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Marriage Epiphanies: 25 Years with an Engineer

You may wonder how I can be with the same nerdy person and not be bored or fall out of love after all these years. For me, his humility to learn and grow makes him quite attractive. Maybe

even more attractive than ever.

We have been married forever, and I have been listening for longer. If the car broke down, I’d get comfortable and ready to be familiarized with the minutiae of a carburetor. If the toilet broke, my take-away would be “only a genius could be a plumber” because it’s complicated. It caused confusion.

Whether it was planning projects like rebuilding a deck or taking a trip - it felt like it was always me coming away confused.

Is it him, or is it me? It’s me, right? He is the engineer designing systems delivering media to your laptop and television. He is the one whom headhunters seek out to work at fancy companies. After work, I would ask, “How was your day?”

It is an easy question, but I needed a Ph.D. in engineering to decipher the answer.

He would rattle on about a barrage of terms and stats. I followed along sometimes, or nodded, and “mmhhm-ed”. I was making progress, somewhat. I now know what a GUI is, and I am using one right now.. I’m smart, but he’s smarter, I would tell myself, and tech stuff is for a different kind of thinker. Me, I’m more creative.

It has been like this the whole time we have been together.

In the not-too-distant-past, he asked me to read a document he wrote at work.

I de-coded and parsed it slowly.

I tried to understand.

I wouldn’t call it reading. It was, predictably, complicated.

He gave me another document. I read it quickly. I understood the details and wondered why I was able to understand. Aren’t engineering topics all convoluted and full of jargon? There was a secret though: these two documents were describing the same software. One, written so everyone (including non-engineers) could understand the design, the other: written by my husband. Understanding washed over me.

IT WAS HIM! It wasn’t me, it was him. Many decades into our marriage and several more into his life, a light bulb went on. He was a terrible* writer.

Was there anyone who could help him? What could we do to break decades of needless complication and miscommunication? The teacher in me dove headfirst into “straightening him out”. We got books about better writing, better communicating, and then we practiced.

Writing is like most things: if you practice you get better. If you get through school as an

engineer, it’s likely you’ve purposely missed many university courses on writing. Those classes are designed so others can understand you, and you can translate ideas into words. You’re probably learning how to write in a language most people don’t understand anyway: code.

My husband was writing in code. He was explaining in code. He was communicating in code thinly veiled as English. It's fine if the code is English, but for the non-coders, it’s likely you need to practice just as much as your JAVA or C++.

My husband resolved to be understood as a writer. After a bit of guided practice in a workshop with his team, a whole new world of skills and conveniences opened up to him. He now takes less time to write emails and they are quality work. Learning to be a better writer helped him organize his ideas and has translated to his coding. Being a better writer is a power-up for his job, but what is more, our time together. Before I was working as a translator in our marriage, now we use common English and I can just listen and understand.

Here’s to 25+ more years of learning and growing with you.

*not really that terrible

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