Going Nuts

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

My husband mumbles. He’s generally a quiet guy and has always been
a little on the edge of the Aspersers spectrum socially. He doesn’t have
a lot of buddies or even casual friends and doesn’t relate well to male
group bonding activities like sports. But over time we have cultivated
people who seem to get him so I am not totally isolated and when he
is on he is funny and wittily observant. I’ve survived his years of
depression and now things have been good for a long while. But he’s
in his 60s, and I’ve noticed that he’s starting to mumble virtually all
the time. He doesn’t look at me when he talks, and his sentences trail
off into nothingness that when I am half a house away I cannot
discern. I spend a lot of time tracking him down yelling What What
What??!!?? Or asking him to repeat just the part of his sentence just
past what I heard last. Then he starts over from the beginning and
talks slower and lower as he gets towards the end. Same mumbles.
Short of hitting him with a frying pan, what can I do?

Going Nuts

Dear Going Nuts:

Start with a full physical including a hearing test. Some of what you’re
describing could be easily fixed if it turns out he’s going deaf and just
needs an assist that may impact outgoing as well as incoming words.
But the long-run psychological aspects suggest that he will also need
some behavioral retraining to cope with his interactions with you.
Having the support of a doctor may give them more oomph, and will
all at least allow you to preface your requests with, “like the doctor

Sit down with him and explain the gravity of the situation. If you’re
comfortable with the threat, say the interventions you’re proposing are
in lieu of a divorce. Then tell him that unless you are face to face with
him and agree in language to his face, you are not, will not, and have
not agreed to any idea he has proposed or suggestion he has made. A
question requires direct face-to- face interaction and he is not to
assume a Yes without you saying so directly to his face. Then add, If
there’s anything you want to tell me, please speak up or speak directly
to me, or assume I’m just going to ignore the mumbling like any other
background noise. If he’s motivated, he’ll speak up. If not, get some
earphones or earplugs and enjoy good music or peace and quiet as
you choose.