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October 20, 2014 / 26 Tishri, 5775
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What Are You Thinking? A Column About Nothing

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Marriage is very important; it ensures you’ll have someone to spend the rest of your life with, provided you die first. So one of you is getting ripped off here, putting your whole life into a marriage and ending up alone anyway. That said you might as well get something out of the marriage, in case that’s you.

So this week, I’m going to answer some questions that were sent to me by various husbands and wives, at a very real risk. Because I’m married too, and my wife reads this column.

 

Dear Mordechai,

My wife claims I don’t listen when she talks. How do I do better? Also, if I don’t listen when she talks, how do I know she said that?

Anonymous, Obviously

 

Dear Anonymous,

Maybe show her you’re listening. This is tough because it’s not like listening makes noise. Sure, you can go, “Uh huh,” and “Really? She said that?” but we all know those are the same listening noises you make when you’re not listening.

So how do you show her you’re listening? Well, when you’re at a job interview, the way to show the guy you’re listening is to write down everything he says. So maybe you should do that here. Just bring a clipboard to the dinner table.

Of course, if you take notes whenever your wife talks, you’re going to end up with a lot of notes, and they’ll be hard to reference.

(This wasn’t a dig about how much women talk. It was a dig about how long marriage is.)

Alternatively, you can try your absolute hardest to listen whenever she says anything. But be warned that if you do this, you’re going to find out several things the hard way:

1. She’s not always talking to you.

2. If she’s not talking to you, she doesn’t always talk loud enough for you to hear.

3. When she doesn’t talk loud enough and you say, “What?” she’s going to be very upset. She wasn’t talking to you!

4. You were supposed to be listening enough to know that she wasn’t talking to you.

On the other hand, if you listen to every single word, the arguments may get worse. Because at least when you weren’t sure if you were catching everything, and your wife said, “I said it, but you weren’t listening,” you shrugged and said, “Oh, I guess I wasn’t.” But if you’re listening to everything, you suddenly have the guts to say, “Um, I wrote everything down. You didn’t say it.” And then she’d say you missed something, because if you don’t listen, how can your notes possibly be accurate? And then you’d turn to a neutral 3rd party who is trapped in your house and forced to listen to every disagreement – namely, your kids – and you ask, “Who’s right?”   And they say, “How should we know? We don’t listen when you talk!”

Yet they’re not taking notes.

 

Dear Mordechai,

Why does my husband keep getting me appliances for my birthday?

Shifra, Brooklyn

 

Dear Shifra,

Because he’s listening. If you complain that it’s hard to vacuum, he gets you a better vacuum. You think he’s not listening? Maybe stop complaining about vacuuming.

Of course what he doesn’t realize is that when you complain about a problem, it doesn’t mean that you want the problem fixed. For example, when you complain about how much laundry you have to do, that doesn’t mean you want him to stop changing his clothes. You want him to keep changing his clothes, but sympathetically.

Anyway, the truth is that people get each other what they would personally want to receive. When your husband has a problem, he wants to get something to solve that problem. Meanwhile, when you buy him a gift, it’s usually a mug with a picture on it, even though he already has a mug that he uses every day that he doesn’t have to worry about breaking. You didn’t solve a problem; you gave him something else to worry about.

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