Reprinted from If It Was Easy, They’d Call the Whole Damn Thing a Honeymoon by Jenna McCarthy by arrangement with Berkley, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., Copyright (c) 2011 by Jenna McCarthy.
Last week, a newsletter arrived in my inbox with a headline heralding this terrifying bit of news: Communication Key to Good Marriage. Heart racing, I clicked through to the story, relieved to discover that it was referring to a recent study conducted by the National Association of Advertisers looking at the “marriage” between client and agency. I mean, can you imagine if they’d been talking about men and women and the actual, holy sacrament of matrimony? (The study also pointed out the benefits of having an objective third party in the room, which would certainly come in handy in the domestic arena. “Why don’t you ask her if that’s what I said, asshole!”)
Maybe my relationship is unique in its never-ending struggle over the basic exchange of information. But seriously, we do seem to have a hell of a time relaying ideas to one another. For years I operated on the assumption that my husband Joe simply has a smaller capacity for using and processing words than I do. If you want proof that my theory was wrong, ask him for details about the collapse of the S&L industry or the history of the Raiders or the plight of the endangered red-shouldered hawk or anything else he’s passionate and knowledgeable about and he’ll chew your ear until it’s bloody. But if you want to know how he feels when we get denied the bank loan we want, or what sort of legacy he hopes to leave behind after he’s gone, good luck getting a single, intelligible nugget out of him.
Interestingly, it has never been proven that women talk more than men. In fact, the frequently cited “women speak twenty thousand words a day while men utter only seven thousand” statistic turned out to have been practically pulled out of thin air. Which is fine, because I don’t need a double-blind, placebo-controlled study to tell me what I already know: My husband and I are very, very different. It’s not that he “doesn’t talk” or “can’t communicate,” it’s just that he doesn’t want to talk about the same things that I do. He isn’t interested in dissecting, emotionally and in agonizing depth, the reasons our friends Sam and Cindy have decided not to have children. He couldn’t care less what the vet said about the cat’s eye- goop problem. He just wants to know (a) what we—and by we he means me— are supposed to do about it, and (b) how much it’s going to cost. Ask him what he thinks happens when you die and his go-to answer is, “Who cares? You’re dead.” And get this: The guy honestly doesn’t give a rat’s ass which celebrities have overdosed, checked into rehab, or are rumored to be covered in cellulite.
Advice on bridging the titanic communication gap between men and women has become a billion- dollar industry. Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus is no longer just a book, it’s an empire, complete with online magazine, dating service, wellness retreats, DVDs, personal coaching, franchise opportunities, even a supplement line. Alas, we don’t need fancy vitamins because I have figured out how women can turn the conversational tide without their partner’s consent or cooperation. And because I believe the result is more important than how you get there, I present my radically simple, three- step process for successful marital communication:
1. Shut your mouth for five lousy minutes. Face the fact that your partner truly, deeply doesn’t care to hear a real- time report of your every thought or a detailed recap of your latest dream or phone call. “Had a funny dream” or “talked to your sister” will do just fine. If he wants to know any more, he’ll ask. (Don’t hold your breath.)
2. Go out and get some girlfriends or start spending more time with the ones you’ve got. Once you commit to Step 1, this will be both easy and imperative, as you will have seven billion thoughts, hopes, and random musings floating about in your head demanding to be shared. The beauty of Step 2 is that your girlfriends actually will be equally disgusted when you tell them about the dirty look the cashier gave you when you tried to use a handful of expired coupons at Bed Bath & Beyond.
3. Stop expecting your husband to be a chick. The mere fact that he does not have a vagina— probably one of the more compelling reasons you married him— means that he does not, will not, and cannot keep your conversational pace. And even if he does, will, and can, he probably doesn’t want to and will resent the hell out of you if you keep trying to maximize his verbal potential. Accept this and he will worship you forever. (Silently, of course.)
Jenna McCarthy is the author of If It Was Easy They’d Call the Whole Damn Thing a Honeymoon: Living with and Loving the TV-Addicted, Sex-Obsessed, Not-So-Handy Man You Married (Berkley Books, October 4, 2011). (Please note it says the blah-blah-blah man you married, not the one she married. Her husband likes it when she points that out.) You can find out more about Jenna, her books and how she survived tanorexia on her website.