“Before marriage, a man declares that he would lay down his life to serve you; after marriage, he won’t even lay down his newspaper to talk to you.”
~ Author Unknown
Among the many lessons every married couple learns are the following:
- Never ask a question for which you don’t know the answer.
- Never ask a question if you think the answer might be something you won’t like.
- Not all questions require complete honesty in the answering.
For instance, a married woman learns to never ask her husband, “Do these jeans make me look fat?” If the husband even notices that she’s wearing jeans, he frequently won’t remember what she looked like in the seven previous pairs she’d donned before the ones in question. If he does remember, then he’s likely to think she wants an honest answer and may very well say something stupid like “Whoooaaa! What’d you eat for dinner last night?”
Conversely, a married man seldom asks his wife….well…a variety of questions that might not be appropriate to a G-rated blog. But the bottom line is this: If you don’t know the answer, or aren’t sure that the answer you’ll receive is what you want to hear, then usually it’s best not to ask the question. And, most importantly, give yourself time to think about how you want to answer those questions. Ask yourself, “Is complete honesty really important this time?” My youngest brother learned these lessons the hard way. Tony was about 25 and was newly married to this incredibly wonderful woman whom I’m now proud to call my little sister.
One afternoon shortly after they were married, Tony called me to commiserate on the hardships of marriage. He had recently had an argument of sorts with his new wife and had called me so that I could pat him on the head and reinforce his righteous indignation at the fact that his new wife was angry at him when it should be he who was angry at her!
“I’m so sorry,” I said. “What happened?”
“Well, it was really innocent,” he said. “I’m still sitting here and I can’t believe she’s mad at me! She asked me a question and I answered it! Did she want me to lie?”
“No, of course not!” I responded. “You should never lie. It’s important to tell the truth…you know that.”
“Well, that’s what I thought! But I answered her question and now she’s mad at me! I just can’t win!”
“Okay…just slow down and tell me what happened. I’m sure she must’ve taken it wrong. Tell me what happened and I’ll see if I can figure out what went wrong and how to help you fix it.”
Taking a deep breath, Tony began to tell me his story. “Well, I was sitting on the computer and I was deeply involved in this program I was working on. Jen came in and started talking to me. I was trying to pay attention to what she was saying; I wasn’t trying to ignore her. But, to be honest, I was really into this program and trying to figure out what I was doing. The timing was really bad and I guess I really wasn’t paying attention to what she was saying.”
“Okay…go on,” I said. “Sounds like you were doing your best to listen, but she clearly picked a bad time to talk to you and wasn’t taking the cues from your body language. I can see where that would be irritating. So what happened next?”
“Well, she kept talking and going on and on about whatever it was she was yammering on about, and I was trying to listen to her while still trying to focus on my program on the computer. Finally, she says, ‘Are you even listening to me? Have you heard a single word I’ve said?’ Well, to be honest, I really hadn’t heard anything she’d said. Like I said, I was trying to figure out this program and she just kept talking to me! How am I supposed to do two things at one time?”
“True…so then what happened?”
“Well, I looked at her and, okay, I was a bit irritated. I said to her, ‘Honestly? Do you really want me to answer question that right now?’ She just stood there and said, ‘Yeah! I need an answer! Have you heard a single word I’ve said in the last few minutes?’ Well…she insisted on the truth and so I told her the truth!”
“Uh oh,” I said feeling a bit concerned that I knew where this was going. “What did you say?”
“I said, ‘No. All I’ve heard in the last five minutes is blah-blah-blah…it’ll cost us an extra $250…blah!’”
Ha! And he didn’t understand why she was mad??? Clearly being the last of five children, my youngest brother got the short end of the stick when the “what not to say” gene was distributed among the rest of us. To his credit, however, he’s a quick learner and must have only needed to be taught the lesson one time. Next month Tony and Jen will celebrate their 13th wedding anniversary together. Yes, my friends, he can be taught!