Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The Talking Treatment.

I get in trouble for this (by Husby) all of the time, but I am completely enamored by human behavior and I often "study" people more than I probably should. It's fascinating to my little mind and I can't, for the life of me, figure out how Husby doesn't think it's equally as captivating. When we walk around the park, I can tell you what every family is doing, what they are wearing and if I think they're having a good time or not. When we dine out for the evening, I know (and relay to Husby) two or three different conversations of those sitting around me. I simply can not help but people-watch. It's a sickness.

In my many years of professional observing of the human form, I have witnessed this travesty more times than I could count: The Conversation-less Couple.

You know what I'm talking about. The couples who sit in complete silence as they sit directly across from one another and eat their meal. This absolutely baffles me. How can you go about your days separately, and then reunite for supper and not have ANYTHING to say?


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When I observe such a lonely meal, I can't help but internalize many preconceived notions and silently voice them as I nudge Husby to take a look over at them: "I bet they're fighting. Why else would they not be talking?"; "Maybe they just received some really bad news and they're too upset to talk."; "I wonder if they're deaf?" I run all sorts of different scenarios through my head of why the couple next to me isn't conversing when more than likely, the problem is this: They Lack Communication Skills.

(I know, I know, I should probably stop observing and talking to Husby about PERFECT STRANGERS and discuss things concerning OUR lives. But I'm going somewhere with this...bear with me.)

(NOTE: (Clarification) I realize that sometimes you will sit in silence as you eat. That's not wrong at all, and I'm not saying it is. What I am referring to in this post are the couples who have fallen into the trap of not talking and silence has quietly eaten away at their relationship to where they no longer know HOW to converse with one another. I know some older couples like this and it's really disheartening. The point of the post is NOT whether you talk when you eat - the silent couple during dinner was simply an observatory introduction into the real point of the post - keeping conversation alive in your relationships.)


I think the longer you are with your spouse the easier it is to just go about your own routine, your own things and fail to converse. There are so many distractions and things that busy our minds that we often find ourselves "too tired" to tell the stories that happen throughout the day and you think, "Oh, I'll tell him tomorrow," and inevitably tomorrow comes and you forget all about it.

Tragic.

I believe the basis for a healthy thriving marriage relationship is communication. Husby and I had a four year long distance relationship (through college) and we were literally forced to T-A-L-K if we wanted things to work out. Our college experience was before the 'Age Of The Cell Phone' and Husby didn't even own one until his Junior year. We e-mailed several times throughout the day telling each other little details that most wouldn't care about, but we clung to. We used phone cards through our first year to talk every other night, but we had to ration them and keep our calls short. We survived on e-mail and instant messaging that year.

When we were finally BOTH cell carriers, we also both had very busy schedules. He was pre-med plus he had a job. He couldn't start studying until 5pm every night so he studied from 5-11pm and then made time for me. He called me, without fail, every single night of our long distance relationship. We talked, and talked, and talked because we were absolutely forced to. Who wants to sit on the phone in silence?

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To this day, I believe that four years apart built a vital part of our relationship - communication. We didn't have the luxuries that couples at the same school had - constant togetherness, meals together, week night dates, studying together, watching TV together, exercising together, etc. We had the phone. We had one solid hour every single night to wind down from our days together and talk. It was hard, don't get me wrong...but we were unknowingly building a habit of communication that would bring about life long skills for our marriage.

It also brought about an awareness of it when it's lacking.

There are days every now and then where it's easy to slip into the silent mode, where we go about our own things and don't say as much at the end of the day due to sheer exhaustion of life and the need to just "sit and be". I don't like those days. I know that sometimes they are necessary and unavoidable, but I still don't like it. When I'm feeling particularly "quiet", or Husby zones out to the Golf Channel a little too much, I purposely plan an evening out of the house because I tell you what, as soon as we are enclosed in our little car, our mouths run 90 to nothing!

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There's something about being out in the midst of the world that brings forth endless chatter for us.

That, and midnight when Husby has to get up early and I'm laying in bed jabbering away.

Sometimes you just need to shut off the TV, turn off the radio, eat supper at the table or get out of the house if you need to, and just talk! And laugh! And reminisce! And love!

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Next time you're out and you see the silent couple, avoiding eye contact and dialogue at all cost, reach across and squeeze your spouse's hand and strike up a meaningful conversation. Vow to yourself, and to each other, to TALK to one another day in and day out .... til death do you part.

27 comments:

  1. i so agree, when my hubby and i were dating he was in the navy and going to school and i was living in france, it was too expensive to talk on the phone so we emailed lots. and lots. we got to know each other so well. even now, when he deploys our only form of communication is emails and as much as i hate him being gone i actually look forward to that part of it. but thanks for sharing! it was a good reminder to turn off the tv and have dinner together.

