One of the most common complaints marriage counselors hear from husbands is that the communication style of women is too complicated; that everything their wife says seems to have a deeper meaning or no meaning at all. And the most frequent complaint from wives? Yep, you guessed it…they feel their husbands don’t say what they mean and so, likewise, they have no idea what their spouse really wants.

Even Stephen Hawking, one of the most brilliant minds of modern times, said that women—not the laws of quantum gravity or string theory—were the one mystery of the universe he was sure he would never solve. Author and relationship counselor John Gray did come up with a plausible explanation, though, claiming that men are from Mars and women are from Venus. And while I’m aware that men and women aren’t from different planets, in my 52 years here on Earth, I have discovered that men and women are just different, especially in the way they communicate.

Let me paint you a picture from my own life. A few months ago I was getting dressed to go out to dinner when my husband peeked into the bedroom to ask what was taking so long. A discarded pile of clothes lay on the floor beside me, all of which I had tried on and cast aside. Frustrated, I asked his opinion of the outfit I had on at that moment: “I can’t find anything that looks good on me today,” I explained. “I think I must have put on some weight over the holidays. What do you think about these pants…do they make my hips look big?”

As all you ladies who are reading this already know, I didn’t want his opinion on my hips. What I was really saying to him was “Convince me I’m wrong. Sweep me up and tell me I’d look hot even in a potato sack!” But my husband doesn’t speak Woman, so instead he answered, “Those pants are just fine, it’s your hips that make your hips look big.”

Before you get the torches and pitchforks out, let me explain. My husband was speaking  Man. And in that language, humor can be a great way to reduce tension and put things in perspective. As all the men who are reading this already know, he wasn’t saying my hips are as wide as Texas, he was saying, “Relax! We all gain weight during the holidays. What’s important is that we enjoy dinner together.” Of course, that isn’t what I understood him to say at the time, and the sign language I replied to him with was anything but unclear.

Because of our language barriers, sometimes what we think we said isn’t what he heard, and vice-versa. Wouldn’t it be helpful if we were taught to speak each other’s language in high school, along with Spanish or French? Or maybe Rosetta Stone will develop a language program to teach us what our spouses are really saying. Or, could it be that this age-old dilemma simply has no solution? After all, if Hawking, a scientist who plumbed the deepest conundrums of the cosmos, couldn’t figure out the opposite sex, what hope is there for the rest of us?