Sock it to Me

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Dear Miriam,

My husband routinely comes home from work and takes off one of his socks, a practice I find startlingly odd. He will spend the rest of the night this way, with one sock on and one sock off. I’ve asked him about it, and he’s vaguely talked about itches and comfort and forgetfulness, but none of it sounds like a plausible explanation. Is there anything I can do about this habit?

Signed,

Suspicious Socks

Dear Suspicious,

There’s a scene from Sex and the City that maybe nobody remembers but me, but in it, Carrie talks about “Secret Single Behavior.” No, what I’m about to cite is not what you expect as a memorable moment from this show, but her example is that she likes to eat grape jelly on saltines while standing alone in her kitchen. Strange, maybe, but harmless. Possibly a little embarrassing if someone else found out, but maybe just odd.

Ultimately, other people are a mystery, and it might help for you to see if you can identify any habits in yourself that might strike another person (even your husband) as beyond comprehension.

Your husband’s one sock situation is definitely odd, but it also sounds harmless. Maybe it is left over from his single days, or maybe it’s a new and mystifying development. When it comes to the habits of one’s spouse, unless the habit is harmless or specifically negatively impacts you, ignoring it is usually the best course of action. I completely understand why things like nail biting or leaving dirty laundry on the floor are on the cusp between annoying and unhealthy, but you’re not asking about those typical bad habits, and you need to look at your circumstances as being as unique and special as your beloved.

I wonder if you could ask him one more time in a neutral and non-critical way. I cited this technique last week, too, and it has so many practical applications. “I’ve noticed that you often spend the night with one sock on and one sock off. What’s up?” If you cannot bear to say that without any editorializing, you could go so far as to add, “I know you’re not hurting anyone by doing this, but I just think it’s so unusual that I’d really like to understand what it’s about.”

He might blow you off with, “I’m tired when I come home. I don’t know,” and at that point, you have to leave it alone. That means really, actually just drop it. No passive aggressive, “I see you’re missing a sock again,” comments. No, “Why, just why, can’t you please come up with a reason?” pleading. Maybe he’ll have an explanation that is satisfying to him but not to you, and you would also have to take him at his word for whatever he offers.

Finally, there’s certainly a chance that there’s something medical going on: athlete’s foot, a plantar wart or something else that would make going sockless much more comfortable. See if you can notice if it’s always the same foot, and if so, maybe you could ask him if something is hurting. Otherwise, see above, and find a way to accept this oddity without trying to find a solution.

Be well,

Miriam

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