Old happy couples: running out of things to talk about vs being able to be silent together
I remember once being in a restuarant with a then-boyfriend, looking at a bunch of older couples at other tables who were not saying anything to each other. I felt profoundly depressed by it, and scared, the idea that these people had just run out of things to say to each other. Why even go out together if they didb't have anything to say? I didn't want that to be my future.
And then my boyfriend said fondly, "look at those couples. They're so comfortable together that they don't feel the need to fill up the silence. I want that some day."
I was completely thrown, I had no idea that could look positive to anyone - but since then I've heard it a LOT - that their idea of a happy long-term relationship is one where they don't have to talk anymore.
(For the record let's just get out of the way that neither of us have any clue what was going on with the couples and if they were happy or not).
I'm no longer arrogant enough to think that my idea of what happiness looks like would suit everyone, but I haven't changed my mind on what it looks like for me. I don't want to run out of things to say to my partner. I don't find conversation to be a burden that I want to lay aside, I LIKE conversation.
So I'm putting this in the "there's two kinds of people" bucket. And since the "love = comfortable silence" people get a lot of the media coverage, I just wanted to say that I think it's normal and fine to be the other kind.
This excerpt below was one of the readings at my wedding. Instead of comfortable silence, it means I trust that I can gabble on about whatever to my partner, without worrying that I'm boring him, without feeling like I shouldn't bother him unless it's interesting enough or important enough, that it's okay to say whatever's on my mind, that I don't necessarily have to have a point, and if (when) sometimes I say something boring or tedious or tangled up and hard to follow, it will be okay, it doesn't mean he'll get tired of listening to me, and vice versa.
by Dinah Craik
What a blessing it is to have a friend
to whom one can speak fearlessly on any subject;
with whom one’s deepest as well as one’s most foolish thoughts come out
simply and safely.
Oh, the comfort — the inexpressible comfort
of feeling safe with a person —
having neither to weigh thoughts nor measure words,
but pouring them all right out,
just as they are,
chaff and grain together;
certain that a faithful hand will take and sift them,
keep what is worth keeping,
and then with the breath of kindness blow the rest away.
(* chaff is the worthless husk part of the wheat, this line means worthless and valuable together)
I have had partners where I had to weigh my thoughts and measure my words, where I felt like I had to really have something worth saying to justify speaking up. I cannot recommend it to you.
This piece was originally published in The Whippet #83 – subscribe to get the next one in your inbox!
Sign in or become a Whippet subscriber (free or paid) to add your thoughts.
Just enter your email below to get a log in link.
A newsletter for the terminally curious
Arrives in your inbox every second Thursday.