The Fish is Still Dead


There’s a story from our marriage that we tell more than any other. A story illustrating something we see again and again and again: that opposites really do attract.

I Was the Dead Fish

The story begins with Jill and I having a rather heated “discussion” about something very, very important. I was seated on our couch and Jill was – while talking – pacing back and forth across the floor.

After stating a point and asking a question, she paused for me to answer.

I sat silently thinking about my answer.

When she had enough of waiting she exclaimed, “Would you say something! I’d get more of a response from a DEAD FISH!”

We then fought about that.

You can read a detailed retelling of the story here.

I’m Not a Dead Fish

For now though, let me simply say that though we didn’t know it at the time, we had been confronted with the fact that we have opposite behavior and communication styles (like every other married couple we’ve EVER met!).

We have since learned that:

  • One of us thinks out loud and the other does not. I hear every thought Jill has with very little filtering – the good, the bad and the ugly. Jill hears only what I tell her and very little else.
  • I think, and think, and think. And think. Then I speak. Jill thinksspeaks (that’s not a typo).
  • I am quiet and reserved in my communication and expressions. Jill is well, the opposite.

So, I’m not a dead fish. Nor is Jill out of control or over the top when she says what she feels out loud.

Or better said, neither one of us is broken.

This Can’t Be Fixed

We believe this is the number one “problem” in marriages and relationships. But hear this clearly: it isn’t a problem to be solved, it is a tension to be managed (hat tip to Andy Stanley for teachings on the difference between problems and tensions).

SO, if you are the quiet, thinking, introspective one:

  • Say things like: “I’m thinking”, “Can I have a moment to think?”, “Can I be alone for a moment?”. Literally. Out loud.
  • Face issues head on instead of hiding behind thinking and hoping the issue at hand goes away.
  • Allow your spouse to think out loud without interruption or correction and don’t take every word they say literally.
  • Respect, admire and learn from their ability to dramatically and engagingly communicate.

If you are the outspoken, outward processor:

  • Say: “This won’t make sense, but let me say…”, “I don’t mean this literally, but…”, “Can I process somethings out loud with you please?” Literally. Out loud.
  • Recognize that you don’t have to share every thought you have nor solve every issue immediately on the spot.
  • Allow your spouse the time they need to think without interruption or suggestions and don’t assume they are hiding something from you.
  • Respect, admire and learn from their ability to carefully think through and communicate ideas.

Two Parts of One

Your spouse is not broken. You are not broken. You are two parts of one couple.

“…and the two are united into one.’ Since they are no longer two but one,”
– Mark 10:8

Respect, admire and learn to become the strongest couple you can be.