To Follow or Not to Follow

My husband was depositing a check via our mobile banking app and it didn’t work. At first, we thought something was wrong with the app, so we tried it on my phone. Same result. In looking at the rules of the app, it seems we were trying to deposit something over the acceptable limit. My husband got frustrated and added going to the credit union to his list of things to do the next day. I told him I would call to see if there was anything to be done. He gave me the same look I’ve seen a million times before – the look that says, “Sure, baby. Go right ahead and knock yourself out. I’ll be here when you’re done and frustrated because it didn’t work.”

So you know where this is going…

I hung up the phone, having gotten the limit temporarily lifted so we could deposit the check using the app. My husband was irked. Again. “Why bother having rules if it just takes a phone call to change them?” he asked, exasperated.

This is a common theme for us. More often that not, my husband accepts what he’d told at face value. I do not. When he’s told there’s nothing to be done, he accepts that, lets it go and moves on. When I’m told there’s nothing to be done, I try another approach. Most of the time, this works for me and I’m able to figure out a way to get done what I need (want?) to get done. While it’s nice when it does work, the flip side is that I get even more frustrated when it doesn’t work. And he’s much calmer, not having gone through the frustration at all.

I consider not taking no for an answer something that serves me well. But I also consider myself a rule follower. So how do I square these things? I guess if I think about it, I’ve always been fine with following the rules…until it’s a rule I disagree with. And then I can’t help but try to reason my way out of it or around it. I can’t help but think about our two different approaches and wonder how we got there. Is it out gender? Our ages? How we were brought up? Our hard-wired personalities?

I can’t help but think that my husband is content with the rules because as a middle-class straight white man, the rules have traditionally served him pretty well. And not that I’m saying I’m that much different – I’m middle-class, straight and white, so our privilege isn’t very different. But I have had to learn to navigate things differently as a woman. Then again, I also grew up playing school and always liking to be the teacher so I could be in charge. So there’s that…

I’m curious about how others think about rules and how they’re followed…or bent…or ignored.  Where does your view of the rules come from?

– Catherine Wemette


Catherine believes in “strong leadership skills” over “bossiness.” She is the founder of Good for Her Soul and you can reach her here.

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