Saturday, April 10, 2010

Puzzles and Boundaries

My boyfriend, Don, gave me a puzzle for Christmas. It's a folk art rendition of San Francisco, a city that holds special memories for us. Yesterday, he suggested we break it out and work on it.
I took a break from writing and thought I'd play with the puzzle for an hour. I'd forgotten how addicting a puzzle can be and ended up sticking with it far longer.
In my family, puzzles are something we work on at our cabin in Big Bear Lake. So I'm used to working on a puzzle with one or more people. Don's only done puzzles by himself. This was our first attempt as a couple.
Last night all was fine. We finished the outline, which took quite a lot of time. This puzzle has a very complicated picture, and looking at all the pieces of buildings is overwhelming. I added a few pieces to the outline. I worked mainly on the sky and one large building. Don played with a different area. Around 10, I went to bed. But Don stayed up.
This morning when I got up, I looked at the puzzle and saw MY sky and MY building all put together. The other parts of the puzzle hadn't really been worked on. Not a big deal, but still annoying.
Later when we started working on the puzzle, I mentioned it. Don (of course) became defensive, saying this was something we were working on together, and I hadn't told him not to work on that area. He did mention that I'm supposed to be the boundary expert.
I retorted, that I didn't think I had to mention it. It never occurred to me that he'd poach on MY territory. Somewhere along the line, I used the word "rude." Now, we were really bantering, not arguing, but I did have to playfully slap his hand when he tried to take over the spot I was working on. "I'm just trying to help," he said.
Now, I don't mind him giving me a piece he found that fits my area. Or even inserting it. I do mind when I've tried a piece in a certain place, it didn't fit. Then, right away, he picks it up and tries THE SAME PLACE. (He probably won't make that mistake again. :)
He's been joking about what the puzzle says about our relationship. I jokingly agree. He likes to take over. Not a surprise. We both tease that his motto is "I did it my way."
Also in a relationship sense, how we play with the puzzle shows how we bring our previous experience, often from our family of origin, into our relationship. In my family, you play (puzzles) nicely with others. Meaning, each person focuses on their own spot, but may help each other out with theirs. Because Don has no experience in doing puzzles with others, he has a free for all attitude. I believe there are puzzle "rules." He doesn't.
For us, this is more amusing than anything. Humor, definitely, plays a big part in our relationship. However, I could see how some couples might end up fighting over the puzzle board, trying to prove who's "right." (Believe me, I've seen couples have massive arguments over far sillier things.)
I choose to look at it as fun entertainment and a way to get to know my partner better. But from now on, I'm going to remind him not to work on my "area" when I'm not there.
What about you? Do relationship issues emerge when you work on puzzles or play other games?

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