Wednesday, April 6, 2011


Some arguments just turn into forgetable moments. That's why I can't tell you how many arguments I've had with Brook. Some arguments evolve into red-letter moments that really help set the stage for big steps forward toward better relational places.

Many of our red-letter moments (Red letter like Jesus in the Bible?) happened in our first year of marriage. A lightening fast courting period, turmultuous & ongoing family of origin issues and a (un)healthy blend of selfishness and immaturity lead to numerous debates, disagreements, fights, crying fits and yelling matches.  After the early days of our relationship my mother heard the word 'dysfunctional' so much, she still hates that word and I don't blame her (gosh,  Blake, you're so not postmodern, Mr. Label-er).

To set the stage for a particular event I have to say that Brook wasn't exactly Rachael Ray, Martha Stewart or Frank Stitt in the kitchen when we got married. It wasn't her fault really. She grew up in a home that last ate dinner at home during the Nixon Administration (Not true.  I distinctly remember Dallas being on tv one night when my mom made Suzy's Wok frozen dinner...I hid it in my napkin and pushed it around on the plate) so she was great at ordering a meal in a restaurant but not so much in the cooking department. Fortunately we had more money prior to kids so we could eat out a good bit.
To add to the frustrations in the kitchen was my love for cooking. I have always loved cooking and on several of my birthdays Brook allowed me to have exactly what I wanted...have people over so I could cook for them. As much as I tried to shut my big mouth in the kitchen, I was usually to quick to tell her when she was doing something I believed to be detrimental to our meal. In truth, a lot of what I would point out would be preferences of mine or ways I had learned or discovered to prepare certain things.  Such a shocker that you would have an opinion.  I love you.

So one particular night Brook had decided to bake something but she wasn't using a dish that should go into the oven. I caught it in time to get it out of the oven and tried my best to avoid shame, sarcasm or judgment in how I informed her that she couldn't bake with that frying pan. ***I can't wait to read her version of this story*** I actually don't have an opinion about this wasn't as meaningful to me as it was to Blake. 

Anyway, I took special care to intentionally speak in a very soft and reassuring tone. Brook's next comment was "STOP YELLING AT ME!!!!!" I was amazed that she actually intuited me yelling as I was certain I hadn't yelled. Was I crazy or was she because one of us had to be...or so I thought.

All of the above is to point out the VAST difference...MEN, HEAR ME WELL- VAST what is said and what is heard. There is still another difference between what is heard and what is understood.

I just, well, I always dreamed I would marry a mind-reader.  Isn't that what soul mates living happily ever after do?  Know each other so well, they know what the other is thinking? No?
Maybe it's like girl common sense or something.

How many times has your wife replied to your question "are you ok?" with "I'm Fine"?
What does she mean by that? I'm glad you asked...she means something like this: "I am thinking about pulling a Lorena Bobbit on you when you fall asleep tonight so HELL NO you moron, I am not fine and now I hate you even more for asking if I am fine when you know good and damn well no human with a heart would be fine right now".
What is our reply to her saying she's fine? "Good"...since the wife being "fine" is pretty good and it might even speak well of our chances in other relational areas later on in the evening.

To contrast, if your wife asks you how you feel or how your day was and you say "fine" what do you really mean? If you are like me, you mean "my day was fine". The End!

To add the weird relational twist...what does your wife hear when you say "I'm fine"? She hears (correct me if I am wrong ladies):
 "he said he's fine with his mouth but he doesn't seem fine so I wonder why he won't talk to me, what have I done to put distance between us? If it is really bad do I really want to know that things aren't fine? I can't believe he is shutting down emotionally like this."
But what does she say in response to the guy saying that he is fine? "OK, good. Well if you want to talk about it just let me know"....which leaves us with a stunned look and a little confused.

I could give countless examples of me asking Brook why I didn't know something, insignificant or otherwise, and she would say that she told me. I have many faults but my memory isn't one of them. I almost have complete and total recall when it comes to anything I have read or heard (provided that I'm paying attention and care to remember it). So when I start replaying the scene for her and quote what she really said that to me is completely different from what she thinks she communicated, Brook will look at me with that look. You know that look's the "what kind of idiot do you have to be to have heard what I said and completely missed what I really meant" kind of look. Should you want to escalate the situation simply comment in a reasonable and matter of fact tone, "this would be easier if you simply said what you meant instead of playing some kind of linquistical 'guess what I'm thinking game'" (Men, use your little bunny ears to make quotations around the name of the game should you wish to ruin any chances of reconciliation within the next 18-24 hours, or if using the menstruation scale for those special days each month you should know that your time of scorn, shame and punishment will be extrapolated to 7-10 days for using the smart-ass, I mean, quotation fingers).

I could give the equal number of examples of Brook saying, "why didn't you tell me that" only for me to again begin replaying the scene for her. When I quote verbatim what I supposedly didn't communicate to her I get that look part B. Let it be known that this particular look is the conversational equivalent of X in algebra...which is to say the meaning can change quicker than a Senator during an election year. It can mean anything from,  "I know you said that but how in the name of all things holy would I think that's what you actually meant...especially with you using analogies all the time" all the way to "How was I suppose to remember that with all this mess around here you and the boys keep leaving. You know people have lived with pigs and put up with less mess, noises and smells so you are lucky I even hear you say anything at all so don't give me crap when I forget...uh, I mean, don't hear you". For the record, disputing either argument too strenuously will lead to similar results listed above...the menstruation scale still applies.

So what's the point? I don't really have one but I do feel better after venting and explaining my experiences in male and female communication. I'm joking. Actually, there is a point. I believe that Brook and I have found that these differences in communication can be some really special and unique tools to improve our relationship and build intimacy. As we "work" on our relationship in the area of communication it becomes a fun challenge to attempt to hear what she is really meaning to say and for me to say things in ways and at times to most effectively communicate with her. When in doubt about what I'm sending or what I'm receiving it is even acceptable to do this new thing I have learned over the past 10 years of marriage...ASK!
These skills assist in every relationship, actually so I think it is beneficial for me even as I talk with patients or neighbors or whomever.

For the record, Brook and I both ended up laughing about the "STOP YELLING AT ME!" moment. It helped us realize our tendency in this relational dynamic and hopefully build a better relationship through our focus on this aspect.

So what about all of you? Any fun stories to illustrate this really interesting dynamic? How can we improve our relationships, specifically in the area of communication?