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  2. I agree with this entire post. I am also a notorious people-watcher and seeing the silent couples always makes me so sad. My husband and I also dated long distance for the 2 years before we got married. The closest we ever lived was a 7-hour drive apart. We spent HOURS on the phone every day and to this day we talk about how much those conversations taught us about communication and what it takes to make our relationship successful.

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  3. While I agree that talking is an essential part of any relationship. Indispensable in fact; so are silences. My other and I often share a meal at home; quietly. Savouring the quiet time with each other. Comfortable in the knowledge that; if we need to talk we can; be we don't have to to.
    Perhaps those silent people are savouring their meal; and each other, quietly.

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  4. I am so there with you! Hubby and I had a 3 year long distance relationship and talked on the phone every single day, and emailed, and texted! So I definitely understand where you're coming from here :)

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  5. I have had the "silent meal" a few times in my life...and it truly is not enjoyable. But it is funny because your guessing at the problem is pretty much dead on; either a fight or some seriously bad news (at least in my experience). At any rate, I think most relationships are bound to experience 1 or 2 conversation-less meals in their course but this fact should only motivate us to work harder to communicate with our spouses and cherish the time we have together. Relationships, no matter how good, are work and take work to keep healthy and strong. Thanks for a great post.

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  6. Just two nights ago my husband and I went out to dinner at a nice restaurant together. We talked and joked and had a great time. Its a rare occasion when we get to do something like this because of our schedules. Right next to us sat a much older couple. The entire meal they didn't say a word to one another and barely looked at each other. The coldness of their relationship made me shudder. I don't understand how two people could be together, yet so far apart.

    Cabin Fever in Vermont

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  7. My husband and I also had a long distance relationship {I was in CT at school and he was in NJ...and the next year he was in Iraq} so we totally agree with the need for communication. But my husband does not like to talk when he is eating! Hahaha. He loves food so much he just wants to focus on it. So if you see us out having a silent dinner, I promise we are not fighting! haha

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  8. Oh, my word! I TOTALLY do this! I love people watching. Once, Heath and I went to breakfast, and watched an older couple not speak a SINGLE WORD to one another during their entire breakfast. Not one word. We were like, "I wonder if they finally ran out of things to each other?!" I can't imagine.

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  9. My husband and I survived three years apart - him in Honduras and me in the US. We talked daily but only saw each other a few times a year and only for a weekend. I wouldn't say that we have any communication problems but we often have quiet meals together. We often eat and relax and maybe we say a few things and maybe we don't - but it feels completely comfortable. I love it actually. I don't know a single other person I'd be comfortable sharing a meal with and not talking. I think it's because of our love that we find it relaxing and enjoyable to sometimes just savor each others company without saying anything. And maybe that's why older people don't always feel the need to talk when they are out to eat, because they feel so comfortable with each other that it's nice to sometimes just sit. Of course, now I realize how many people are judging my husband and me assuming we are fighting or had bad news that I may not be able to enjoy our quiet dinners out anymore.... If never actually occurred to me that people would think we had bad communication skills or that we were angry with each other.

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  10. I agree with cestlavietlb here. My husband was my friend before anything. To know, that after all this time, there is NO awkward silence is something that brings joy to my heart. I want to be that old couple so content and in love that words are not needed. Did any of you ever look at it that way, especially you who called the old couple "cold?" It's a conversation without words. It's a dance they have danced for many years and are very comfortable in doing so without the use of chatter. It's a language of love spoken between two hearts. I thoroughly enjoy the peaceful, silent times with my husband. He is a place of warmth and safety for me. There is nothing better than knowing that he understands me without me ever having to say a word. Words never truly depict how we feel anyway. Don't get me wrong, he and I talk sooooooo much, and I'm like Whitney as in being an "observer." However, I don't think it is fair to judge silence, especially when you haven't experienced the potential beauty of such a silence.

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  11. I half-agree with you. I do believe communication is incredibly important, and my husband and I do talk A LOT. But we do have quiet meals from time to time. I'm not saying we don't utter a single word, but we don't say much. It's not that we've run out of things to say or that we're "cold." It's that we're enjoying our time together and no one else. We're enjoying the calm. We don't have kids, but we are very busy, and sometimes it's nice to sit and just enjoy a meal without HAVING to talk. He knows what I'm thinking, and I know what he's thinking. Plus, we're both the kinds of people that don't dilly dally. We go out to eat to EAT, and then we talk and talk and talk in the car.

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  12. I completely agree that communication is a vital part of a marriage. However, I don't automatically peg people eating in silence as having a "problem" with communication or their marriage.

