My wife and I have been married for over five years now. And since my wife reads this blog, I would just like to highlight that they have been THE FIVE BEST YEARS OF MY LIFE! From day one, we’ve always known that communication is extremely important, and now that we have kids that scream, laugh, poop, bathe, eat, get sick, and need someone to put their boots on, it’s more important than ever. Fortunately I’ve learned a thing or two about marital communication.
– “Hey when’s dinner?” is not the first thing I should say when I walk through the door. And it’s best if I don’t say this ever.
– Telling my wife to “chill” or “relax” is a very bad idea. Very very bad.
– In a similar vein, repeatedly asking my wife “what’s the matter with you?” “are you tired?” or “is something wrong?” will earn me the following response: “I’M FINE!” (and that’s a lie).
– When my wife tells me about how someone hurt her feelings, it’s not my invitation to fix the problem. Usually, “I can’t believe she said that” is the most supportive comment I can make.
– Referring to my wife as “MA’AM!” in the middle of an altercation makes said altercation much worse.
– When my wife says “I’m done talking about this,” it’s usually not true at all. Typically, this means we’re just getting started.
– “Would you mind if I check the scores real quick?” means I will be watching college football for the next three hours. My wife is catching on to this…
– And most importantly, tone is everything. Compare “would you like me to give the kids a bath?” with “SHEESH DO YOU WANT ME TO JUST GIVE THE KIDS A BATH OR SOMETHING?!?!”
There are many more. But the important thing is that I’m learning how to navigate myself through many of these marital mazes – for the most part. But there’s one blaring exception; a verbal trap for which I have yet to find an escape. It’s the old “Remember? We talked about this….” response. As in, “remember? We talked about you fixing the bathroom sink this weekend…”
Let’s break this down a little bit farther, shall we?
First, the “Remember?” aspect of this phrase is not actually a question at all – it’s a courtesy. Indeed, my wife knows darn well I don’t remember. I never remember. My conversational memory has a shelf life of about 20 minutes – and often much less. You could literally tell me all your plans for the weekend, and I still might follow up with “that’s cool, so what are you up to this weekend?” Are you serious???
I’m no physician, but I’ll go ahead and diagnose myself with a bad case of selective memory. For instance, I can tell you off the top of my head that Tony Romo went to Eastern Illinois University, and that RGIII ran a 4.33 at the 2012 NFL scouting combine. I remember that George Newton is the name of the dad in the movie “Beethoven,” and that my first diorama was a depiction of the explorer Sir Francis Drake. I even remember the quadratic formula! How awesome is my memory???
And yet, I couldn’t tell you for the life of me when my wife’s weekly bible study begins, and rely heavily on Microsoft Outlook to remember her birthday. I’m not even close when it comes to guessing my children’s weight, and our family doctor’s name is Dr… I forget. And the garbage goes out on…Tuesday?
As you can see, my memory is great with regards to information that could easily be found on Wikipedia, and terrible when it comes to stuff I learn through day-to-day conversation. So when my wife asks me if I remember a particular discussion, odds are I’m already in trouble.
And then there’s the dagger: “we talked about this.” Somehow my wife and I have tons of conversations about all kinds of relevant things – all of which go right over my head. Attending a Father’s Day luncheon with my wife’s family? We talked about it. Replacing the burnt out light bulbs? We talked about it. Watching someone else’s kids next Saturday? You get the idea. Apparently we talked about all of this.
So naturally, “remember, we talked about this” is a functional conversation ender. I’m left with three entirely undesirable options:
1. Claim that I do remember the conversation. This one is dangerous because it requires me to provide details, and I never remember the details. Where did we talk about this? When did we talk about this? What color shirt was I wearing? These are the kinds of things that one must know when disputing the specifics of an interaction, and there’s pretty much zero percent chance of that happening. If I take this approach, odds are I’m bluffing: I don’t actually remember a thing.
2. Concede that I do not remember the conversation. If I don’t remember the conversation, then I have absolutely no street cred when it comes to disputing its details. Watch:
Me: “I don’t remember talking about that!”
My wife: “Well we did.”
3. Insist the conversation never happened. This is the route I usually take, but it’s ultimately a dead end because proving that a conversation never happened is ridiculously hard. Furthermore, my wife is either insanely good at remembering details, or else she’s a ridiculously good bluffer. Watch:
Me: “We never talked about this!”
My wife: “Yes we did. You were sitting on the couch messing around on your tablet. It was last Saturday, right after dinner.”
Me: (Hangs head cuz it’s probably true). Checkmate.
At least I’m not alone:
True story: as I am writing this this very post, my wife calls me and tells me we’re babysitting my niece tomorrow night. Why? Because my brother-in-law has his office Christmas party, and we agreed that we would watch her a few weeks ago. You know what’s coming:
“Remember? We talked about this…”
Oh right. Of course we did.