I’m not sure who coined the phrase, “Silence is golden” but I’m fairly sure he was married and his wife was Italian.
In marriage, we get so wrapped up in making sure we’re communicating we forget there are times when nothing needs to be said. It is entirely possible to say too much (usually while in the midst of an argument). You have to recognize that communicating with one another can be just as powerful, intimate, loving, and sarcastic without words.
My wife is a talker. Because of her profession (hair stylist), talking is how she builds trust with her clients and forges relationships that has built her a rather large book of loyal clients.
I’m of the belief; forcing conversation for the sake of conversation is what you do on your first date between the salad course and your entrée. Words can get in the way, especially if you happen to air on the side of idiocy more often than not (something I am quite prone to do). So I don’t try to initiate conversations when there is none to be had. I would much rather sit on my sofa with my wife, her feet up on my lap, enjoying the intimacy created by our innocent contact rather than force something that isn’t there.
This can sometimes be a bone of contention.
Last Thursday night. 9:20pm
“The kids are finally in bed and asleep.” Any parent who has uttered those words all sound the same. We sound like we just spent the last 17 hours battling a fire-breathing dragon with nothing but boxing gloves and a pack of gum.
“Thank god. I’m ready to just relax for a little bit. I had a long day.” Since the moment we met, my wife has been like a Navajo code talker. The words and phrases she uses are carefully added or excluded for me to try and figure out their intended meaning. All without actually coming out and asking her what she is talking about. So when I throw in ‘I had a long day’, I’m hoping she is able to pick up what I’m trying to say, ‘I had a long day and all I want to do is veg out in front of the TV’.
“Don’t you want to talk to me?” She picked up nothing.
“What? Um…sure.” More code from me. Code for ‘no’.
“Well if you don’t want to talk fine, go watch your precious television.” Sure, that she picks up on.
“No, let’s talk.” My wish is to sound convincing enough that she believes me.
“Well tell me about your day.” Careful what you wish you for my friends.
“I already did. Remember when I got home? We just talked about it.” I was asking her to recall a conversation from 60 minutes ago, not what was on the radio in 2002 when we drove to the mall on a Tuesday.
“Well did anything exciting hap…” I’m not sure of everything she asked me because the line of questioning morphed in to something akin to a cross examining prosecutor on a 3 day bender of speed and Red Bulls.
“Didn’t we just talk about all of this?” I know when my wife’s questions turn in to a rapid fire staccato; she doesn’t really have anything to talk about and is merely forcing the issue.
“I’m just trying to talk to you. God! We never talk anymore.” May wife is prone to exaggeration.
“Never huh? I’m surprised you still know my name?” Hello sarcasm. Glad to see you.
“Be a jerk. You know what I mean.” Yes, I do know what she means. Because she was off from work, in order to meet her quota for meaningful conversation, she has chosen me to field the questions she never got to ask anyone today. I think honesty is the best policy in this instance so I’m going to tell her what I think.
“Actually, I don’t. What do you mean?” It took my mind half a second to realize honesty, in this case, might be overrated. And I didn’t want to sleep on the sofa tonight.
“I mean by the time the kids go to bed, you’re tired or I’m tired or you’re watching TV or tweeting or playing that Candy game, or whatever else it is you do on your phone.” And with that the proverbial bell rung and it was on.
We talk all the time! Even when I’m not in the mood to talk we talk. Like right now.” Two things. 1. I may in fact be sleeping on the sofa tonight and 2. I would like to enter that last statement in the ‘One day we’re going to laugh about that’ category.
“Fine! Sorry you don’t feel like talking to your wife! What was I thinking?” We had reached whatever color comes after white on the DEFCON scale in a matter of minutes.
“You know, one day we’re going to laugh about that last statement.” I am now in damage control.
“No. No, I don’t think so.” I gave thought to grabbing my pillow and a blanket for the sofa but decided to stick this out.
“Ok, what I’m trying to say is, if there is something to talk about then I’m game, otherwise, I don’t want to field rapid fire questions about stuff we just talked about for the sake of being able to talk. Why can’t we just spend time together, quietly?”
“Because when we do that, we’re both on our phones or watching something and not paying attention to one another. You not wanting to talk makes me feel like you don’t want to be close to me.”
“We’ve been married far too long for you or I to feel like we need to converse in order to feel close. I feel close to you when we’re on the sofa together, or standing in the kitchen, packing the kids’ lunches, or knowing you’re in the next room. It’s you not your words that I want to be with. That I feel close to.”
“I was just trying to talk to you because we don’t get a chance to talk much with everything we have goingonwiththekidsandIhavetoworkandyouarestayinglateatworkandwehav…” Contrition in my wife starts when she stops breathing between sentences.
“Stop talking for a second.” I say nothing. I just give her the eyes. The ‘I’m sorry’ eyes quickly followed by the ‘I love you’ eyes and sprinkled in are the ‘don’t make me sleep on the sofa’ eyes.
“I’m not mad at you. I didn’t really have anything to say anyway. I just want to make sure we’re connected and together and close.”
“Then I have a crazy idea…let’s stop talking.”