Sometimes, duct tape serves as best spousal communication tool

Burt's Eye View

My wife stewed. And I don’t mean making a hearty soup in the kitchen. Oh, no. She glowered from her chair in frosty silence — which isn’t easy to pull off when there’s steam rolling out your ears.

Husbands fear this moment.

So I took her hand and cooed, “Is supper ready yet?”

No, no, of course I didn’t say that. I might be crazy but I’m not stupid. What I really said was, “What’s wrong, Sweetheart?”


Hoo boy. This was worse that I thought.

Being a veteran husband, I still knew better than to ask about dinner. Instead, I asked, “What can I do to help?”

She shook her head. And spoke no words.

Uh-oh. Chills danced on my spine. I ran through the mental checklist of any possible misdeeds, mistakes and misadventures I’d committed recently:

“Let’s see… no… nope. I bet it was… no, that was Sam. Hmm, not that either… maybe it was… no, she doesn’t know about that one yet.”

I’m sure most spouses agree that it’s the suspenseful not-knowing that’s the worst.

I began rehearsing apologies, but nothing too specific. Not until I found out what I’d done.

Until then, I considered digging a roll of duct tape out of the garage and pasting a couple strips across my mouth.

Note to husbands: This is not the preferred strategy. Your spouse wants you to ask how she is feeling. She longs for you to hold her — without offering advice. She needs to know that you care.

The problem is, I come from a long line of smart alecks.

Back on the farm, we couldn’t wait for calamity — preferably, to strike someone else — so we could try out our latest wisecracks.

When a cow cracked me across the head with the broadside of her horn, my uncle dug his hands in his pockets, rocked on his heels, and drawled, “That’ll feel better when it stops hurting.”

When I stumbled over a tree root and banged my elbow on a rock, my cousin slapped his knee and cackled, “Didja Have a nice trip? See you next fall.”

When blood gushed out my nose after I fell out of the hayloft, my brother crossed his arms and said, “You’ll do anything to get out of mucking the stalls, won’t you?”

So the first time my sweetie collapsed in tears, I ribbed her. I’d rather not say what happened next. I’m finally rid of the resulting nervous tic, but only after years of therapy.

Wives are nothing like uncles, cousins and brothers. Be grateful.

So this time, I just sat beside her, smiled through the duct tape and handed her a note that whenever she wanted to talk, I wanted to hear her.

Hours later, I held my wife’s hand as she detailed what grieved her. When she finished, punctuated by sniffles and tears, I ripped the duct tape off my mouth, let out a whoop and danced laps around the living room because it wasn’t me! For once, I wasn’t the cause of my wife’s aggravation!

And then I was.

Note to husbands: When your spouse confides her innermost thoughts and feelings, it’s best to hug and comfort her first. Then do the victory dance.

So I’m still learning the deep, unfathomable mysteries of spousal communication. But guys, trust me, it’s well worth the pain, perplexity and rolls of duct tape to figure it out. It’s easier on her, too.

— Talk to Cole at or on the Burton W. Cole page on Facebook.