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Little Spouse On The Prairie: Marital Communication

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Valerie Brown-Kuchera
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Miscommunication can provide some hilarious moments in marriage. Frequently, Joel and I can have entire conversations, make detailed plans, and agree on solutions to problems, only to realize a few days later that one participant (or at least I thought he was a participant) in the conversation has no recollection of the exchange at all.  And he claims the only time I really tune in to his vocalizations is when he’s snoring.

I do listen to the first 20 to 30 minutes of his stories.  It’s just hard to stay with the plot when he typically makes a few detours to talk about the characters’ genealogies and which sports they played in high school and how many points they had in the 3A state championship basketball game in 1986.  More often than not, when Joel finally gets to the point of his story, I’ve lost the trail of the conversation and have started making grocery lists and planning dinner in my mind.

If he asks me a question about the conversation (I don’t know why, but sometimes he seems suspicious about my listening skills), I can always say, “Oh, my!”  If he’s chuckling expectantly, I’ll add, “That’s hilarious.”  If he’s looking annoyed, I’ll add, “Good grief.”  If his face seems questioning, my best bet is, “Whatever you think, honey.”  Though that last response has gotten me in trouble a time or two. 

But just as often as I struggle to understand Joel, he has trouble following my line of thought.  I guess it’s the Men are from Mars - Women are from Venus thing.  The other day, I said, “My college friend’s twins had their 10th birthday!  They are so cute.  She posted some adorable pictures on social media. The boy is Jake and the girl is Jennifer.”  Joel replied, “Cool.  Are they identical?”

Around Valentine’s Day, Joel was trying to order a gift for me from an online retailer.  I had already put several items in the online cart, so I could make his task as easy as possible.  I had even added a Valentine card, not because I didn’t trust Joel to pick out a meaningful Valentine.  I just wanted a different card this year, as he had bought me the same exact card three years in a row now.  I planned to lay out the pink wrapping paper, ribbons, and tape so that he could wrap my gift as soon as it was delivered.   So, I communicated this information to Joel a couple of weeks before the holiday.  Here’s how that conversation went:

Joel:  What’s the password to our Amazon account?

Me: It’s on the back of the checkbook.

Joel: (Long pause) It didn’t work.

Me:  I’m sure I haven’t changed it.  Did you use the right capitalization?

Joel:  I only capitalized, “on.”  Is “checkbook” capitalized too?

Maybe I just need to put together some kind of interpretive dictionary for Joel to use in order to understand what his spouse talking about.  One entry would have to do with the pronoun, “we.”  Although I do think Joel has finally, after almost a decade of marriage, started to figure out what “we” means.

For example, he knows when I say, “We need to tidy up the kitchen,” it means, “Please do the dishes.”  When I say, “We should take a break,” it means, “Please bring me a cup of hot tea before you start on the next task.”  When I say, “We need to save up our money,” it means, “I probably won’t be getting you much for Christmas, but feel free to splurge on me.” When I say, “We should hang the picture here,” it means, “This is the first spot of several we’ll try, and we may end up back at this location, but expect to move it several times in the meantime.”  When I say, “We should really get some sleep,” it means, “Put on that gosh darn anti-snoring strip and roll onto your side before I throttle you.”

I heard on a sociology podcast that scientists have concluded that humans laugh more with people they like, understand, and want to impress.  If that’s the case, Joel and I are a perfect match.  As I read him the draft of this episode, he giggled and said, “That’s hilarious.

This is Valerie, the Little Spouse on the Prairie. Follow Little Spouse at facebook.com/littlespouseontheprairie and on Twitter at SpouseOnThePrairie@ValerieKuchera. Tune in next week!

Host of Little Spouse on the Prairie, a regional comedy feature that airs Sundays at 8:35 a.m. during Weekend Edition.