    My husband and I are high school sweethearts, we dated for 10 years, four of them were long distance and he is currently on his second year long tour to Iraq. We know a lot about communicating - IM, text, phone, letters, email, webcam and face to face. However, we still both agree that a great test of a friendship/relationship is being able to be together and be comfortable in silence.

    For years our distances have forced us to describe our days in great detail, to come up with little stories and funny happenings to engage the other person over the phone and make them feel a part of the other's life. I would argue that it's an insecure person that feels the need to fill every silence. At this point we just feel lucky to be in each other's presence. We both love to "just be."

    I would hate to think that when my husband and I are enjoying one of our favorite Saturday rituals (breakfast at Cracker Barrel - him with coffee and the paper, me with diet coke and a gossip magazine) just sitting and being together - someone was judging us as having a marital problem or not being able to communicate.

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  13. good post. the last paragraph sounds like a great application for my life. have a super day!

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  14. Agreed. I people watch a lot too, and sometimes when I see things that I think other couples are doing wrong, I realize that P and I do that on occasion too. Yikes.

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  15. When my husband and I were dating, we were one of those silent couples. Honestly. We went to a fancy restraunt and spent 4 hours there, having a conversation that could have taken place in 20 minutes! I was shy (obviously after 8 years of marriage, I'm not shy around him any more!), and he's one of those strong, silent types.

    Now, our meals aren't completely silent, because I like to talk (and our daughter is a chatterbox), but it's still difficult to draw him out. When he does get in a talking mood, I make the most of it. I cherish the things he tells me.

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  16. I don't think you should be so quick to judge. Some people don't communicate when they are out a restaurant for other reasons. It isn't that they lack communication skills. I often don't because I don't like to talk around complete strangers who might me ease dropping. I think it is important to be able to be with your partner and be comfortable in silence and not always feel like you need to fill the air with something. I am comfortable with my relationship and no that just because we are sitting quietly and relaxing without words... doesn't mean anything is wrong. Communication is important but there is a difference between meaningful communication and talking just to make sure their isn't dead air.

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  17. I do sometimes think that people run out of things to say. I had this happen in a dating relationship. I would think and think of something I could say that he didn't already know.

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  18. Q and I people watch as well. We are so in love, and love talking together and being together and and and... I was convicted recently about the difference between people watching and judging. Sometimes I'll think, CLEARLY they have a terrible relationship and attending so much to looking around that I've missed this perfect moment with my husband. I do like to drive by and glance through picture windows and imagine about a persons life.

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  19. Q and I people watch as well. We are so in love, and love talking together and being together and and and... I was convicted recently about the difference between people watching and judging. Sometimes I'll think, CLEARLY they have a terrible relationship and attending so much to looking around that I've missed this perfect moment with my husband. I do like to drive by and glance through picture windows and imagine about a persons life.

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  20. Q and I people watch as well. We are so in love, and love talking together and being together and and and... I was convicted recently about the difference between people watching and judging. Sometimes I'll think, CLEARLY they have a terrible relationship and attending so much to looking around that I've missed this perfect moment with my husband. I do like to drive by and glance through picture windows and imagine about a persons life.

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  21. aw, great post! I totally agree about communication.

    I am just like you and watch people all the time. Today I am in the hospital waiting for the hubs to get out of surgery and have to keep myself from watching people too much! It's terrible. I know a few of the families stories already!

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  22. I love people watching. I know/see exactly the couple you are talking about. Loved your advice and am definitely taking it to heart.

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  23. I was going to write how Josh and I are the quiet couple, but a lot of people already said my thoughts! Now with two little ones, we cherish our quiet moments together. Sometimes our best conversations are without words, just through looks. I would hate for an onlooker to assume we were unhappy!!

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  24. i love to people/couple watch too, but after being married, and now having 2 little ones, i find myself assuming/judging less and less about what i observe. my husband and i adore our quiet time and it's so reassuring and pure to be able to sit in peace and quiet with him, at home or out on the go. communication is essential to a good, healthy relationship, but so is feeling comfortable enough to just sit next to each other.

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  25. communication is key.... it is so easy living a busy career improving, home focused, one thing and then the next thing life to forget about slowing d-o-w-n and checking in. Rob and I try to ask each other every day "what was your high for the day?" and "what was your low for the day?" - sometimes it is a "little" question that can spark hours worth of laughter or support. "how was your day" "fine" is a pattern that's too easy to slip into.

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  26. You are wise for a young'un! From personal experience, I agree that lack of communication in a marriage can be near fatal. You have to talk. I am a watcher, too! I love watching people and reading their body language. Keep up the good work! You and Husby seem so happy and little Levi is just precious!!

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May the Lord bless you and keep you safe today! Thanks for the comment, friends! :)

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