My mother and I were eating lunch at a restaurant when we noticed a retired couple sitting at a table next to us. They were eating in silence and seemed bored with each other.
Every once in a while one of them would comment on the dinner, but for the most part there seemed to be nothing they wanted to say to one another. This struck me as very sad. So often in our counselling experience we hear the comment:
“After the children left home, we looked at each other and realized that we had become as strangers. There was nothing we had to say to each other.”
In order for a relationship to be fulfilling in the long term, couples need to learn and practice the art of intimate conversation. An important step in this type of meaningful and inspiring conversation is to filter out all the excess material of life.
Barry and I are challenged with this along with everyone else. We work together on all the different types of projects that we do. We often counsel together, do most of our workshops together, write books and handle our finances together. If we don’t watch very carefully the business part of our relationship can take over any conversation and soon we are making plane arrangements, when we wanted to be having an intimate conversation about our love. Of course we need to discuss many things in order to make decisions together, so we have disciplined time when business is not discussed in any way.
Sooner or later one of us forgets and the other gently reminds that this is a time for us, not for business.
We also have three children together whom we love and adore. Its so easy to flow right into talking about them and yet then again we have to stop ourselves. This is a time for us to have an intimate conversation about our love.
We own a home together and, as all home owners know, there are always repairs and decisions to be made. Then there are the gardening plans. There is always the news, the economy and the environment to be discussed.
Each of these topics is worthy, but keep two people from having a truly intimate conversation.
An intimate conversation involves each person sharing thoughts and feelings about themselves, their spiritual journey and the relationship. It also involves asking your beloved the deepest questions you can, and then listening carefully, appreciating something new about him or her. When two people spend even an hour a week in conversation like this, the strength and inspiration they receive can hold and support them through many challenges.
It is through such times of sharing that we grow to understand one another through all the changes of life. This type of conversation must be practised regularly and faithfully and is a gold treasure for the relationship. Spending this type of time with your partner is like building a savings account for the relationship that is better than any amount of money.
As my mother and I finished our lunch she again related her favourite story about her and my dad. They had celebrated their 60th anniversary two months previous and my dad one night announced that he wanted to go out to eat to celebrate what a good life they had with each other. My dad had been deaf for the last three years of his life. Their intimate conversations had been challenged by his deafness, but certainly did not stop. He had bought a device that he put into his ear which was attached to a microphone which my mother spoke into. Usually it didn’t work and was a source of frustration.
On that night it worked perfectly and he was able to hear my mother’s voice. They were so happy in their conversation that several people from the restaurant came over to the table and commented that they seemed so happy talking to one another. The waitress said that she hoped she could be as happy with her husband when they were in their eighties as my parents were.
My mother said that they stayed late at the restaurant just talking and talking and having so much fun. Early the next morning my father died of a heart attack. The time in the restaurant was their last conversation. My mother said it was their best.
With that in mind, let’s try and make each conversation with our loved one the best it can be. Let’s try and filter out the excess material of life and focus on each other so that we can grow in love, understanding and respect.
Mrs. Browning, the poet, once asked Charles Kingsley, the novelist, “What is the secret of your life? Tell me, that I might make mine beautiful also.”
Thinking a moment, the beloved old author replied, “I took the time to have a friend.”