Can You Hear Me Now?




“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” George Bernard Shaw

On our way home from church Sunday afternoon, John asked where I wanted to eat. We were close by a cafeteria we used to frequent, so I mentioned stopping by to see if the place looked clean and the food fresh.

John named a few places as we passed by, but they were closed. He asked a second time where I wanted to eat. I again mentioned the cafeteria. He tried to turn into an Italian restaurant, but he couldn’t get over in traffic. The third time he asked where I wanted to eat, I named the cafeteria … again.

“We’re going to the cafeteria. I’ve ignored you three times, but I’m not doing it a fourth time,” he said.

Fifteen years ago was our first documented (by me) case of communication that hadn’t taken place. We stayed with our children at a motel in the mountains. Neither of us remembers the name of the place, just that it had bright pink floats drifting in the pool. We planned to head to a new town the following day. When John asked where I wanted to spend the next night, I said, “I’d love to stay here and enjoy another day of the pool.”

An hour later, he asked again where I wanted to spend the next night. He didn’t want to stay at the “pink float motel” because he thought the room was pricey, but he didn’t communicate that.

“I don’t care. Wherever you want to stay is fine with me,” I said.

“I wish instead of always saying you don’t care, you’d help decide sometimes,” he said.

My head snapped and so did my voice.

“I told you where I wanted to stay tonight,” I said.

We splashed around the next day in the pool. John hearing me doesn’t mean I always get my way, but it does mean I get it sometimes.

I reflected on why I didn’t learn from our pool experience. My guess is it’s because I’ve not felt worthy of having my way unless it agrees with others.

John, on the other hand, was used to getting his way. It worked to his advantage (in a way) that confrontation made me as uncomfortable as did pushing for what I wanted.

He says he turned into a “steamroller.” We can mostly laugh about him steaming ahead and me getting steamed up. My outbursts seemed to come out of nowhere, but actually they were from communication that hadn’t taken place.

I’ve mentioned before about blaming John for this sort of thing. I thought, He could change. He could care enough to take care of me. He could be attentive and listen.

He said I could change, I could take care of myself, and I could speak up.

We were both right. We could have done those things, but we didn’t. Anyhow, we came by it honest, our communication that hadn’t taken place.

How’d I expect him to show up in shining armor when he fought hard not to hear anything that remotely sounded like criticism?

How’d I expect to show up belting out Helen Reddy’s “I Am Woman” when all I knew was giving into others so they’d love me?


I wanted John to do the changing because I convinced myself (and tried to convince him) it would be easier for him to hear me than it would be for me to speak up. I waited until it was painfully obvious what a counselor said, “The person in the most pain is the one who has to change.”

As rational as it sounded, I ignored her advice and pitched big fits to be heard. The impasse, no matter how unfair or maddening, is that when something’s “working” for a person, like John getting his way, they are not likely to give it up without a fit of their own. Of course, communication that hadn’t taken place wasn’t actually working for him or our marriage, but he was in less pain, so, at least in the beginning, being heard was mine to change.


Here are three tips John and I practice to assure communication has taken place now:

  • We make “I” statements like “I feel (insert a feeling) when you (insert what the person did that made you feel that way).” Here’s an example, “I feel frustrated when I don’t think you’ve heard me.”

If you’re rolling your eyes, I understand. I paid a lot of money early on in our marriage to practice these statements in front of a counselor, knowing that when I got home, there was no way I was telling John how I felt unless he asked. It was easier, even though not beneficial, to talk about each other and that’s what we did for a long time.

  • We stop droning on for hours about the progress we want to make (for example, “I want us to learn to get along and talk and listen and enjoy each other’s company and have fun and travel and get together with friends and … ) and we stop provoking to the point that one of us flies out of the room and slams a door (for example, “There you go again talking about how bad things are … ”). When we give into these sorts of distractions and reactions, we’re doomed to patterns like numbing out, blaming each other, nurturing resentments, and lapsing into despair.

Instead of droning and provoking, we ask, “Do you mind being quiet for a few minutes and letting me talk?” or, because fear has a big influence on poor communication, we ask, “What are you afraid of?”

  • We get in touch with how we feel. As simplistic as this sounds, I grappled with the complexity of emotions when a family member said she thought I was angry, but then recognized I was fearful. I seldom felt angry, but I acted like it. It’s challenging to identify our feelings, as well as emotional to share them with those closest to us because, although we care about each other, we also hurt each other.

I hope you “heard” something helpful in this post that will help you be heard. If you have tips of your own, we’d love for you to share them in the comments.

In This Together,


6 responses »

  1. KIm, I thought there would be a slew of comments on this, because I think many people struggle with these issues in a relationship. I know my husband and I have, despite several years of counseling and much work that I’ve done on my own regarding communication and relationships. For most of my marriage, I struggled to find my voice. It was just easier to agree with him and not rock the boat. When some folks in a leadership program confronted me about not speaking up, I burst into tears and pretty much came apart at the seams. But that was a turning point and maybe saved our relationship. It was really hard for my husband to hear me speak up after so many years of silence, but he has adjusted. The speaking up part came none too soon, because if I had stayed silent when he became ill, it might have meant death for him. I try to state my needs and wants without getting emotional, and ask him for more specifics when he answers my question with something like “whatever”. Thanks again for bringing these issues into the light of day and telling your story along with it. We’re all better for it.

