Silence can mean many things. It can mean yes, no, agreement or disagreement. It can imply contentment or dissatisfaction, safety or fear. It can be accompanied by the smile of approval or the scorn of judgment. What do the sounds of silence mean between you and your partner?
As much as people are similar and men and women relate in some gender predictable ways—usually, it is a woman who says, “We need to talk”—couples are unique in the fabric of their relationship. How they speak, love, fight, eat, and watch TV is really specific to them and relationship they share. The meaning and experience of silence in their relationship is reflective of who they are as individuals and how they relate as a “We”:
- “We can go for hours without talking and be perfectly content.”
- “He never talks.”
- “She has no thought that goes unspoken!”
- “When things are bad we stop talking.”
Misinterpretation of Silence
One area that often impedes the growing, healing and resiliency of a couple is the misinterpretation of the silence between them. Whether they are new partners or seasoned lovers, couples have an uncanny notion that they “know” what the other is thinking and feeling, and react accordingly. Unfortunately, this often precludes expanded knowing of their partner because they fail to account for Non-Couples issues, history, induced reactions, and context.
Non-Couples Issues: While there are many “pros” to thinking as a “We,” one of the downsides is to believe that all your partner’s reactions including his or her silence is about you. The difficulty is that once you make that assumption, you are setting yourself and your partner up for stress and confusion. For example: Your partner comes home from work, says hi, and then silently goes through the mail. Worried you ask, “Is everything OK?”
“Fine.” Still worried you ask, “Why are you not talking?”
Now he/she sounds irritated “I don’t feel like talking.”
You move from worry to anger: “I wait for you to come home, and you don’t feel like talking?”
Partner walks into another room.
Remedy: Undoing this type of vicious cycle takes a mutual effort of trust. Try the following: