Speak Easy

My husband of fifteen years and I cannot seem to communicate effectively. We both love each other dearly, but almost every argument we have comes down to communication, or rather miscommunication. Before I air our dirty laundry, I’d like to share with you the things that make my husband a wonderful man. He is the hardest working human being I’ve ever met, and I don’t just mean at his job. He comes home from work and helps with chores, he is an assistant Scout Master with our sons’ Boy Scout troop, he goes to school in the evenings, plays on a softball team, never says no to anyone needing a helping hand, and he never, ever complains.

My husband doesn’t have a mean bone in his body. He would rather exhaust himself if that meant I was satisfied, or the kids were happy. When we argue, he’s usually the first to apologize, and says things like, “I understand how that must feel,” which frankly, drives me nuts. I know, I’m sounding worse by the minute, aren’t I? My husband also loves cleaning. I’m not kidding. He enjoys vacuuming, doing the dishes, wiping down the bathrooms, ironing, mowing the lawn. You name it—he’s down to clean it.

Here’s the best part—my husband has incredibly strong arms and hands (thank you United States Marine Corps) and he gives me massages almost every night while we watch television. I just cuddle into his lap and doze off while he uses those wonderful appendages to help me decompress. I am one lucky woman, and I know it. So how am I here, writing what appears to be a complaint post about a man this amazing? It all comes down to the words, baby.

Our communication woes are a combination of a few issues. One of the main issues is natural language. My husband was born in Mexico, and raised in Texas on a small ranch where his neighbors, like his parents and siblings, only spoke Spanish. While his classmates in Kindergarten went home by noon, he and his neighborhood friends had to pull a double shift so the teachers could inundate them with English. By the time he was in second grade, he was fluent in the language, but at home, Spanish was the only way to communicate. As he grew up with this mixed method of speaking, he missed out on some of the nuances of English-only speech. People who are ESL (English as a Second Language) sometimes don’t understand certain metaphors, sarcasm, or colloquialisms. It’s a given. No matter how proficient one becomes in a second language, they are bound to miss some of the subtleties that inevitably come their way. So when I once said, “It’s a dog-eat-dog world,” to my husband, he pictured a world where dogs ate one another—and then wondered what I meant. Sarcasm is even more elusive. I tend to fall back on sarcasm when I’m upset, and say things like, “Yeah, that’s really nice honey, thanks,” which comes across to him as an actual compliment. Not good.