How would Feynman argue with his wife? (Or would he rather discuss?)


Richard Feynman to Arline Feynman, February 1945

Tues. night

Hello Sweetheart,

I love you. It feels good to write to you. I have a problem which I can’t handle and I’d like to discuss it with you. maybe you could know what to do.

My wife and I thought it would be better to move her from Albuquerue to the site. Everything was better at Albuquerque but we thought it would be better because we could see each other everyday instead of once a week and she could meet the people I work with etc. and all in all we would have more of a life together.

…she is quite unhappy and wants to return immediately to Albuquerque. She is very upset and equally insistent that something be done to move her right away. She wants immediate action.

In my eyes, however most of the difficulties might be easily overcome…The reason I hesitate to move back to Albuquerque as soon as we possibly can is that I think there is a great deal to be gained in our mutual happiness by having us together if she could become acclimated to the changes…

(concluding para) …why (should I) stall around with her (being) unhappy just because i overestimate her potential strength and powers of adjustment?

Should I be the strong one in the family and try to pull her up to me and then do what looks best to both of us when we are both strong (which may of course be to go to Albuquerque) or should I give in to her tears and weakness and do what appears as hysterically necessary to us if we both are weak?

…I honestly do not know- but i hope you could give me some advice. You see the problem from the other side. The real trouble is the urgency, because if I hesitate to think about it she remains, perhaps, unhappy that much longer. Yet all I’m asking for is time.

What do you think? i love you and respect your opinions. I love you.


This is one of my favorite Feynman letters. It’s really satisfying to see someone so sensible and humble in trying to understand what could be the best possible way he can keep his wife happy.  Why do we argue if we can discuss possibilities and different view points? I believe we argue because of two false presumptions 1) “I know everything” 2) “I can’t be wrong”. What this wonderful crack of a fellow shows is that it’s okay to not be sure about something and we should try our best to understand others’ perspective.


It’s post-midnight on a Sunday night. Summer 2017.


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