Doc Joe is a psychologist and attorney who has consulted with and advised people of all ages. Katy Ann is a licensed marriage and family therapist who, like Doc Joe, has counseled and advised people of all ages.
The discussion and advice offered in their column is not offered as a clinical recommendation or as a substitute for clinical treatment. Rather, Doc Joe’s and Katy Ann’s comments are intended to stimulate thought, often with a sense of humor. Sometimes they agree; sometimes they don’t. So, read on …
Dear Doc Joe and Katy Ann,
A bit about me:
I have a bilateral hearing loss and use hearing aids. I hear some sounds and have pretty clear oral language, but my preferred language is ASL. I am 24 years old, and work as an elementary school teacher of children with hearing impairment (HI). I love my job!
I’ve been in a relationship with Joseph, a graduate student in genetics, for a year. I believe that we love each other, and it’s my hope that we stay together. He says that I’m “wonderful,” “awesome” and “beautiful.” He makes me feel special.
But, last night we had a huge fight. After the fight, Joseph stormed out of my apartment. And, he didn’t text me this morning. (He always texts me when he gets to work.) I am afraid that we will break up over this fight.
Here’s what happened. Last night when we were eating dinner, Joseph made a comment that he couldn’t understand me. I tried to joke back, saying, “Of course not, my mouth is full of food.”
But, he didn’t smile. So I added, “I wish you learned sign language.” Joseph responded, “I don’t have time, with work and classes. I’d never be able to learn it.” Then, it went downhill from there.
He commented that I always seem happier when I’m with my signing friends. He said that my friends and I seem to “joke and laugh a lot.” Then I said, “Maybe you’d be happier with someone else.” (Why did I have to say that?) Then he got up, and stormed out. As he left, he said, “That’s not it … ”
I want Joseph to love me because of my deafness, not in spite of my deafness. He’s commented many times that he loves to watch my hands. I do think that he loves me. But, I need to be valued and accepted for who I am.
Is there hope?
Tammi, in Illinois
Katy Ann: I think that there is hope. I am sensing that he loves you. But he does seem resistant to trying to learn sign language. As I understand, sign language is your primary social language. I wonder if he understands that …
Doc Joe: … He may be stubborn about that. Or, maybe he believes that he lacks time or ability to learn sign language. These days, there are some online American Sign Language classes, as well as some iPhone and iPad applications that might get him started. There are also ASL classes at community colleges and community centers, taught at various day and evening times.
Katy Ann: Tammi, I often say “follow your heart.” That applies here. You need to know that he loves you because of your gifts, not in spite of them.
Doc Joe: … And I am sensing that Joseph’s frustration relates to communication problems, rather than admiration problems.
Doc Joe: Katy, this may be more about the fight, than about the love.
Katy Ann: I am wondering about that, also. Tammi, you will often hear Doc and I comment that a fight is not a reason to break up. It’s a reason to stop being stubborn, and for each member of the couple to try and address the needs of the other person.
Doc Joe: … And making up can be nice …
Katy Ann: That, too. And, please share this letter with Joseph:
Doc Joe: Joseph, from one Joe to another, you’re a lucky guy. Try learning ASL. These days, there are many ways to start learning it. If you’re a grad student in genetics, you’re a smart guy. Your efforts will be appreciated.
Katy Ann: Meanwhile, Joseph, you might apologize for stomping off. I find that even the happiest couples have some big arguments.
Doc Joe: She teaches HI kids and she’s awesome. Joseph, you’re a lucky guy.
Katy Ann: There you have it.
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