Same words but spouses speak different languages

Burt's Eye View

The times I’ve been in the most trouble at home are either for something I said or, more likely, that I didn’t say. I never know which.

My wife and I speak entirely different languages. Our words are the same. We use the same syntax. Even our accents match.

But what it all means — and what constitutes meaningful — no clue.

How do we hubbies dig ourselves into such deep communication pits?

Let’s examine this completely made-up (because I’m not admitting to anything) conversation between my long-suffering wife and me, the one who induces her suffering long.

She’s on the couch reviewing bills. I’m in my easy chair deep into a Donald Duck adventure. She says, “The chicken soup I had for lunch was warm.”

My male perceptions go on alert. I recognize that this is conversation and I better engage. “My lasagna was great.”

Boom. I’ve conversed! I return to my reading. But right when the Beagle Boys are about to breach Scrooge McDuck’s money bin, I notice frost crinkling the comic book pages. I look up. The air is chilly. And so is Terry.


“You could at least try to care,” she says.

“Sure. About what?”

“Aren’t you even curious about why my soup was warm?”

“I like warm soup.”

“See, every conversation is about you.”

It is? My brain cramps. “So, uh, was there a fly or something in your soup?”

Eventually, I discover that not only does she prefer her soup hot, it cooled because of a phone call full of exciting news about a problem she mentioned six weeks ago, followed by a knock on the door from an old friend we thought was still in Colorado, and then the burner went out but Terry repaired the stove herself after looking it up on Google.

“See, when someone gives you an opening line,” she says, “ask questions. Find out why. Discover the details. Show you care. That’s a real conversation.”

I thought “I had soup, I had lasagna” WAS the conversation. We traded notes on lunch. Good talk.

Also, she forgot to ask about my lasagna. That’s OK. I’d already said all I had to say about it.

Another communicational trap that trips husbands is, “We never talk anymore.”

“I told you just this morning that the button for the passenger side window quit working.”

She shakes her head. “No, meaningful discussions.”

“It’ll mean something if it rains and the seat soaks your butt.”

She huffs. “We need to talk about things relevant to our relationship, topics that spark our intensity, issues filled with substance.”

“OK,” the clueless husband nods. “You start.”

“It doesn’t work like that.”

He shrugs. “Well, what then?”

“Put down your cellphone, turn off the TV and give proper consideration and care to our hopes and dreams.”

“I hope and dream that you’ll tell me what we’re talking about.”

Moments later, the relationship achieves an intensity and substance he hopes to never experience again. But probably will.

Grooms ought to be made to recess down the aisle with a bride on one arm and a wife-to-husband dictionary under the other. End of conversation.

— Clue in Cole at or on the Burton W. Cole page on Facebook.