Being married is a lot like being deaf. If you hear the same person talking day-after-day, you literally lose the ability to hear what that person is saying. I will give you two examples from my own life. Both are true. This one happened last week:

Shelly: Do you want some carrot cake?

Me: Hurricane? What hurricane?

In that particular case, we eventually got to the bottom of it, but only because Shelly needed an answer. I estimate that half of the time she says lamp, I hear doorknob, and it doesn't really matter so we go on with our lives. I might spend a few seconds confused about the larger point, but I shake it off.

Within a day of the carrot cake incident, I made an offhand comment to Shelly to the effect that she might enjoy a certain sport. That conversation went like this:

Me: That's your new game, honey.

Shelly: What did you call me?

Me: (slower and louder) I SAID, "THAT'S YOUR NEW GAME, HONEY."

Shelly: Oh. I thought you called me Jimmy Bean

Me:  Why would I call you Jimmy Dean

Shelly: Not Dean, Bean. Jimmy Bean.

Me: Why would I call you Jimmy Bean?

Shelly: That's what I wondered too.

Me: No, I said, "That's your new game, honey."

Shelly: What's my new game?

Me: I forget.

As I'm sure you've learned,  it's impossible to speak to a spouse if he or she is near running water, or using power equipment, or concentrating on something else, or eating something crunchy, or wondering if the squeak in the distance is the cat dying, or there is a child within a hundred yards. Amazingly, that covers 90% of every conversation you might attempt at home.

Recently I discovered that spouses, like computers, must be booted up before they can hear what you say.  Try walking into a room where your spouse is otherwise engaged and simply launch into your statement or question. Notice that your first sentence doesn't count. That might go like this.

You: I think the ice maker isn't working.

Spouse: What?

In that example, the spouse had not yet booted into listening mode. You can solve this problem with what I call the boot up tone. It is a sound that serves no function except to say, "Shift to listening mode." I highly recommend that you use your spouse's first name as your boot up tone. People are programmed to hear their own names even when they won't notice other background noise. And I recommend speaking in the key of F, even if that isn't your normal range, because it's a great tone for penetrating background noise. It's also a good idea to stretch out your spouse's name a bit. I turn Shelly into She-e-e-e-e-lly. Try it at home. It works. But use your own spouse's name.

I have the added disadvantage of being a serial mumbler. In my head, everything I say is clear and loud, sort of like Prince Charles. But I have been told that my actual sound is more like a corpse farting in a rolled up carpet.  My semi-solution for that is to trick people into reading my lips while I talk. Even people who are not expert lip readers can get some extra comprehension from seeing mouths move.

My method, which I share with you today, is to first get eye contact. If you are at home, start with your boot up tone. If that doesn't get you the eye contact you need, try a scary opening phrase such as "I didn't want to tell you this..." Anyone will give you eye contact after you use that phrase, even if you mumble it.

Once I have tricked Shelly into giving me eye contact, I quickly stand on my tiptoes so my lips are where my eyes once had been then blurt out my message. The only downside is that I will later have to explain, maybe several times, why I opened with "I didn't want to tell you this." I usually handle that by eating potato chips and standing near running water.

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-1 Rank Up Rank Down
Jan 17, 2011
Jesus H Christ, this happened to me a dozen times just over the weekend! One time I said, "Can you stir the oatmeal?" And she responded, "What about a boatmobile?" Now you have to know that it was breakfast time, she was standing next to the stove which had a pot of boiling oatmeal on it, and we've never owned a boatmobile (whatever that is). But instead of her mind jumping to the very common word "oatmeal" from a mis-heard or misunderstood word or phrase, it jumped to "boatmobile".

I've always taken this as evidence that women's minds work in totally incomprehensible ways - they are not making logical leaps so much as guessing about what's going on around them.

I wonder if this happens with women engineers, too?
+8 Rank Up Rank Down
Jan 17, 2011
You can set marital deafness to your advantage too.

I like to start with a question when talking to my wife. If you start with "Do you know what I think?", you can accept an answer of "What?". It doesn't even matter if she just replied it because she didn't hear the question.
I can also accept it as a grounds to feel like she is interested and go into a lengthy conversation that she didn't want to hear (for instance, a new mmorpg strategy).
+2 Rank Up Rank Down
Jan 17, 2011
But can you earn more sessions by sleeving?
+9 Rank Up Rank Down
Jan 16, 2011
About 30 years ago my wife and I were having one of these Finnegans Wake conversations, when I told her she needed to have her hearing checked. "I need to have my hair injected?" she asked. Maybe that would have helped.
Jan 16, 2011
And things only get worse as one or both of you become physically, as opposed to virtually, hard of hearing. A couple of years ago, my husband was quite surprised to hear that the books I had ordered from Amazon were coming with a free chicken. I told him that a free chicken would be a huge surprise to me as well, since what Amazon had promised me was free SHIPPING.
Jan 16, 2011
I'm not even married and already recognize this...
How worried should I be if this happens after being together for about 3 years? Thoughts?
+6 Rank Up Rank Down
Jan 15, 2011
this has anything to do with your posts... but I figure out that there are more options you could read.
Is there a place where I can get only the black and white strips???? please?? I want to share some dilbert cartoon links but it would be way better to have them on black and white. Hope you read! =(
+14 Rank Up Rank Down
Jan 14, 2011
Thanks Scott. Now every time my husband wants my attention, he yells She-e-e-e-e-lly. Unfortunately, my name is Mary. Hah!
-1 Rank Up Rank Down
Jan 14, 2011
I consciously ignore my spouse because I found it was too much trouble trying to determine if she was talking to the me, the microwave, the newspaper, the TV, or just herself. When she does try to start with my name, she makes it sound so much much like a raucous bird chasing away a competitor for food, that I tune it out in an attempt to teach her how to be civil.
+34 Rank Up Rank Down
Jan 13, 2011
This is exactly like it is in my house, so each of us created a rule.

