite of what I intended or thought.

Luckily this extreme difference of POV came out after only 3 months. We’d only had one tiff prior to this row, so I had no idea his perspective was so different than mine. He had always acted as if all was hunky-dory, so I had no clue anything was amiss. He was communicative so we talked about feelings and needs, but I had no idea our differently interpreting events was so rampant.

Seeing each character’s POV tells you much more of the story than only seeing one. You can expect that you will sometimes have different perspectives. But when you find an extreme divergent POV is commonplace with the guy you’re dating, you have to ask yourself if you want to continue costarring in this movie with him. While it might make it big at the box office, you don’t want to live in “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf.”

* Wikipedia’s description of “eye witness.”

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One response to “Does he share your POV?”

  1. Greg Avatar

    Excellent post, DG. I had and experience similar to yours with my Ex, out of the blue she wanted a divorce when I though things were fine. She had percieved a lot of malice and ill will from situations where my intentions and perceptions were nothing of the sort. Your recount of “living like roomates” was exactly what she said. Communication is key, and she was not communicating until she had checked out of the marriage. Your column reinforces for me that this is an unfortunatley common situation, and a pitfall that I now am trying to avoid in future relationships.

    Keep up the good work (and advice)