Marriage Vow: Stop Talking to the Wall

I don’ t know how it started. One day, we were talking over a candlelight dinner. The next, it seems, we were each talking to the wall.

Sound familiar? From the kitchen, you hear a voice from afar, decipherable from years of familiarity. “Is the pickup at 7?” he asks.

“Yes,” you shout back. “Did you call the school this morning?”


And so it goes. Time passes, the household grows, and you communicate with your spouse from farther and farther away. You get used to talking across rooms over the sound of children, dogs, and in our case, a noisy aquarium filter. Requests and responses resound from one floor to another. Then one day, it gets worse.

The other night, my husband, Bill, was talking to me in the bedroom. Then he entered the bathroom to take a shower, closed the door, and kept speaking.

Geez, I thought. No wonder our relationship has been feeling a little frayed around the edges.

You Say What?

This fall, our kids’ complex activity schedules have encouraged more on-the-go communication. My husband and I have managed to get each other to the right places at the right times. He does what I ask him to do and vice versa. But stuff that isn’t related to when crew starts or ballet ends, like the comment from the bathroom, often gets lost in translation. And while any one of these little exchanges isn’t important, together they act as a kind of glue, holding a marriage together.

Communicating from a distance is also difficult. I can decipher news from the living room about the handyman while doing dishes. But it would be a lot more relaxing to just listen to the water running.

In addition, I’m not just struggling to hear my husband. Communicating from afar has taught our children to do the same. Was that exam grade a B or D? Talk about stressful!

The Culprit

So why did I start this?

For women are probably more to blame for this phenomenon. Studies find that we speak 13,000 more words per day than men. In our house, the disparity is likely greater, my husband being a man of few words. Bill’s default mode is silence, not speaking across rooms.

My kids are well behaved, and would have stopped this nonsense years ago had I insisted. Yet as a multitasking mommy, it has always seemed so efficient to communicate from afar. When you have a bread knife in hand, no one wants you in their room anyway.

The bathroom door in my face, however, was the last straw. For a moment, I thought of texting Bill from across the house. But my man doesn’t own a cell phone. (Don’t get me started…) I considered leaving him notes. However, they would just get lost in the pile of stickies to myself on the kitchen counter. Anyway, those things wouldn’t solve the problem. For I craved eye contact, not just understanding.

So we set up date night again. I walked into the dining room to talk to Bill instead of shouting from the kitchen, and he did the same. When he was a room away, I held my thought until we could speak face-to-face. (The latter was surprisingly difficult.)

Look Into My Eyes

You can’t always run a family from the same room. Yet what a difference more direct contact has made. Some vague anger I’d felt building towards Bill since the start of school dissipated. My husband and I stopped struggling to understand each other, started communicating more easily. I started feeling married again, like a wife and partner, rather than a co-captain shouting down a field.

My new marriage vow is to talk to my husband instead of the wall. Assuming that goes well, I’ll work on my interaction with the kids. However, we’ll have to overcome another obstacle to improve communication.

Last week, I started using the little microphones on my iPhone and iPad. I was dictating a search request into the iPad’s browser, when my husband walked in. “What did you say?” he asked.

“I’m not talking to you,” I said. “I’m talking to my iPad.

Oh those iThings – life has become both simpler and more complex now that they understand me. But we’ll save those communication issues for another day.


Working on any communication problems? Share by commenting below!


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About Jennifer

A former journalist for The Wall Street Journal and Time, Jennifer is the award-winning author of Beyond One: Growing a Family and Getting a Life and pens the MidAge Mom blog.

She’s profiled exceptional women from the Middle East to Latin America. Widely published, her essays have been included in two anthologies.

Jennifer is also a frequent radio and TV guest. Full Bio

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In Beyond One, Jennifer chronicles her leap from one child to two, describing the enormous impact the second child has on a woman’s body, marriage, family life, friendships and work.

"Hull is the kind of woman many moms long to be friends with. . ." -The Cleveland Plain Dealer.


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