Spouses In Translation

by Amy on September 26, 2010

Some days I wish I was a cow. Then maybe I could communicate with my husband better and get the same attention our cows do.

I recently read Animals in Translation by Temple Grandin, about “decoding” animal behavior in hopes of finding out what a cow’s got over me with my husband’s attention. Cows seem to be easier for him to understand than me some days but the book made me think about how my spouse and I are in translation sometimes.

For starters, since I talk and cows don’t my husband’s other senses are sharper around cows because cattle are generally quieter. It’s not unusual for my words to get translated into a language he doesn’t understand during a conversation or argument. Talking seems to override the senses. My husband and cows both notice little details and like a quiet environment; giving them opportunities to pick up on things in their surroundings. My excessive chatter can be too much for my husband to absorb at once and sometimes distracts him from effectively decoding what I’m saying. My own words get in the way of what I’m trying to communicate.

He spends a lot of time around cows and observes their behavior when he checks on them. He takes them to great places to eat, or delivers their meal when it snows, gets their drink, and knows what, when, and how much they like to eat or what their diet is lacking.

He also dotes and spends money on cows because he knows their value and that the investment is worth the effort come fall. He takes them to new places year round and knows how to keep them happy and content. If he and I go someplace new, it’s usually to check on the cows at the pasture we just moved them to.

He worries about the health and welfare of the herd, and picks up on a cow’s or calves’ sign when something’s wrong, then determines what they need. When I’m sick, he’ll check in on me from a distance so he doesn’t catch whatever bug I happen to have.

Even though some of the cows aren’t as young as they used to be, he still pursues them. If one gets mad and runs off, he’ll go after her and bring her back. If I get mad and run off, he assumes I want some space and to be left alone. If a cow starts bawling, he listens and figures out what it’ll take to console her. If I start bawling, he usually doesn’t understand why and isn’t sure how to react.

Sometimes I communicate silently and still make too much noise to get my point across. When my actions speak louder than words, messages don’t get translated any better if I slam cabinet doors, loudly clang pots and pans around, slap silverware on the table, and don’t say anything. This behavior makes my husband vaporize from the room to a quieter place.

Regardless of how lacking my communication might be with my spouse, there’s nothing left to say when we share an affectionate squeeze because hugs don’t need any translating.

This column was originally published November 2-8, 2008

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