My husband and I have been together for almost half our lives, and we officially have nothing to talk about. We have fallen victim to the “silent marriage”. It wasn’t always this way, however. There was an initial thrill, when dating, of learning everything about each other. We met in college, and we took advantage of the freedom of spending as much time together as we could. Even with a personality mis-match (he’s an introvert, I’m an extrovert), we worked well together from day one and fell in love, quickly becoming best friends. Fast forward to now – several years married, job changes, re-locations, and one fiery red-headed toddler later, we sometimes fall into what can be considered a “silent marriage”.
A comfort has crept in now, and it feels like there is nothing new to learn. I know everything about him, and he knows everything about me. For years, I have asked my husband the same two questions at the end of every workday:
- “How was your day today?” (I have occasionally gotten creative and adapted it to “Did anything interesting happen at work today?”) and
- “What did you have for lunch today?” (Even this one I have a good idea of the answer.)
I mean, do these even meet the minimum standard of genuine curiosity? No way! Plus, these are only questions I can ask 5 days a week, so that leaves weekends where I am at a legitimate loss on conversation starters. We have taken for granted that we have done all the growing we can do with one another and have shifted our focus on parenting. This is not a terrible thing, but I do have an ever-present fear of what life will be like when we are empty nesters. Will we look at one another and think, “who the heck are you, and when did you start losing all your hair?”
I couldn’t shake the idea of our “silent marriage” for a while after we returned home from a recent trip. I recognized that I could let this unease become greater OR I could take responsibility (as the extrovert) to make some changes. And that’s what I did – I made changes, looked inward, and FORCED CONVERSATION AND INTIMACY OUT OF MY HUSBAND. Here’s how I am COMBATING the “silent marriage”:
Be intentional. Those two words are simple, but they take a large amount of effort. I started being more intentional in the way I spoke to Mark. I came up with different questions to ask, to probe a bit more. Examples:
- Let’s each name 3 things that we really admire about the other person.
- Tell me something that could change at your job that would make you a happier person, more passionate about what you do, more fulfilled.
- What was the very best part of your day / what was the worst?
- What is something you are glad that you’ll never have to do again? (hint: HIGH SCHOOL!)
As with everything, make sure to avoid things that will annoy or frustrate you. Do not ask questions about what changes you would make in each other if you could. Rather, focus on positive things that can further your intimacy with one another in a more upbeat way. Also, prepare yourself for limited engagement sometimes. There are days that I am so drained that I cannot do anything deep or intimate. Give your spouse the liberty (and grace) to have these days too.
Take advantage of time alone. We went to my hometown recently for Mother’s Day. That same weekend, one of our favorite bands was in town playing a show. We asked (with puppy dog, fluttering, “pretty please” eyes) my parents to please babysit for one night while we were in town so we could go on a date to the concert. They were happy to spend alone time with Wyatt, and we were just as excited to spend time alone out having fun.
Focus on shared interests. There isn’t a laundry list of things that we share in common, but we exploit those things we do have enjoy together. Concerts, movies, paddle boarding, Geocaching, Survivor (Yes – we still watch Survivor!), being outdoors, and taking road trips are all things that we loved doing when we were dating. I am the planner in the relationship, so I make sure that I keep tabs on things going on around us and jump at the chance to spend time together doing things we both love to do.
Take time away – alone or together. Spending time with our nucleus group of friends is a great way for us to reconnect. We allow each other to spend time with friends alone, and we eagerly agree to take couples trips or nights out to be around the people we love most and who are in our same life stage. We are surrounded by an amazing group of friends who help breathe life into our relationship, as well as into the life of our son.
Silent communion can exist. Mary Morrissey describes silent communion as “a mystical connection where barriers disappear and we feel entirely at ease and at peace just being in our loved one’s presence. It is the fruit of enduring curiosity and our reward for staying curious.” I have come to realize that being married to an extreme introvert will have a healthy dose of silent communion. I just need to make sure I can tap into communication with him in a way that he best receives and reciprocates. I also need to position my attitude to accept just being together as a healthy form of intimacy and connection.
Always having something to look forward to. Someone gave me this advice long ago, and I have had it as my life motto ever since. Our family always has something to look forward to. We live in a great city with tons of different things to do. There are endless amounts of parks, concerts, sporting events, water activities, movies, plays, museums, etc. at our fingertips. DFW is also in such a central location relative to our great state, so road trips are great (and cheaper) vacation options for us. It is easy for us to make sure we always have something on the horizon, something that we can plan around, and something we can TALK ABOUT until it finally happens.