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Trained in the art of the huff and eye roll

August 21, 2002

Nonverbal fights give the other side (almost always the husband) a

chance to immediately and passionately retract something they

belatedly realize they never should have said, but that they can undo

by claiming to have been misunderstood.

I did once get angry enough that I whipped off my glasses and

hurled them to my desk. But one of the lenses shattered, the frames

were tweaked, and the process of repairing them cost time and money I

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just couldn't spare. The insurance coverage I paid extra for covered

accidents, but I didn't think that would be a legitimate claim in the

case of a tantrum. I'd have been better off using a glare, followed

by an eye roll and then a sideways glance.

But I haven't addressed the question I promised to answer in the

beginning, and that was about the secret to marriage. I've heard my

wife's answers on the issue. She and a friend will get into a

discussion about marriage, and she'll offer her insights as if I

weren't in earshot.

Wives apparently assume that, since we seem to hear so little when

they're talking to us, we hear even less when they're talking to

someone else. It's that, or they simply operate around husbands the

same way wealthy families learn to live, forgetting "the help" is

standing right there.

Like virtually every woman I've ever heard talk about marriage,

most of my wife's tips focus on mitigating or learning to live with

her husband's many shortcomings. "Learn to compromise," she says.

"Understand that you can't change him -- well, not as quickly as you

want to, anyway." "Let him think that doing what you want to was

actually his idea," she advises. "And he's never going to find the

right pan in the cupboard without asking for your help, so just get

it out before he starts looking and ends up rearranging the kitchen,"

my wife told a friend.

I've never heard a woman explain that her secret to marital

longevity was "Admitting many of my expectations were unreasonable

and unfair." I doubt any woman has ever confided to a friend, "Things

have been going so much better since I stopped being unpredictably

cranky."

I wish I could work myself into a lather over the lack of balance,

but I'd be lying if I tried denying that, rather than being players

on the team, husbands are often obstacles that have to be worked

around. I could get huffy about my wife's teasing, if only it weren't

true that I can stare into the refrigerator for five solid minutes

without ever seeing that what I'm looking for is directly in front of

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