Ask any group of people “What three qualities make for a great relationship?” and “communication” will usually be listed first. Reverse the question and ask, “What three qualities do you believe are most destructive to a loving relationship?” and you’ll get listed as #1: the lack of communication.
If communication is the most important aspect of a meaningful relationship, why do so many couples make every effort to avoid talking with each other? Here is what I consider to be the top ten excuses both men and women utilize to avoid meaningful personal inter-action. The list is not in any particular order except excuse # 1.
Here are the ten most common excuses for NOT talking to your mate.
Excuse # 10: The Smarthone. How often have you seen a lovely couple sitting in a restaurant not talking, but gazing at their Smartphone. What happens? Then all of a sudden it rings. “I’m sorry honey, I really need to take this call.” The other person doesn’t really care because they are checking their email on their phone. Whatever meaningful conversation they hoped to have died a quiet death.
Excuse # 9: The job. “I’m sorry, but I have to work late again tonight. I’ve must get these contracts in the mail.” For many couples, the dirty little secret is that one partner is happier at the office than at home so he or she seeks out projects that keep them at work. The person at home can complain, but they can’t say, “You don’t have to get that project finished tonight.” The job becomes an easy, irrefutable, conflict-avoidance alibi.
Excuse # 8: Exercise. Health is important and a good-enough excuse to ignore the difficult issues that often crop up between people who love each other. “I’ve got to get in my 5k run again tonight or I’ll loose my edge” may really mean, “I prefer the quiet solitude of jogging over the noisy company of my mate.” When the runner comes home he/she has two more excuses for not talking, “I’m out of breath and besides that, I need a shower.”
Excuse #7: Television. No other invention of man has done as much to inhibit human conversation as the television. The late Ann Landers opined, “Television has proved that people will look at anything rather than each other.” The vital matters a family may need to face can be quickly set-aside in favor of the re-runs of a favorite TV show. Dad’s favorite sports team or mom’s favorite mystery are an easy replacement for the challenge of consequential communication.
Excuse # 6: Computer. If someone is busily working at a computer it means they are doing something important, right? Interrupt them and you’ll find out just how welcome your invitation to conversation is. “Stop interrupting!” they will snap, “I have 127 unopened e-mails!” If you peek over their shoulder you’ll find they are probably reading one of 47 old jokes forwarded to them by their college-roommate.
Excuse #5: Do-Good. Another absolutely legitimate excuse to be incommunicado is to volunteer for something more important than everyone in your family; something like world peace, or global warming, or assistant coach for the kid’s soccer team. I was able to escape from my family on Saturday mornings for an entire year because I had to attend the Men’s Prayer Breakfast at Village Inn. My wife couldn’t argue with me because it was about prayer and what could be more important than talking to God?
Well, maybe, talking to your family! But it’s much easier to talk to God than to the wife and kids. Besides that, God doesn’t talk back and he doesn’t ask me any of those thorny questions.
Excuse #4: Family. A married couple with kids can spend 98% of their time talking about their children and the myriad of events and issues they encounter every day and never enter the minefield of their own deteriorating relationship. It is safer to talk about little Johnny’s soccer schedule and little Julie’s dance recital than it is to discuss feelings of isolation, anxiety or disappointment.
Excuse #3: Fear. This excuse is the invisible deterrent to meaningful communication. We hesitate to communicate if we fear what will happen when our true feelings are exposed; if we fear the reaction the revelation of our real needs will bring; if we fear what the other person will think if they find out what is really on our mind. Someone once said, “Fear is that little darkroom where negatives are developed.”
Excuse #2: Timing. This is a most clever way to escape a meaningful discussion; just say, “Let’s talk about this later, OK?” By declaring that this is not a good time to talk about the problem doesn’t mean you’re unwilling to talk, it just means that tomorrow will be a better time. At least until tomorrow comes and then for some reason that too is not a great time to visit. Many an important issue between people who love each other has been buried alive in the grave of procrastination.
And now, The Number One Excuse for NOT Talking to Your Mate: Exhaustion. By the time most married people get a moment or two of quiet time at the end of their day they are too tired to talk about anything really important. They can make conversation about the news of the day, chit-chat about the deteriorating culture, or gossip about the neighbor next door, but to talk about what’s really important takes way more emotional energy than is available at day’s end.
So what happens? They stay up later than they should doing things that “must be done before tomorrow” so by the time they go to bed they can fall asleep quickly and avoid any intimate interaction. And you know what? It works. When they finally crawl into bed they are both physically exhausted and emotionally disillusioned. Back-to-back they lay awake thinking “something has happened to the happily-ever-after part of our marriage” and they have no energy left to deal with it. Sleep is their only salve and the morning puts them back on the treadmill of their lonely life.
But notice that each of the Top Ten Excuses for NOT Talking to Your Mate are just that – excuses. They are not powers or events outside of your control. They are things you can do something about. In a loving relationship each partner takes personal responsibility for their mutual happiness. No excuses allowed.