So Bad at Saying It

This week we’re inviting men to share with us on the theme “What Men Wish We Knew.”  We’re honored to have Jerry Jones of The Culture Blend here today.  You’ll love his witty self-deprecation and his way with words. Let’s welcome him with all the warmth and gratitude of the Velvet Ashes community…  

Guys are dumb.

You’ve known that since fifth grade so it really should come as no surprise now. We are burdened with a life long affliction for which there is no cure and really no hope.

The gap between what we genuinely want to communicate and how it actually comes out it is colossal. It begins on the playground when we want (more than anything) to say something simple, like . . . “I think you’re pretty.”

Instead we just pull your hair and run away making flatulence noises. It never really gets better.

Like most internal struggles, living cross culturally only serves as the great inflator. I have seen so many husbands (including the one who hangs out in my bathroom mirror) plunge to uncharted depths of pathetic communication during times of transition.

I think it’s because it is so easy for husbands and wives be on different pages as they adjust to new lives. The common (almost stereotypical) scenario is the cross-cultural working husband who is doing work that he loves. It gives him purpose and fulfillment. He often has translators and co-workers around him all day and they are all working to achieve a goal. Meanwhile the wife is at home with the screaming kids trying to navigate a new culture and a new language with very little support and her world grows more frenzied each hour until her annoyingly satisfied husband comes home.

He wants to stay in this country forever. She wants to leave now.

  • He wants to ask her how her day was, but he knows where that road leads.
  • He wants to tell her how his day was, but his tingling senses are screaming, “DON’T!”
  • He wants to ask how the kids behaved, but the permanent marker tattoo on the baby’s face is a dead give away.
  • He wants to tell her she looks nice, but she’ll probably say, “don’t even think about it.”

It’s a dilemma we have yet to figure out. How to say what is right when we aren’t on the same page. Or even in the same book. Or speaking the same language.On behalf of my brothers who, like me, are blundering their way through transition I would like to fill you in on six truths that are so important. This is what I want my wife to know but you should give your husband credit for saying it because even though he tried and missed . . . this is what he was thinking.

There are no good words to describe you.

It’s true in more than just a sappy, love song kind of way. I hate the titles you have been tagged with. “Expat spouse.” “Accompanying spouse.” “Non-teaching or Non-studying spouse.” “Trailing spouse” (seriously?). Your identity is so much more than who you are in connection to me or our kids.

You’re a rock in chaos.

Transition is always crazy. It is unsettling. All of the pieces are moving, but you are constant . . . and I love that. Even when you feel crazy our kids see the same you when everything else around them is completely different. So do I. That’s not lost on me.

If I had to be stranded on a deserted island with only two people I would choose you . . . .and Chuck Norris.

Chuck would only be there to find food, build shelter and scare away hurricanes. Mostly it would just be me and you. Point is, no matter where in the world I am. I wouldn’t want to do it without you.

I love doing this adventure with you.

Our story is incredible. I love the places we go. I love that we have not been intimidated by far off lands or jet lag or uncertainty. I love that we have learned a new language horribly together. I love that we are never settled and never bored.

Those jeans do not make you look fat.

It’s a trick question I know but the answer is ALWAYS and will ALWAYS be “ABSOLUTELY NOT”. No jeans have ever or ever could make you look fat. You could wear one of those inflatable sumo wrestler suits and you would still not look fat. I’m just saying.

If we were in fifth grade and on a playground . . . I would so pull your hair.

You are beautiful. In so many ways.

Even though I am (as is my entire gender) so bad at saying it — I’d go anywhere with you and I wouldn’t want to go anywhere without you.

Photo Credit : Unsplash

21 Comments

  1. Kay Bruner October 14, 2014

    Guys are not dumb, and you don’t have to communicate perfectly to be highly effective.  You did great right here.  Mostly all you need to do is pay attention and care.  Those are scary things for everybody to do, not just guys.  A lot of times we’d all rather stick our heads in the sand and hope for the best.  (The best is NOT what happens when we stick our heads in the sand, but hey.  We all do it.)  John Gottman, marriage guru of the universe has some good stuff to say about all this, and in fact I wrote a blog about it this morning:  http://kaybruner.com/blog/2014/10/14/on-building-emotional-trust.  Blessings, and keep up the good work.

    1. Amy Young October 14, 2014

      Kay, I love Gottman’s material! I’ve built an entire team building week for new teams that will serve together around his book “The Seven Essentials for Marriage.” So many marriage books have wisdom for teams too 🙂

    2. Elizabeth October 14, 2014

      Oooh, Kay, I will have to go read that now. I hadn’t seen it pop up in my FB feed yet!

  2. laura r October 14, 2014

    The beginning of this post was rather disconcerting for me and there is a lot of me that would like to stick my head in the sand and move on… Alas, I shall try to be courageous and enter the conversation.

    First of all, guys are not dumb. Communication is difficult and there is no shame in the struggle.

    Secondly, as the ‘working’ spouse I found that I could identify with some of your words but I would suggest that perhaps the issue is not linked to gender but are perhaps indicative of deeply routed issues surrounding the beliefs and philosophy of cross cultural work.

    I appreciate the words for your wife that you share.  We all need to hear those words more often.

    1. Jerry October 15, 2014

      Laura – Thanks for not sticking your head in the sand.  The conversation of tough communication, especially between spouses, is a good one and so so important.  Appreciate your feedback.

  3. Jason October 14, 2014

    Jerry, thank you for capturing what many husbands and fathers working overseas wanted to say.  Most of us just keep pulling hair and move on!

  4. Amy Young October 14, 2014

    Jerry, ah, the “dumb” gene seems to be potentially given to all :). Thanks for the nudge to us all to fully step into and be present in relationships! It can get tiring, but in the end, as you’ve said, the fruit of it is so worth it!

