Sometimes you might see them in a crowded restaurant. An older couple, married for decades, eating their meal in complete silence. Not a single word exchanged. The husband busy chewing his steak and gulping his beer; the wife busy clenching her jaw, sipping her wine and gazing wearily off to the side to meet your eyes with a ‘this will be you one day’ look.
I used to think, how sad. Now I know better. It’s not simply that they exist in a loveless union or that the resentment they feel for each other has completely snuffed out every bit of desire to communicate. Oh, no, this couple just might really get each other. So content with the other’s existence that words aren’t necessary. It’s a safe place. A place as comfy and worn as an old pair of ratty slippers. My husband and I have been married 12 years and we’ve recently faced reality: we are comfy, worn and ratty in more ways than we’d care to admit.
In the beginning of every relationship, things are fresh and new; everything you learn about the other an exhilarating discovery. You’re giddy with love, lust and the sheer disbelief there is someone out there that actually wants to spend time with you. You get married, you spend every waking moment gushing and babbling about your love for the other. This honeymoon period may last a few years, then the stresses of kids, mortgages and jobs start to consume every aspect of your relationship. Busy schedules leave both of you exhausted. This is why communicating telepathically is such a rewarding and worthwhile experience in any married couples’ life.
Long ago my husband and I had given up on fighting or yelling or nagging (well, sometimes I truly can’t help the nagging part, it’s a necessary evil). But really, we were just wasting precious energy. If we kept up with those things, we’d never be able to find the strength to reach for the remote or walk to the fridge for a beer.
When we first fell in love, we were both full of endless chatter, enthusiastic about every topic. Now? Well, we still want to talk, but sometimes we’re just too burnt out to do anything more than grunt or nod. Add to that the constant interruptions from our kids, we found having a simple conversation was almost impossible. So naturally, our interactions have slowly developed over the years, finally progessing to the point where we only communicate our innermost thoughts with subtle facial expressions. We are so in sync now, we just read each other’s mind–almost like we share one brain. Which is good because mine is almost gone.
Here’s a quick rundown of our 14 year relationship:
The Early Years–just dating and full of nonstop mind-numbing chatter
Him: So, what kind of music do you like? I’m really into Metallica…
Me: Ooh, wow, yeah I love Metallica! Well, just Enter Sandman, that’s the only song I know, but I love them soooo much! They like, totally rock!
Him: Yeah, totally, dude!
Me: They are SO cool.
Him: Totally! I think I have a track here somewhere…
Me: OOH! WOW! Yeah! Once I almost saw them in concert, but my roommate, like, totally flaked so instead I saw Aerosmith.
Him: Get out! I love them!
Me: Yeah! And this one time, I was in the third row and I swear to GOD Steven Tyler winked at me!
Him: NO WAY!
Me: BLAH! Blahblahblahblibbityblibbityblahblahblahblahblah…
Me: Blah-blah BLAH blah blah! Blahblahblahblah! BLAH! Blahblahblahblahblah—
Mid-marriage–about seven years in, conversations getting more blunt and to the point
(Metallica’s Enter Sandman blaring from husband’s stereo)
Me: Oh my god! Turn that crap off!
Him: What? I thought you liked them!
Me: No. I never said that. God, turn it off!
Him: No way, you always get to listen to your music. Aerosmith! Pssbbbt. God, they suck!
Me: Well, I can’t stand it! Turn it off!
Him: Don’t you dare turn it off! Don’t you dare–
Me: Hmmph! (turning off stereo)
Married 12 Years–verbal communication not necessary
Husband pops Metallica CD into car radio.
Him: (pushes play and sheepishly raises his eyebrows)
Me: (glares, flares nostrils)
Him: (smiles cautiously)
Me: (narrows eyes)
Him: (slumps, takes Metallica CD and throws it out car window)
Me: (tilts chin up, smiles smugly)
See? So much energy was saved with a simple exchange of looks and gestures. Silence is golden. And this works with even the most complicated thoughts. Just imagine the secret discussions you and your spouse could have and no one would be the wiser!
With this next scenario, our secret language of slight gestures/expressions are in parenthesis. I will do the translating of our inner thoughts in italics for those out there who are telepathically-impaired or haven’t been married that long.
Discussing Easter plans with the in-laws:
Mother-in-law: “So what are you guys doing for Easter?”
Me: (side glance at husband) They are not coming to our house for dinner, we don’t have enough room and I am not going to cook.
Him: (raises one eyebrow) What if I do all the cooking?
Me: (opens mouth, tips head to the side, rubs forehead, glares) You can’t be serious! You know damn well I would be the one left cleaning up all the mess and then you’ll run off to talk with your parents while I am stuck watching the kids and listening to my mother discuss her lactose-intolerance!
Him: (leans head back, scratches chin, sideways glance) Okay, so what if we have dinner at their house? (shrugs) My dad can cook, my mom can watch the kids and you can go for a walk by yourself, maybe catch up on some of your reading or go grab a cup of coffee? (rubs stomach) I know Starbucks has that cinnamon dolce latte you love so much…
Me: (smiles, rubs chin, eyes twinkle) Okay, sounds good. (leans forward, narrows eyes, flares nose) But I swear to God if your parents bring up politics in any way, shape or form I am outta there in a heartbeat (raises eyebrows, half smile) and tell your dad to make that German potato salad I like, (wrinkles nose) but make sure he goes easy on the pepper, I don’t do spicy. (glares, nods slightly) You know I don’t do spicy.
Him: (smiles) Done deal.
Mother-in-law: “Okay! So, it’s a plan. You’ll eat over at our place and Dad will make you the potato salad with no pepper!”
Both of us: (mouths drop open) Wow, she is GOOD.
Mother-in-law: “I know. Been married 42 years.”