Friday, August 11, 2006

Those Dreaded Dismaying Questions

Well Faithful Readers, you really came through. Last Saturday I posted the first weekly Ask the Faithful Readers question and received more feedback than I have for any other single post. Thanks!

I asked you to tell me about questions you hate to hear from your spouse. I supplied "Does this dress make me look chunky?" as an example, so several readers talked about how honesty is usually the best policy in dealing with uncomfortable questions from your significant other. The consensus seems to be that the initial discomfort that might come from telling the truth is a small price to pay for the trust that results.

Other responses fell into several categories:

Implied Criticism

Sometimes your spouse might ask you a question that makes you boil inside because it sounds like they are criticizing something you have done, or perhaps that you are about to do. Examples submitted by readers include:

"Is that what you're going to wear?"
"How much is it going to cost?"
"How much did you spend?"
"Were you at Barnes & Noble again?" (which is really about the spending)
"Are you sure you want another drink?"

To me, these questions relate to the level of trust between spouses, as well as a need for a certain amount of autonomy. Let's say you are watching your pennies in your household and your spouse says, "I need to buy X." There might be an immediate temptation to say " How much is it going to cost?" or "Be careful, we're running a little close to the budget this week." Now if your spouse has been truly doing a lousy job of keeping to the budget the two of you agreed upon, then maybe it is reasonable to raise the subject and try to get back onto the same page. Saying something like that every time the subject of spending comes up, however, is likely to be counterproductive.

Your spouse knows you have a budget. They understand as well as you do when things are tight. By reminding them every time, you imply that they don't get it, or that they are probably irresponsible and need you to provide oversight for their activities. That's kind of insulting, don't you think? Are you really telling them anything they don't already know? Probably not.

Something We Feel Guilty About

The question about "How much did you spend?" can make us uncomfortable in more than one way, because maybe we already know we spent too much and we don't want to be reminded of it. Another guilt-inducer is: "Have you been working on your thesis?"

Things We Don't Want to Do

Any relationship is a give and take. I help you and you do nice things for me. There are times, however, when our spouse asks us to do something and we just cringe inside. This is really not something we want to do right now. Here are your examples:

"Would you rub / scratch my back?" (which can be especially loathsome when you are tired and only want to sleep)
"Will you come into the office and help out with my business?"

At their core, these boil down to topics about which we need to negotiate with our spouse. Sometimes the negotiation consists of "I'm too tired." (*roll over*) Other times, for example in the case of helping at the office, the discussion might be more protracted.

Raising an Uncomfortable Subject

The question I supplied (about dress designers who put seams in entirely the wrong places) brings up a topic that might be uncomfortable to some -- her chunkiness or lack thereof. This may be something you would simply prefer not to have to discuss. Similar examples from readers include:

"Is my bald spot noticeable?"
"Were you about to say something?" (...when you were about to say something, but then decided you didn't want to raise that uncomfortable subject)

In Dismaying Story #5: Hot & Cold Buttons, I discussed being careful how you approach subjects about which your partner is sensitive. These questions raise a similar issue, when you force your partner to offer opinions about your hot button topics.

Questions We Cannot Answer

You know the feeling, when your spouse asks you a question and you feel like saying, "How should I know?"

You told me about these ones:

"How much is it going to cost?"
"What do you want for supper?" (when supper is a long way off and the furthest thing from your mind)
"Where do you want to go to eat?" (when you are tired and hungry and utterly incapable of making one more decision)
"Where is my watch?"

And Finally, The Winning Category: Pure Frustration

I could almost sense you gritting your teeth as you typed a few of your submissions. These are questions where your spouse is being insensitive, maybe a little vain, or maybe is just plain wrong. Examples include any question asked while you are on the phone (and can't answer without being rude to the person on the other end) and "You really enjoyed that didn't you honey?" (after sex)

A big "Congratulations!" for submitting my personal favorite goes out to Dreaming Again who maintains a blog called Pearls And Dreams (among others). She experiences pure frustration when her husband asks:

Why didn't you tell me?


No, you didn't

Yes, I did!

No, you didn't. I pay attention, I know what I've been told and what I haven't been told. I'm sick and tired of everyone saying they've told me something they haven't told me.

(me thinking ...everyone it's not JUST me I'm not the central problem here?)

I did tell you ... we were in the car on the way to church, and I told you XYZ.

Well, you shouldn't have told me then. I wasn't thinking about what we would be doing this week. I never pay attention to what's coming during the week on Sundays! You should tell me at a time I'm going to be paying attention to you!

eyeeyeyeyeyeeyeyeyeyeyeyeyeey *smacks head*

Now what could I possibly add to that? Thanks again, everyone, for all your contributions.


  1. What a great post!!!

  2. Great stuff! I look forward to reading more.

  3. This is a truly fascinating site. I love it!
    My personal least favorite question:

    What did you get done today?

    It makes my skin crawl. Hee hee

  4. that one was also my fav..thanks for the summaries and helpful suggestions!!

  5. That was my favourite too, congrats to Dreaming Again! I could relate to her answer when I was married,and I can relate to it still while dealing with teenage boys lol

    Another great post with plenty of information on what should be said or done instead :)

  6. great post! I love your blog and I did link you. My X asks me all sorts of questions.....who are you talking to?..where have you been?..when will you be back? And you know what? I dont miss those stupid questions at all! ;))

  7. I'm have sent this site to so many of my non-blogging friends - none of my friends actually blog.

    You rock!

  8. What a great blog! Enjoyed it!

  9. what possessed you to come to my blog, oh dr. phil of the blogs?

  10. This is too funny ...we had a version of this conversation this evening!!! I'd even forgotten I'd posted this.

    The poor man ... I need to record our conversations.

  11. I could have written that post myself, it rang so true! I'm the forgetful one, until it comes to me telling hubby something!

    Great job dreamer...