This past weekend we went to a housewarming party, where we got to spend time with a few of our favorite couples. As always, the Warrior Poet and I learn so much from our conversations with them, giving us further insight into how others relate successfully and unsuccessfully in their romantic endeavors. Two interesting things arose in conversation that night—how couples communicate (or don’t) and how couples deal with conflict.
One of the surprising statements of the night was that having a max of 15 or so minutes of meaningful communication per day was the reality for others. “Neither of us are big talkers,” the guy in one of the couples explained. They enjoy being in each other’s company, but not don’t feel the need for much chatting. Another couple gets in fights frequently over communication blunders and misunderstandings.
WP and I exchanged knowing glances—our days wouldn’t be complete without some serious downtime talking with each other about more than just a play-by-play of our respective days. Whether we are discussing our goals for the next steps in our respective careers, contemplating the cosmos or trying to solve the world’s crises over lack of resource, or we’re making up parody lyrics or ridiculous names for our brood of non-existent dysfunctional children, a day doesn’t feel complete without looking into each others eyes and really jumping into each other’s minds for a good chunk of time. Two-and-a-half years into the relationship, we continue to lose track of time some nights because we’re so busy talking about whatever comes up.
Admittedly, we haven’t been together for more than a decade; as much as we already know and understand about each other, we still delight in discovering even more. And we don’t have children, which takes up a lot of time, attention and energy for parent couples. Nor are we a workaholic power couple spreading ourselves too thin to have the energy to do much more than the necessary check-ins. Yet, we also have our own, full lives we’re living.
I am working on building my own business, am constantly educating myself and following a half dozen passions—while also dealing with health and financial stress. WP’s work life is consistently frustrating, and he is extremely driven in his pursuits outside of work and rarely gets home before 8 p.m. at night. Yet on the two days we both work from home, we make an effort to briefly check in throughout the day. And each night, we eat dinner together and spend time in each others company until falling asleep.
Admittedly, sometimes the night is full chill mode of listening to podcasts or watching something or the computer. Or we decide to wind up the night reading side by side in bed. Sometimes, WP gets home late and exhausted, and we have barely enough time to prepare and eat dinner before he falls asleep. Yet, whatever we are doing, the time together is paramount, and we enjoy the time we carve out to talk to each other, no matter the topic. It’s what makes us feel happy and complete.
The other big thing that came up in our couples’ conversations the other night was how conflict is resolved. One couple is aware that it is made up of two, explosive and stubborn individuals. The longest they’ve gone without talking was a full week, which I cannot even fathom. The individuals in the other couple both hate conflict, but the man can’t stand leaving things unresolved for very long so he initiates airing things out. The rare times that things get weird between WP and me, I’m usually the one who has to bring up the topic to get us to directly address it.
Interestingly, yesterday I got on WP’s nerves because I was washing dishes while he was trying to cook meals for the week. I thought I was doing a good thing by cleaning new dishes that he would was going to need for the baking. He started sighing loudly and eventually went to sit in the corner and got one the phone until I was done. I left the room in an annoyed huff, mumbling, “I was just trying to wash the dust off the dishes for you.”
I sat and stewed for a while. I know WP is very sensitive to people and sounds, and it can drive him crazy not to have full reign of the kitchen when he is cooking. Yet he does all the cooking, and I feel better when I can do anything to help. Sometimes this is tolerated, but yesterday it was not.
It made me feel badly that I was just another annoyance to him at the time. I know how territorial he is about his kitchen at times and that I can’t take this too personally, but I would much rather have had him say something than just very audibly and dramatically sighing in annoyance over something that lasted less than five minutes. So I clung to my hurt feelings for a couple hours, though he seemed fine.
But after watching thought-provoking documentaries together, he initiated discussing the global issues the shows brought up that were much more significant than a kitchen showdown. Any awkwardness that had built up dissipated, and I openly engaged in the conversation as usual. No harm, no foul.
I know, like any couple, we can still improve on our communication, especially when neither of us is feeling at our best. We like to assume we can read each other’s minds, and get frustrated when it’s not always so. Yet I’m grateful that these moments aren’t very frequent and almost never lead to frustrated outbursts or tears. Neither of us thrives on such things.
It’s different strokes for different folks, and that’s what makes observing and learning about other relationships so fascinating. Different personalities have their own ways for navigating through the landscape of their relationships and making things work for them. Sharing our varied experiences can be a great way to learn from each other…and it definitely makes for entertaining group conversations.