    • Mary, I appreciate your confidence in my posts. 🙂

      I relate to agreeing being easier than speaking up. I believe if I hadn’t found my voice, I’d be dead by now, so I get what you’re saying about your husband. Again, more proof of how our emotions affect our physical well-being. I became despondent and, like your experience with the folks in the leadership program, it wasn’t until my daughter asked about my weight gain and how often I dressed in the same clothes that I realized I was slipping away. I didn’t get a grip on myself right away, but at least I recognized I needed help.

      A friend told me to say what i had to say and then leave so John (or whoever I needed to talk to) had time to cool off. I seldom practiced that, but I wish I had. I stayed and tried to reason with him. Leaving would have been a better choice. I think we’re beyond needing that space, but I may still write about it. And I’m keeping it in mind, just in case. I’m not sure what you wrote that made me think of this. #WhyItsGoodToShare

      Thanks you! ❤

  2. From Facebook ~

    Mary McKerihan Wilson, Elizabeth Haas Morris and 12 others
    1 share

    Kimberly Duncan Drop T-Mobile, for starters.
    Unlike · Reply · 1 · April 14 at 11:25pm

    Kim Henson Hahaha, Kimberly Duncan. I’ll keep that in mind.
    Like · Reply · April 15 at 12:04am

    Kimberly Duncan smile emoticon

    Mary Lancaster I was just thinking about this the other day, And how close everyone is to the ones on their cells and how distant from the ones in the same room.
    Unlike · Reply · 1 · April 15 at 7:02am

    Kim Henson It’s true, Mary Lancaster. I’ve told friends on FB who I’ve never met more than my family knows … until now. I’m talking more to them even when it’s uncomfortable and I feel better.
    Like · Reply · 1 · April 15 at 11:48am · Edited

    Pia Savage You have the most amazing ability to hone into problems we all have and actually have answers!
    Unlike · Reply · 1 · April 15 at 11:59am

    Kim Henson You’re such a cheerleader, Pia Savage. I appreciate you! heart emoticon
    Like · Reply · 1 · April 15 at 12:18pm

    Pia Savage Thanks. It’s my superpower!
    Unlike · Reply · 1 · April 15 at 12:22pm

    Kim Henson Pia Savage, it is! grin emoticon
    Like · Reply · April 15 at 12:57pm

    Jean Steen Girl, you and I need to go on a two month cruise together…we’ve got more in common than I ever dreamed!
    Unlike · Reply · 1 · April 15 at 12:31pm

    Kim Henson There’s more to come, Jean Steen. Of course, by the time I share it, you may leave me floating out there by myself. LoL.
    Like · Reply · 1 · April 15 at 12:33pm · Edited

    Jean Steen Kim Henson hmmmm…you haven’t heard me yet!!!
    Unlike · Reply · 1 · April 15 at 12:34pm

    Kim Henson Jean Steen, let’s book it then. I’m all ears. smile emoticon
    Like · Reply · 1 · April 15 at 12:57pm

    Kim Henson Who am I kidding, Jean Steen? I’m not all ears. I have a BIG mouth, but I promise to listen in between talking. LoL.
    Like · Reply · 1 · April 15 at 10:34pm

    Ruby Sessions Hart Sometimes, even when you say it, it’s not understood.
    Unlike · Reply · 1 · April 15 at 9:15pm

    Jenine Marie Howry Ha! Sometimes we get into arguments just because we heard each other wrong . Then when we discover what happened we crack up laughing . Life is too funny
    Unlike · Reply · 1 · April 15 at 11:33pm

    Kim Henson We do too, Jenine Marie Howry. We’re just looking for a fight. LoL. I just saw your post with the U-Haul truck. Where are you right now? In your new house? So, so, so exciting!
    Like · Reply · April 15 at 11:59pm · Edited

    Jenine Marie Howry Kim Henson we booked a hotel room for three nights to give us time to prepare the house more. Pats son is coming from Missouri today to help unload.
    Unlike · Reply · 1 · April 16 at 8:44am

    Jenine Marie Howry Yes, exciting but we are exhausted! Its a good tired though wink emoticon
    Unlike · Reply · 1 · April 16 at 8:46am

    Kim Henson Jenine Marie Howry, I am so glad you have a comfortable place to stay at nights since I know you’re tired. We’ve always pushed through and stayed the first night in the house, but I don’t think I could do it anymore. I was younger and more flexible bac…See More
    Like · Reply · 1 · April 16 at 12:17pm

    Jenine Marie Howry Roflol. Yea, the belts are looking better by the moment lol
    Unlike · Reply · 1 · April 16 at 12:41pm

    Mary McKerihan Wilson So glad you’re continuing to shine a light on your own relationship so the learnings can help all of us. I also left a comment on your blog.
    Unlike · Reply · 1 · April 16 at 1:03pm

    Kim Henson Thank you, Mary McKerihan Wilson. I thought pushing the publish button would get easier. Guess not.
    Like · Reply · 1 · April 16 at 2:45pm

  3. From Facebook (Angie Mojica) ~

    Kim Henson Thanks so much, Angie Mojica. heart emoticon
    Like · Reply · 1 · April 15 at 11:48am

    Angie Mojica Just paying it forward, and ahem hope you’ll share mine if I ever get it up.
    Unlike · Reply · 1 · April 15 at 12:27pm

    Kim Henson Angie Mojica, I sure will. Make sure I see it, since I know I miss a lot of good stuff. There’s so much on FB.
    Like · Reply · 1 · April 15 at 12:30pm

  4. From Facebook (Chesapeake Style Magazine) ~

    Jane Cutler

    S. Kim Henson Thank you! grin emoticon
    Like · Reply · 1 · April 15 at 12:58pm

    Chesapeake Style Magazine You’re welcome!
    Like · Reply · April 15 at 1:38pm

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