Mark My Words

Sheila McNamee (2007 winner of the Lindberg Award for Outstanding Scholar/Teacher) and Jack Lannamann are professors in the UNH communication department. They are also married to each other. Ever wonder how married communication experts communicate? We did.

Q: Do people act weird when they find out you're communication experts?

JL: People read much more into things than we ever would do, worrying about nonverbal communication, all sorts of stuff. People think we have x-ray vision.

Q: Do you have to be careful when you argue?

SM: I feel like we argue in two forms. We'll have a typical argument and interspersed with that will be all the stuff we know. It will be, 'How could you say that?' and we'll start bickering. Then, 'I know you don't mean to hurt me, but when you say that, I interpret it this way.' Then, 'How could you do that to me?'

JL: Our occupational hazard is that we have a powerful language for analyzing things. Well, maybe it's not so powerful, but we have a lot of language. And when we're having an argument, and all of a sudden one of us starts meta-communicating about it'it can be further grist for the mill.

SM: We can compound simple arguments with incredible levels of complexities. Sometimes you just want to go to sleep.

Q: How long have you been married to each other?

JL: Seventeen years.
SM: Nineteen, my love.
JL: It was '89, so that's not—
SM: No, it's 18 years. And 12 years of living together. So it's been 30 years.

Q: So in 30 years, what have you noticed about each other's patterns of communication that (a) make you love the other person, and (b) really irritate you?

SM: Can we start with the second one?

JL: Do you want me to go first? It's my turn. Sheila is absolutely connective. Kind of like a spider on a web. Maybe comparing her to a spider isn't a very loving thing. Let's try ripples on a pond. They radiate out from her and interact with everything else. I love that. But it's sometimes irritating because Sheila's approach to the world is, 'Yes, I'd love to.' That leads to things like going away to Brazil for the month of August.

SM: The most endearing pattern for Jack is a conglomerate of his kindness, generosity and creativity. He's always coming up with a new plan. The downside is sometimes he gives up his own desires in order to make other people happy. For example, for my birthday he's got this elaborate scheme to recreate Ponte Vecchio with a fancy dinner—he's a fabulous cook—on the old bridge across Great Bay.

Q: What'll you have?

JL: Probably prosciutto and melon, maybe caprese. Maybe lamb. Some good, white Italian wine. It'll be fun. As long as it doesn't rain.

Q: And you don't fall in.

SM: Or get arrested.

Rebecca Rule '76, '79G is an author, storyteller, story gatherer and humorist.

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