What I’ve learned in marriage: to be direct

People / Tuesday, June 6th, 2017

Confession: Not many years ago, when I was young, I was under the impression that the best way to ask a favor or broach a difficult subject was to sidle up to it gently. I always preferred to drop enough hints about where I was heading that the other person could a) offer the adjustment or favor of their own initiative if they were so inclined, or b) steer the conversation away if they were not. This inclination reflects both how I was raised as a Minnesotan child* and who I am as a person.

It almost made my husband crazy.

Mr. Direct Speech, whom I married by accident while marrying Mr. Handsome, Mr. Intelligent, Mr. Merciful, Mr. Good with Words, and Mr. Great Volleyball Player insisted that I say what I wanted to say, a cruel and unusual punishment, as anyone who shares my dislike of unpleasant conversations will easily see.

“Honey. Um. Honey, I feel like you’re – What is the speed limit through here? Isn’t it forty-five miles an hour? I mean, I don’t want to tell you how to drive, but the baby – !” He prefers that I drop all that and substitute this, which feel impossibly rude and impolitic: “Ryan, you’re driving like Jehu. Please slow down.”

He put a stop to “Do you know what time it is??” and “Are you hoping to get to that project today??” and “Oh shoot, I forgot the salt and pepper…??” (Double question marks in any situation are his abhorrence, and “Do you want to…?” is even worse. Um, no. He doesn’t.) He is teaching me to say, “It’s time to go” and “Would you add this to your task list?” and “Will you please bring salt and pepper to the table?”


It took years to learn. Perhaps I should say it has taken years, and it is still taking years, and it is about to have taken more years, until death do us part. But he will not give up on me.

It’s almost making me crazy.

* I had never factored geography into my makeup until I read this line: “He had been through many of these conversations. He has a calm, reassuring air and a native Minnesotan’s tendency to avoid confrontation or over-intimacy.” It cracked me right up. – Atul Gawande, Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End, Metropolitan Books, 2014, p. 166.

Which brings to mind another quote: “I like that about myself, and I like myself, and I have a lot of other great qualities as well.” – Marcel the Shell

17 Replies to “What I’ve learned in marriage: to be direct”

  1. I can relate. My husband is blissfully oblivious to my indirectness until I give up with the hints because, after all, “Why didn’t you just ask?!” ? ?

  2. Oh my. Did I write this? Did Wendell pay you to write this? 🙂 And I’m not from Minnesota… maybe Canadian counts? You’re right – I understand the hard work of changing pleading and apologetic ways of asking for what I want.

    1. The idea of Wendell paying me to write this is really making me laugh. I would have thought you were among the direct-but-tactful camp naturally, but your “pleading and apologetic” phrase is awfully convincing.

  3. We call that being passive-aggressive. My hubby is the same way. He hates it when I do that – so after 32 years, I’m pretty good at being direct. (Actually, I’m usually pretty good at being direct except when I don’t want to ask him to do something so I just hint at it . . .)

  4. You like Marcel the Shell too! My favorite line to imitate is “It would be my pleasure.” =) I don’t quite have the right squeak, but oh, it’s fun!

  5. Is this a woman thing or what?
    Rowing the same boat here and trying to land it and start in a different one

  6. This makes me laugh. Sounds so much like me and the women of my family. Do you ever find it almost physically impossible to force yourself to say something directly negative? I do.

    1. Yes, me too. But once in a while I find myself saying something terribly nasty in a sly and indirect way. Then I’m even more horrified…

  7. And this — Me, texting him: Do you want ___________ or __________ for supper? Him: Yes.

    Do you realize how much time it wastes to type up a whole text only to have to retype and carefully rethink every word?!

    I’m actually learning.

  8. Oh my! “The one I married by accident while marrying Mr…” A very insightful concept, made me laugh in that way that non-funny things in marriage are funny when someone else says them because they ring a bell. (that was a poorly-constructed sentence, If it bothers you enough to rewrite it, go ahead.)

  9. I’m wondering when he became that direct speaking man?? I kinda remember hearing him say to another person that one of the things he liked about going to Bible School was that he was able to eat until he was full instead of eating until the food was all gone! My son was hungry after a full meal and he never told me!!
    Imagine that!

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