50's housewife

Extra soft tortillas or extra-soft tortillas?

My husband and I have been together for over 18 years and married for 14. By this point we are pretty aware of each other’s distinct personality traits, including our basic communication differences. For example, my husband knows that speaking to me before 8 a.m. will result in a grunt and nod at best, and at worst could be dangerous for his health. And I know that if I wait until we are both in bed to try and discuss something important, I’m going to get a lot of “uh-huhs” and “I don’t knows” before I start to hear snoring.

Over the years we have learned a lot about how to communicate more effectively and gotten past many of the basic communication hurdles that plague men and women. He gets that I have a need to hash out every detail of a situation, and lets me do so. And I have learned to stop reading into everything he says (or doesn’t say) and just come right out and ask what I wish to know. Yet, there are  moments when our efforts to communicate clearly with each other actually backfires.

For example, last year we were preparing to have some family over for dinner and my husband offered to run to the grocery store if I made the list. I was planning to make chicken fajitas and my shopping list looked something like this:

Bell peppers


Sour Cream


Fajita kit 

Yes, I use a boxed kit and it’s delicious. Don’t judge.

But as I started thinking about how our family of five easily goes through all of the soft tortillas that come with the standard kit, I thought it best to have some extras on hand since we were having two guests. So I added this to the list:

extra soft tortillas

I put the “extra” in there because knowing my husband, who will shop with a calculator in hand to make sure he is getting the best bargain, I had a feeling if I just put “soft tortillas” on the list he’d come home with nothing, declaring that there were already tortillas in the kit, so he didn’t need to buy them separately. Makes sense, right? I was just avoiding a potential miscommunication that would lead to a return trip to the grocery store (and when you live 20 minutes from the closest store you employ whatever means necessary to avoid a return trip).

50's housewife with list
Let’s see, if I put “extra soft tortillas” it should avoid any confusion.

That afternoon my husband came home from the store and I started to help him put away the groceries. Bell peppers – check! Chicken – check! Fajita kit- check! Extra tortillas – well, he bought burrito sized tortillas, not the smaller fajita sized ones, but that’s OK, at least we’d have enough.

As I was putting the tortillas away my husband came over and said, “I hope these are OK, the package says they are super soft.”

Me: “Huh?”

Hubby: “Well, I didn’t see any that said extra-soft on the package. These were the closest I could find. Is that OK?”

Me: (pausing a moment to process what he’s just said) Bwahahahaha……can’t breathe……..laughing…….so hard…….tears streaming……..down…….my face

Hubby: “What? I don’t get it?”

Me: “I meant extra soft tortillas,” giggle, snort, giggle, “not extra-soft tortillas!”

Once it sunk in what he’d done (or what I’d done, depending on how you look at the situation) we both laughed for a while.

Mission tortillas
Look honey, they say “super soft” on the package!

It’s a funny example of how sometimes over-communicating can be problematic. Unfortunately, in our house, this doesn’t always lead to a funny story. Oftentimes my “over-communicating” is perceived by my husband as nagging. Like when I ask him to call the phone company about an unusual charge on our bill. Then the next day I email him in the morning as reminder, and then I text him in the afternoon. When he gets home I ask him if he called the phone company and he says, “no, I didn’t have time, but I will do it tomorrow.”

By this point we are both completely frustrated. I’m frustrated because I’m thinking ‘I only reminded you three times! How could you not take care of this one little thing?’ And he’s thinking, ‘I told you I would take care of it, and I’ll take care of it. I can’t do everything you want me to, right when you want me to, so stop nagging!’ (or at least I assume the inner-dialogue in his head sounds something like that). And now something as simple as a phone call has built a small wall between us, and perhaps even set the tone for the entire evening.

What I could have should have said was “honey, I really need to pay the phone bill by Thursday, can you please be sure to call them and find out what this charge is before then? I can send you a reminder if you want.” And then just trust he will get it done, because most times he does, especially if I communicate exactly what I need, why, and when.

I know this is a better way to communicate, and it’s not all that difficult, really. But the truth is, even after 18 years, we still do this to each other. I do it because I’m distracted and don’t take the time to think about what I’m really asking. I do it because I’m caught up in the hurry-up-and-get-it-done of life.  I do it because old habits die hard.

In Paul’s letter to the Ephesians he wrote, “let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” (Ephesians 4:29). How much frustration would I relieve, how many hurt feelings would I avoid if I made sure my words ‘fit the occasion’ and ‘gave grace’ to my husband?

Don’t answer that; it was a rhetorical question. I know I’ve got some work to do here. But I have a feeling I’m in good company.


And next week I’ll be offering a free class for married couples called,  Extra soft tortillas vs. extra-soft tortillas: Why punctuation matters.



3 thoughts on “Extra soft tortillas or extra-soft tortillas?”

  1. That was funny, I always worry about sending Joe to the store for that reason! 🙂 But it is true, I dont show my husband I trust him enough because I also continually remind him on the things he needs to do, which just irritates him. He has recently started making daily lists, so this is helpful, especially when I help him make them 🙂 I think its hard to give our husbands grace, knowing them for so long we assume they should know what to do and how to do it. But we mess up too and I like how you considered yourself as the problem and needing to think before you speak… I need to do that, but its so hard to think before you speak! Sometimes, it just comes out. Thanks for Gods reminder that we need to speak out of love and careful thought !

    1. Melissa – you’re right, it is hard! I struggle with it every week. And I’m not saying it’s only the wife’s job to consider this. But you know the old adage, “if we want things to change, we have to start with ourselves.” Plus, I find that when I’m making more of an effort to communicate my needs and then give David trust to support those needs, he almost always rises to the occasion. 🙂

  2. Ahh the old communication problem between spouses. I would guess that by now every one has heard of the book series “Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus”, and if you have read it you get a very good glimpse of the problem between what one sex says and the other hears. Yes Yahweh does have a sense of humor.Funny how let alone us husbands almost always manage to get things accomplished before the end of the world.
    I would also like to point out a very significant exampile of puncuation making all the differance in the world.
    Compare these two versions of the same verse in scripture.
    Luke 23:43 And Jesus said unto him, “Verily I say unto thee, Today you will be with me in paradise
    Luke 23:43 and Jesus said unto him “Verily I say unto thee today, you will be with me in paradise
    The first version says the man would be with Jesus in paradise that very day the second one says he would be with him at some point. The first version would make a lier out of the Messiah since he did not assend to heaven for quite a few days. Not mention there was no punctuation in the originol language.
    Every one needs to be more aware of what they are saying as they say it as well as what the other person is hearing..

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