Husbands Read Newspapers, Not Minds
- 2005 10 Nov
For fifteen years, I taught college preparatory classes in a Detroit area high school and often gave essay tests. After I'd give only partial credit for an answer, a student would invariably ask, "Why'd you take off points? You know what I meant." My reply always was the same: "No, I read papers; I don't read minds."
And that's a good reminder for any wife who expects her husband to know intuitively what she wants. Marcie enjoyed strolling through antique malls, and if she found a piece of Nippon for her knickknack shelf, all the better. But she would have liked her husband, Mark, along for company. She never asked him to go, but she'd get angry when he didn't offer.
She'd have arguments in her mind with him: I go to the car lots with you, but will you go to an antique shop with me? Nooo! But if a buddy wanted you to go someplace, you'd be out the door before he finished hanging up the phone!
One day, she finally said aloud to Mark, "It really irritates me that you don't want to go to the antique mall with me!"
He looked bewildered, then said, "I didn't know you'd like me to. You never said anything, so I assumed you liked having that time to yourself."
Communication provided a simple solution. Let's face it. Hinting, pouting, and sighing simply won't get desired results. When I taught high school persuasive speaking, I suggested the students use a three-part outline: Problem, Cause, Solution. Wouldn't that practice work in a marriage? For example: "I'm feeling overwhelmed (Problem) by numerous demands on my schedule (Cause), and I want to hire a cleaning lady one day a week" (Solution).
True, a husband may disagree, but at least he's not feeling personally attacked--as in "You never help around here. I'm hiring a cleaning lady." Clear communication can do wonders.
When I worked in New York, I often did home visitations with Delia, one of our association's social workers. One afternoon, we were in a Bronx apartment The wife had called, saying between sobs her marriage was over. She wanted bus tickets for herself and their young children.
Soon Delia and I were in the family's apartment, perched on unsteady kitchen chairs. The wife held a silent, wide-eyed little girl of about two. Their son, perhaps five, leaned against her. The husband sat with his arms folded defiantly but looked bewildered.
We chatted about general things--how the son was doing in kindergarten, how the couple had met, the father's job with the sanitation department. Then Delia said, "We understand you're having trouble. Would you like to tell us about it?"
The husband shrugged and looked at his wife. She pulled their daughter closer and whispered, "Our marriage is over. I love him, but he doesn't love me anymore."
He frowned and shook his head as he turned back to us. "I work hard," he said. "I even take overtime so she can stay with our children. On Sunday afternoons, so she and the baby can rest, I take the boy out with me. How can she say I don't love her?" He shrugged again.
Delia turned to the wife. "Why do you think he doesn't love you?"
Tears welled up in the woman's dark eyes. "He comes home, fills his dinner plate with whatever I have on the stove, and goes into the bedroom and turns on the TV. He never eats with us."
The husband was staring at his wife with the most dumbfounded expression I'd ever seen. Then he turned to Delia and said, "I come home dirty, I fill my plate, I take a quick shower, and I eat while I watch the news."
Delia smiled. "Would it be possible for you to do all that except eating? Then after the news, you could have dinner with your family instead of eating alone in the bedroom."
He frowned, then looked back at his tearful wife. "Okay. I can do that. I didn't know it was such a big deal."
Amazingly, insignificant things can be big deals. But often all it takes to sort them out is a little communication. Remember, none of us read minds.
Adapted from Men Read Newspapers, Not Minds -- and other things I wish I'd known when I first married by Sandra P. Aldrich. (Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Used by permission.) Author or co-author of 17 books, Sandra is an international speaker who handles serious issues with insight and humor. For information about her speaking availability or to order this book, contact her at BoldWords@aol.com.