Marriages where there is a lot of talking and listening seem to fare better than silent marriages. When I make this statement, I am talking about positive talking and listening. Yelling at each other is not productive and usually ends with insults or hurt feelings. The Cherokee advocate that, before you open your mouth, consider whether what you have to say is an improvement upon silence. To put it another way, is keeping your mouth shut a better idea?
• Weather permitting, Monika and I visit our courtyard daily, before or after dinner. It’s a quiet area with no noise except the birds chirping. Our courtyard conversation is catch-up time on day’s events, family and friend matters, and planning for tomorrow or the near future. It’s also a good place to work out any differences or problems that need to be addressed.
• To create communication that works, it’s important that at least one of you truly believes that the other person’s beliefs are as important as your beliefs. What they have to say needs to be said without interruption and without sarcastic put-downs.
• A marriage of ongoing silence means neither party wants to talk because one or both of them have decided it doesn’t pay to talk. If talking doesn’t create positive feedback or positive benefits, why talk?
• Silence means the marriage has shut down. One or both of them do not have the energy or the will to invest in talking. Someone has decided that silence is easier to handle than insults. To move from silence to positive communication, at least one of the parties needs fresh eyes, fresh ears and a determination to make positive communication possible.
• When a person is deprived of their spouse’s affection, it opens the gate for depression to enter. Not even being willing to talk may be the ultimate insult. Shunning means you are not worthy of my attention or my thoughts. Is there any feeling worse than feeling worthless?
• Do not settle on silence in your relationship … Silence will wear you down and attack your spirit. It’s better to yell occasionally than to give up and never compromise with each other.
• In the real world, they call ongoing silence and rejection solitary confinement. Prisoners may request solitary confinement to protect themselves from other inmates. They may also be given solitary confinement as a form of punishment for violating prison rules.
• I strongly recommend that you not sentence your marriage or other relationships to solitary confinement. No relationship should advocate no contact with other human beings. Marriage is not prison unless the couple decides to create their own solitary confinement.
• To learn what created the silence, you have to talk about it. Silence offers nothing except depression, anger or deeply hurt feelings of rejection. One or both of you will have to “let go” of old anger, old disappointments and old insults. You must be willing to give up the silence if you want to have a marriage worthy of love and respect.
• In his book “Walking on the Wind,” Michael Garrett states, “In the Cherokee Way, when confronted with a difficult decision or with a sense of uncertainty, it is important for the person to sit with it for a least four days before taking any action.”
• If your marriage or relationship has deteriorated to ongoing silence, confront your silent partner and arrange for both of you to get out of town to a comfortable, quiet location and try to save what’s left.
• Divorce is a very tough decision to make. You owe your marriage a four-day effort to move forward, without the insulting silence. Call for travel reservations today!
Bob Billingsley is an El Dorado Hills resident and bi-weekly columnist at the Mountain Democrat.