One poem, which is featured only in Mantra for a Muse, has deeply affected most who have read it. Simply titled Treasure, the poem looks into a thirty year marriage, revealing a silence which grew between the Mates.
The first question is:
Is silence in every long marriage?”
The second is:
Do we forget how to talk to each other?”
We need to look at them in reverse order, as to do otherwise assumes facts not in evidence. Before this devolves into a “Well, that depends…” sort of discussion, let’s explore some of what does happen.
A quick consultation with the go-to men for definitions reveals why the question arises. Three definitions of forget offer three completely different ways to look at the silence which grows between Mates.
1. to lose the remembrance of : be unable to think of or recall
In the development of human speech, it is unlikely, barring a disorder or disability, we truly forget how to speak to one another. However, the colloquialism of talk to each other infers much more than merely the ability to speak.
Indeed, it refers to the mannerisms we employ with our listeners which cause them to engage or ignore; the tailoring of syntax to the comprehension level of our listener; and the length to which we will censor our speech in an effort not to alienate. That is a tall order.
Over time, we grow more comfortable with Mate. We slide into a precarious position of assuming Mate knows what we think about certain issues and how we feel, even when we are uncommunicative about our feelings.
Mate often avoids topics which are likely to hurt our feelings because in love Mate truly does not wish to do harm. Given a sufficient number of taboo subjects, it is possible to forget there are subjects to talk about with Mate. This is not forgetting how to talk to Mate.
When we discuss topics involving work, school, educational and life experience, sometimes Mate needs a watered down version, sans the jargon and insider language. This does not mean Mate is unintelligent. It means Mate is ignorant of the specifics of the topic at hand. In order to share a portion of our lives to which Mate is not a direct party requires translating events into terms Mate understands.
For example, your job leads you to discover an application for your current project in quantum cryptography which will revolutionize the government oversight of the banking and securities industries. Mate has no experience with either quantum mechanics or banking. Rather than expressing your excitement in a way with is belittling of Mate’s inexperience (and ignorance of the implications of your discovery), you choose to convey it in terms Mate understands.
Theoretically, it is possible to forget how to break concepts down to the base components so anyone can understand them. It is highly unlikely. What is more plausible is we choose not to go to the trouble any longer, concluding the more rewarding choice being discussing the discovery with someone more acquainted with the topic.
Since we choose the topics we discuss by audience, we may employ tactics to interest Mate in novel subjects or rekindle interest in older topics. We do not forget these. Either our tactics’ efficacy fails over time or we simply fail to find ones which are effective. The first choice is where Mate discovers our method and resists. The second is a matter of our choice. Neither is forgetting.
2. to treat with inattention or disregard
A relatively common complaint is Mate does not care for what we have to say any longer. Most often it is a case of bait and switch.
When we begin relationships, we want to learn and share everything during the discovery phase. As time wears on, we are less inclined to go to the effort to maintain this level of enthusiasm when faced with topics which genuinely do not appeal to us. Alternatively, Mate continues to say the same thing, ad nauseum. Although there are some things of which we never tire, those are far fewer than a continual recital of a matter either resolved or irreconcilable.
Neither is forgetting. Both are a lack of emotional integrity. When we are treating conversation with disregard, we need to stand up and explain why the topic is not worthy of attention. To do otherwise is a vote of no confidence in Mate’s emotional investment.
3. to disregard intentionally; to give up hope for or expectation of
In terms of our question, we do not forget how to talk to Mate. We do not suffer conversational Alzheimer’s. It is a choice. To blatantly ignore or give up on making a concerted effort at conversation with Mate is an overt act. We must choose the path and walk along it.
It would be easy to say, Yes, all long marriages suffer silence. To do so would be disingenuous, but not wholly inaccurate.
To a certain degree, all marriages suffer silence. In every case, it is a choice one Mate makes. In some cases, it is a mutual decision. One of the most common forms of mutual decision silence is “agreeing to disagree”. In order to maintain civility, most topics ending in ATD are foregone indefinitely. This qualifies as marital silence.
However, to avoid being disingenuous, let’s look at the question in the context it was asked. The marital silence which prompted the question was Mate asking forgiveness for having failed to articulate feelings of love and to show an appropriate level of support. The answer to this question of the pervasiveness of marital silence is an unequivocal and resounding “no”.
The couples most readily identified as those who avoid marital silence are those who we picture as the “little old couple”. You have seen them. They are octogenarians holding hands as they walk in the park or shop for produce. They smile at one another. Laughter surrounds them. In moments of solemnity, they embody solidarity. Ask them their secrets, and the answers are all alike.
A snarky couple will tell you a story about dead hearing aid batteries. The truth lies in a firm foundation for their relationship.
I don’t want “no”.
The habits of communicative couples are threefold.
1. They talk.
“Getting into the habit of speaking to Mate everyday means you will eventually run out of things to say.”
Horse pucky.” ~ Sherman Potter
Speaking everyday gives you the opportunity to explore topics you may have chosen to forego in favor of movies, television and solitary hobbies. Neither Mate made it through the day without interaction with someone or something. By discussing the happenings of the day and allowing the conversation to flow naturally to another topic, the discovery phase does not truly come to an end.
2. They talk.
“That subject infuriates me.”
So what?” ~ Red Dwyer
Get over yourself and have some emotional integrity. If you get angry and stop talking, you are only hurting yourself and creating marital silence. Instead, talk to Mate about why the topic makes you emotional. Between you, the discovery of a better way of addressing the topic will likely emerge or you may just trip over something you had no idea was causing the anger the topic uncovered.
3. They talk.
“I am not comfortable talking about it.”
First, file a petition for divorce.” ~ Professor Emeritus of Law
You read that correctly. If you do not trust Mate enough to talk about anything, you are in the wrong relationship. You must be able to go to Mate without fear or hesitation and state your feelings about topics including, but not limited to, the following:
- Mate’s behavior
- Living conditions
- And the list goes on…
No, not every marriage with silence is ready for the scrap pile. In fact, most relationships are salvageable as long as the Mates are willing to work toward ending the silence.
Have you been in a relationship which suffered from silence? What is the simplest form of ending the silence? What is the best way to be sure silence does not grow in the relationship garden?
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(c) Red Dwyer 2012
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