A few years ago, the Harry S. Truman Library in Independence, MO made public 1,300 recently discovered letters that the late President wrote to his wife, Bess, over the course of a half-century.
Mr. Truman had a lifelong rule of writing to his wife every day they were apart. He followed this rule whenever he was away on official business or whenever Bess left Washington to visit her beloved Independence. Scholars are examining the letters for any new light they may throw on political and diplomatic history. For our part, we were most impressed by the simple fact that every day he was away, the President of the United States took time out from his dealing with the world’s most powerful leaders to sit down and write a letter to his wife.
Communication is more than publicly showing kind words, it is a learning process. A learning process that takes time. Sometimes a long time. But it is so critical. There has been so much written about marriage it would take 100 lifetimes to digest even part of it. So rather than add to those volumes, a little made up story may better shed some light on the subject.
There is a couple named Tyler and McKenna. They have been married almost ten years and have a son and a daughter. Things have been going pretty smoothly, at least to this point. But McKenna is growing progressively concerned about the level and frequency of communication she has with Tyler. She is concerned that if not addressed, it will get worse. She decides it is time to address the issue.
After dinner, Tyler is in the family room playing on the PS4 with this son Jeremy. Samantha, the daughter, is playing with her dolls on the floor.
“Tyler, there is an ailment going around the house, and I think we need to discuss it …tonight. I’m concerned we don’t communicate as well as we did in the past,” McKenna said.
Tyler kept his focus on the 2nd level of Mario Cart, but said, “that’s interesting, honey, tell me more.”
McKenna fumed internally, but rolling her eyes was the only indicator of that fact. It took her awhile, but she had caught on to Tyler’s routine. When he didn’t want to talk he said one of four phrases: “That’s interesting, tell me more?” “That’s interesting, why would you say that?” “That’s interesting, why would you do that?” And finally, “that’s interesting, why would you ask that?”
At first, McKenna took those phrases as genuine interest and would start talking from the heart while Tyler simply returned his attention on whatever was occupying it at the time. Over time she caught on to the strategy.
“Tyler, I believe that any auditory communication from your wife does not reach your two ear canals, let alone the cerebral cortex.”
“That’s interesting, honey, why would you say that?” Tyler said working the PS4 controller as hard as he could.
“I call this malady ‘Tyler Thickheadus,’ which is Latin for head of stone,” and she went on to elaborate that her husband was a blockhead incapable of hearing her voice. McKenna finished by saying there was no evidence of distinct brain activity and she needs more intellectual stimulation than she is getting, so she has decided to hook up with her old boyfriend Logan or the cab driver she met yesterday from Senegal who doesn’t speak any English.
“That’s interesting why would you do that?”
“One last thing, it is embarrassing that you are the only guy in the world who gets a wedgie opening a pickle jar. That’s really embarrassing. And why can’t you throw out the potato chip bag after eating everything in it but three molecules on the bottom. And what about leaving those fingernail clippings around the house as though they were little art displays. And if you sing the song “Horse With No Name” one more time, I will lose it. You are so lucky that we cannot afford an attorney.”
“That’s interesting why would you ask that? ”
Communication is vital to any relationship – especially to the marriage relationship. However, in today’s busy world of work, activities and parenting it seems many have lost the tools to communicate effectively. People are quick to send an email, Facebook message or text rather than spend time investing in an individual both listening and talking. A strong marriage is one where both people take time to invest in the other. They realize the importance of talking and listening to each other.
My hope is that we will be better listeners than we are talkers.