Mine: If I'm not looking at you, I'm not listening to you.
Hers: Your rules don't matter.
+21 Rank Up Rank Down
Jan 13, 2011
That's the classic ADD symptom--inability to process information unless one is first "cued in", usually by using one's name.
It's like trying to get the dog's attention--unless you grab his food dish or leash, you have to use his name. "Sparky, fetch the ball! Fetch, Sparky, fetch the ball! Good boy, Sparky!"

Talking to the man in your life is very similar, except they usually aren't as readily trainable as Sparky. "Honey, are you listening? Darling? Could you bring the garbage cans in, please? Thanks, sweetie!"

But they are different from Sparky--you're not allowed to put them down or bury them in the back yard under the apple tree. I figure someone should benefit from my experience.
+10 Rank Up Rank Down
Jan 13, 2011
Nice one, I love the idea of booting up your spouse in order to have a conversation, but you do realise woman have been using that technique for decades whenever they want to make sure we heard something.
The rest of the time they're satisfied with us not having a clue what they said and just grunting an affirmation, so that they can use that against us at a later date.
+8 Rank Up Rank Down
Jan 13, 2011
This post is a classic example of why I read your blog: it's entertaining and informative. I laughed a lot at this one, and I learned that corpses fart. This is what the internet is all about.
Jan 13, 2011
However, have you ever noticed that when you don't want your spouse to hear you she does? Like when you mutter, under your breath, "You !$%*!$ I wish you were dead."
Jan 13, 2011
Seems when she doesn't hear what I say, it's my fault, and when I don't hear what she says it's contemptuous.
Jan 13, 2011
I simply love your blog. It's the best thing on the Internet, consistently.

We do this at home, but unfortunately she has not learned the "standing inches from the vent over the stove means he can't hear a goddamn thing" lesson.
+15 Rank Up Rank Down
Jan 13, 2011
How true! Also note that in many occasions, your spouse DID hear you. When people are unexpectedly interrupted with a question they tend to say "what?" to allow them time to switch to the context of your question and think of an answer. This is easily proven by not repeating the question when she says "what?". Many times I do get an answer, meaning she did hear it.

Personally, I have been trained to not even hear any conversation that is not directly pointed at me, it comes from working in an open office. People could be talking right next to me about me and I will not know they do. I have to be this deaf to stay sane and be able to concentrate.

In a different context, at home, it is slightly different. If I am engaged into something (TV, internet, book) I do realize it must be me she is directing conversation at, yet it takes a few seconds for me to switch context and she is offended. So I also miss the first line. I am thinking it should be me that is offended, as she does not respect my focal point and mode of concentration at that moment. This is interpreted as a misalignment of priorities, whilst the reality is that I simply cannot switch that fast.

I also have the shower problem. I need to say "what?" 3 times for each line she produces, yet she insists to keep a conversation going.

In reality the problem is mostly with me, not her. I could sit right across you and see you speak to me, but often I will not hear you. Not because I am physically deaf. My mind is somewhere else, perhaps part of being a creative engineer. To make matters worse, I genuinely do not care at all about most conversation. I try to pretend I care but often fail at it.
+10 Rank Up Rank Down
Jan 13, 2011
When I claim complete ignorance of some reallllllly IMPORTANT thing my wife is supposed to have told me she comes back with the line 'but it was said while you were here'. I have found out that by this that she means I was in the same house. I may have been upstairs operating power tools in the shower whilst reading a paper with the stereo on but I was within a hundred !$%*! of her when she said it so I MUST know what was said.
Jan 12, 2011
A better analogy would be that you need to raise an interrupt; i.e. a signal indicating the need for attention, much like a telephone ring or a beep on a microwave. Spouses tend to be non-maskable (meaning they can't be ignored) and occasionally spurious.
Jan 12, 2011
At work people were forever talking to the back of my head, and then leaving the office utterly convinced that I'd a) heard them, b) agreed with them, and c) authorised them to go off and do something.
Also, my (ex)wife had the habit of talking to me while I was asleep and taking my nonresponses as agreement.
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