  5. Patty Stallings October 14, 2014

    Jerry, thank you for your encouragement today.  You communicate with heart and humor – which makes me want to read a book written by you.

    1. Jerry October 15, 2014

      One of these days Patty.  One of these days.  Thanks so much for the encouragement.

    2. M'Lynn October 16, 2014

      Ditto, Patty! I’d read it!

  6. Elizabeth October 15, 2014

    The unhappy scenario of the fulfilled husband/unfulfilled wife you describe is definitely something we need to be talking about more! This situation is sometimes called the “trailing spouse” or the “accompanying spouse,” and I think it’s so important that we start reducing trailing spouse situations. I have personal experience with this — I didn’t initially want to move overseas, and was very depressed about the prospect. (You can read my story here http://trotters41.com/2013/10/22/i-was-once-a-trailing-spouse-the-whole-story/ )

    The thing about being a trailing spouse is that if anything bad happens overseas (and bad things WILL happen), the trailing spouse can just blame the other person for dragging their family overseas in the first place. I think it’s SO important to resolve this issue before moving, otherwise, yes, the trailing spouse (who is often the woman — though not always, as mentioned above by Laura) may want to return before the working spouse wants to, or has accomplished his/her goals. It can make life miserable for everyone. It’s SO important to be unified in this area.

    Technically I am still an “accompanying” spouse, because I don’t have much specific cross-cultural work to do here. Rather, I am mostly at home with our children. But receiving my own “call” means I’m here willingly, and it makes a BIG difference in weathering daily life. Being away from grandparents and best friends, the physical annoyances of living in a developing country, times when your husband leaves you alone to go on business trips, or the fact that he gets to eat out at restaurants regularly, all those things can seem VERY unfair if you also do not feel called to your current location. I could go on — clearly I feel strongly about this subject — but suffice it to say, I think it’s super-important to make sure both spouses feel called to the cross-cultural work they are doing, even if one of them does more work outside the home than the other.

    1. Amy Young October 15, 2014

      Elizabeth, thanks so much for your comment! I popped over and read your post — I’m in the process of trying to leave a comment now but having troubles (I can’t tell if it’s my location … a hospital with slow internet). So, I’ll copy my comment here so you can see it 🙂

      Hi Elizabeth, I’ve popped over from Velvet Ashes and so glad I did! I agree that the call needs to be shared by both or it can end up In a hot mess 🙂 (meaning, from what I’ve seen) often lots of resentment that can turn to bitterness … not good for a marriage!). Actually, we once had someone who was a youngish single gal and her dad had filled out the entire application for her — all she did was the interview (this was years ago). Can you guess how that turned out? So really, everyone needs to be called 🙂 … single or married!

      1. Elizabeth October 15, 2014

        Thank you for reading my story, Amy, and for the comment! (Sorry my blog didn’t work.) I never imagined something like that could happen with a single M :/ But you’re right, we all need “the call.” 🙂

    2. Stephanie October 15, 2014

      I don’t have this dilemma, being single and thus always moving for my vocation, not as a “trailing spouse.”  (And I filled out my own applications, not my parents–oh dear!)  I certainly agree that both parties need to be convinced in their heart that they are serving God in that location, right where He would have them.  That said, finding your niche can help with the day-to-day.  I’ve seen it in many of my female friends in China–those wonderful women that came over with the married male staff at my former school.  One of which is Jerry’s wife.  He blogged about finding your niche, or as he called it, your “thang” in the overseas community.  His wife’s thing was a pretty sweet gig, hehe.  Seriously, though, her chocolate cake was incredible!

      http://www.thecultureblend.com/?p=725

      As an aside, I’ve seen you ladies undergo various name changes during my six years with our organization in China, all in an attempt to find a good name to describe you.  The current name is still lame.  Though I was often jealous of your ability to learn the city, to learn the language, and to make your home so much quicker than I could while being at school all day, I am so incredibly thankful for the role you played on our team and in my own life during those years, and even still, now that I’ve moved to a new role in a new country.  We need all ages and stages in the body of Christ, especially when disconnected from home country and family.  My friendships with “accompanying spouses” are ones that I hold dear.  I am so grateful that you moved overseas.

      1. Stephanie October 15, 2014

        haha that’s a really big picture of me!  i clearly didn’t understand that it would post a whole picture, not just a small square…guess that’s what it means by “for comment images only.  you can set your profile picture at gravatar.com”

        whoops!

        1. Kate October 15, 2014

          Hehe, Stephanie, I’ve done the exact same thing here before.  At least yours is a great picture! 🙂

  7. Danielle Wheeler October 15, 2014

    So glad to have you here, Jerry.  Thanks for gracing us with your words.  I never knew a post that talks about flatulence and sumo suits could be called beautiful, but this definitely is.

    1. Jerry October 15, 2014

      Danielle – So honored to be one of the first men to write for VA.  I love what you’re doing.  So important and such a blessing to women and the men who love them all over the world.  Thanks for the opportunity.

  8. Kate October 15, 2014

    This is fabulous.  That’s all.

  9. M'Lynn October 16, 2014

    “If I had to be stranded on a deserted island with only two people I would choose you . . . .and Chuck Norris.
    Chuck would only be there to find food, build shelter and scare away hurricanes. Mostly it would just be me and you. Point is, no matter where in the world I am. I wouldn’t want to do it without you.”
    This just made my day. Thank you for including Chuck Norris in your post. Velvet Ashes is now complete. hahahahaha. I love it. This should be some sort of greeting card. I would so buy it!
    And…thanks for the reminder that we can all stink at communication, especially during transition. Very amusing and encouraging, all wrapped into one.

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