Self Help Now: A community blog

Dr. Jacqueline B. Sallade offers ideas for maintaining your mental health.

Stimulation vs. Silence in the Relationship?

Written by Dr. Jacqueline B. Sallade, Community blogger | Apr 1, 2013 3:49 PM

Don't you just love it when you have a rabble-rousing, stimulating, interesting conversation with a friend, or someone you met at a party, or even someone in your family? How often does that happen with your spouse or significant other? If you're lucky, often. If you still do after many years, it may be because you work in different professions and are really interested in knowing about what each other is doing. Or, one of you may even work out of town. It doesn't have to be work, of course. It could be volunteer or hobbies, sports, or membership-related events to share. Even TV shows. The main thing is interest in what the other experiences.

But, more commonly, such discussions occur rarely or never. They might have occured earlier in the relationship, when you were getting to know each other, or when your activiteis were so different from each other that you offered daily news and topics to each other. You know the image of the old married couple sitting silently in a restaurant with nothing to say, or driving for an hour with no comment, one listening to the radio and the other thinking. It may be that they know each so well that they feel like there's nothing to say. There may be a modicum of comfort in being silent together and not having to entertain. They may like it that way.

The problem is when one person likes the silence or need-to-know basic minimal chit-chat and the other craves intellectual, verbal stimulation. Then, there are friends who can fill that purpose, but maybe there's hope within the relationship, too. Here are some possible suggestions. Bring up something you read or learned from media and ask a question about what the other thinks. Look up data you think would be of mutual interest on the internet and bring it up. Ask how the other handled a difficult situation in the past before you got together. Share about your own handling of something at work or in an outside relationship. Tell about a controversy you heard of and get the other's opinion. Etc.

What if the other is minimally responsive, not interested or even dismissive? Then, you have a few choices. You can just accept that this person is good in many ways but threatened or overloaded by the kind of stimulating verbal intercourse you would like. If there's really nothing there, there may be an emotional or health problem or deficit. Once again, having friends works as compensation. Another possibility is to address the differences between you and try to come up with a compromise, like playing a game or discussing interesting issues more often with other couples or within groups. Or, you can really work on the relationship in such a way that you become closer verbally with or without counseling or exploration of your needs, desires, and ideas with each other.

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