I Heard You the First Time

When it comes to talking, I have the gift of gab. When I was in elementary school, a friend’s grandmother told me I had diarrhea of the mouth. It hurt my feelings. She wasn’t wrong. The truth can sting.

When it comes to not talking, my husband, Judah, has is comfortably quiet. When at a loud party, packed with people, he can be found in the corner reading a book. It can hurt people’s feelings, communicate a lack of interest in what’s going on around him. They aren’t totally wrong. Truth is nuanced.

You see, when I am around introverts, I can feel like I have to carry the conversation. I can over-talk in an effort to keep everyone comfortable and engaged. When Judah is around a lot of people, he gets overwhelmed. He has a hard time hearing conversation with too much background noise, so he retreats into a book for safety.

We are both trying to avoid discomfort, just in different ways.

When we are alone, just the two of us, I have found myself repeating something I’ve said but using different words. After 16 years of marriage, I catch myself sooner than I used to, but it still usually takes me until the third iteration of a point before I realize: I’m saying the same thing over and over!

At the other end of the conversation, I am met with silence.

“Do you understand what I’m saying?”

“Yes! I got it the first time.”

“Why didn’t you say anything?”

“I didn’t know what to say.”

“Well, say something!”

And then one day, he did.

“I acknowledge I heard what you said.”

This changed everything!

It may sound simple. Or even lackluster. But it’s honest and communicative. I don’t get swept up in the current of ridiculously repeated rhetoric, assuming I haven’t been clear. He doesn’t get drowned in a deluge of descriptives, as if lacking intellect.

He understands me, and I understand him.

We both win.

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Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.

Oscar Wilde